Alumni Making Waves

UBC alumni named Hot 30 Under 30 Classical Musicians

Nicole Linaksita

Nicole Linaksita

Two UBC School of Music alumni have been named to the 2019 CBC Music "Hot 30 Classical Musicians Under 30" List.

The annual list, which celebrates some of Canada's most accomplished young singers, composers, and instrumentalists, features pianist Nicole Linaksita (BSc/BMus'16) and composer and conductor Jaelem Bhate (BMus'17, MMus'19)

It's been a breakthrough year for both Nicole and Jaelem. Nicole won first prize at the Canadian Music Competition's 2019 Stepping Stone final as well as the Canimex Group Prize for best performance of a Canadian work. She placed third at the prestigious 2019 Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition (Piano)in April and won the Orford Music Prize at the recent OSM Manulife Piano Competition. She will perform with the Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra this season.

Jaelem Bhate

Jaelem Bhate

Jaelem released his first album, On the Edge with the Jaelem Bhate Jazz Orchestra, this spring, and while finishing his MMus degree was awarded the 2019 Nestor Korchinsky Student Leadership Award at the UBC Student Leadership Conference, in recognition of his work as a conductor and composer. In November Jaelem will conduct the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in their Wall to Wall percussion show.

Congratulations, Nicole and Jaelem!

Alumni Making Waves: Juno Awards, new roles, and Gamelan Bike-Bike

With his group the Gryphon Trio, pianist James Parker (BMus’85) won the 2019 Juno Award for Classical Album of the Year: Solo or Chamber for their album The End of Flowers: Works by Clarke and Ravel (Analekta). The Gryphon Trio were also nominated in the Classical Album: Large Ensemble category, for their collaboration with the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra on Into the Wonder.

Baritone Tyler Duncan (BMus’98) appeared as a soloist on the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Vaughan Williams: Piano Concerto; Oboe Concerto; Serenade to Music; Flos Campi (Chandos), which won the Juno Award for Classical Album of the Year: Large Ensemble. The awards were held in London, Ontario in March and hosted by Sarah MacLachlan.

Aidan Mulldoon Wong

Aidan Mulldoon Wong

Aidan Mulldoon Wong (BMus’17) won the position of Section Clarinet and Utility Clarinet with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra for the 2018-19 season. The VSO clarinet section also includes School of Music alumna Michelle Goddard (BMus’07), who previously won the position of Second Clarinet/Eb Clarinet.

Guitarist Tom Gamble (MMus’16) released a new video for his group, Duo Kottos, featuring a cover film composer Thomas Newman’s “The Road to Perdition.” You can watch it here.

Justin Chiang (BMus'14) has won a position with the Canadian Forces bands, playing euphonium in the Stadacona Band of the Royal Canadian Navy, based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, while Aaron Eggen (BMus’18) has won a tuba position with the Royal Canadian Artillery Band in Edmonton, Alberta. Both were students of adjunct professor Peder MacLellan.

In February, soprano Nicole Brooks (BMus’14, MMus’17) placed third in the Metropolitan Opera Northwest Regional Auditions. The auditions happened at the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall in Seattle. She also joined the Vancouver Opera’s Yulanda and Moh Faris Young Artists Program, alongside tenor Scott Rumble (MMus’18).

Nicole Linaksita (BSc/BMus’16) and Megan Thibeault (DMPS’18) are among the six finalists in the 2019 Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition (Piano). The finals will be held April 19–21, 2019.

Spencer Britten

Spencer Britten

Tenor Spencer Britten (BMus'15, MMus'17) is currently part of the Opéra de Montréal’s Young Artists Program. This summer he will rejoin Glimmerglass Opera, travelling to Versailles to perform The Ghosts of Versailles alongside mezzo soprano Simran Claire (BMus'18, current MMus student). 

Pianist and educator Dr. Jelena Vladikovic (MMus’86) was named a Kawai Artist by Kawai Pianos.  

Soprano Simone Osborne (DMPS'09) is starring in the role of Marguerite in Gounod’s Faust with the Vancouver Opera at Queen Elizabeth Theatre this April.

Benjamin Bolden (MMus’97) and Gerda Blok-Wilson (BMus’78) won awards at the Canadian Music Centre’s 2018 C/4 Canadian Choral Composition Contest. Bolden won second prize for Twilight, a work inspired by Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73. He was cited for his “consummate skill in creating harmonic interest and tension using only seven pitches was remarkable, as was his ability to find the deep, gloriously resonating chords unique to a male-voice choir.” Blok-Wilson won third prize for her composition based on “O Little Rose, O Dark Rose” by Canadian poet Charles G.D. Roberts (1860-1943). The judges described the work as “achingly beautiful.” Both also received Barbara Pentland Awards for Excellence.

Kathleen Allan (BMus'11) has been appointed Artistic Director and Conductor of the Amadeus Choir starting July 1, 2019.

Gamelan Bike Bike

Gamelan Bike Bike

Elisa Thorn (BMus'11) and Robyn Jacob (BMus’11 ) are the co-curators of Bitch Tapes, a biannual cassette mixtape of female artists from the Pacific Northwest. The goal of the mixtape is to celebrate womxn artists and form a community and coalition of artists who may otherwise feel underrepresented in their local independent music scenes. All proceeds to go the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre in Vancouver. Find the latest tape and more at or

Robyn Jacob also co-founded Gamelan Bike Bike, a new 10-person ensemble that uses instruments created from old bike parts. The group is the subject of a new short film on the CBC Creator Network.

Anna Theodosakis (BMus’12, MMus’14) is a Toronto-based stage director and choreographer originally from Vancouver. Anna had a busy 2017–18 season, directing the Ensemble Showcase at the Canadian Opera Company (COC) and The Tender Land at Opera Laurier; assistant-directing Arabella and The Nightingale and Other Short Fables (COC); choreographing Of Thee I Sing and Don Giovanni (University of Toronto Opera), assistant-directing Briefs (Tapestry Opera), directing Haus Musik (Tafelmusik), and directing the premiere of Shot (Hamilton Philharmonic). Anna is a dramatic coach for the COC Ensemble Studio and teaches dance for U of T Opera. She is the recipient of the Vancouver Opera Guild’s 2017 Career Development Grant. 

And finally, congratulations to viola player Jeffery Ho (BMus’16) and violinist Micki-Lee Smith (BMus’18) on being named to this year’s National Youth Orchestra. They will take up their residencies this June alongside six current UBC students.

Forces to be reckoned with

Regular Force musicians Katrina Bligh (BMus’09) and Tony Taylor (MMus’18) talk about their careers in the Canadian Armed Forces and why they love it

Katrina Bligh (BMus’09), left, is an oboist with the Band of the 15th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery and the Ceremonial Guard.  Photo: MARPAC Imaging Services

Katrina Bligh (BMus’09), left, is an oboist with the Band of the 15th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery and the Ceremonial Guard. Photo: MARPAC Imaging Services

By Tze Liew

Plaza Sotomayor, Valparaiso, 2018. It is the 200th anniversary of the Chilean Armada. Canada has sent the Naden Band of the Royal Canadian Navy to join in the celebrations. Katrina Bligh, Petty Officer 2nd Class and oboist, is performing in a military tattoo in front of a beautifully lit, palace-like navy headquarters, bringing the gift of music to a plaza full of people. It’s an incredible experience she will never forget.

Becoming a military musician wasn’t necessarily the path Bligh thought she would take when she decided to study music at UBC. Looking back on her university years, she remembers grappling with the question so many students face: What do I do with my music degree?

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to become an orchestral musician. My mother [Elizabeth Volpé Bligh, a UBC faculty member] worked as a harpist in the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra for 35 years, so I knew very well what it took. But I just wasn’t convinced,” Bligh says.

Then a full-time job for oboe came up in the Regular Force in her fourth year – and Bligh jumped at the opportunity. At the time she had been working in the Reserve with the Band of the 15th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery and the Ceremonial Guard. After a successful audition, she was assigned to the Naden Band of Victoria, and has worked there for a decade since.

“I was really lucky. Oboe is what we would consider a unicorn instrument, since there’s only one per band – there wasn’t another position open for five years after I got it.”

It may be surprising to learn that there is space for the arts in a regimented, conservative sector such as the military. Most classical musicians end up finding careers in orchestras, freelance work or teaching – not many would think of the military. But in fact, it can be an exciting and varied job for musicians. Starting with a five-year contract as a Corporal or Leading Seaman, military musicians are guaranteed the security of a steady income and extensive coverage of health and social benefits, which isn’t always the case in freelance and orchestral work.

Tony Taylor, a tuba player and Leading Seaman of the Stadacona Band of the Royal Canadian Navy, Halifax, is another UBC alumnus who has found his calling as a military musician. Last summer he played the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, England – something that had always been on his bucket list.

Tony Taylor (MMus’18) is Leading Seaman of the Stadacona Band of the Royal Canadian Navy

Tony Taylor (MMus’18) is Leading Seaman of the Stadacona Band of the Royal Canadian Navy

“I love military bands. There’s something about the pomp and ceremony that really gets me going. It’s so satisfying to see a band in step and marching down the street, buttons and boots all shiny,” says Taylor.

Like Bligh, Taylor also worked as a Reservist during his time at UBC. Working in the Reserve gives students the opportunity to experience what a military music career is like before signing up for the Regular Force, and to make money to get through university. It also makes it easier to transition into the Regular Force, since candidates will already have some experience and basic military training under their belt.

“As a Reservist I played on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, in the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo in Halifax, and augmented Regular Force ensembles,” says Taylor. “Winning a full-time job with the CAF has been my dream since I was a cadet in my teens, and everything I did as a Reservist only cemented my desire to land the job.”

Work in the Regular Force varies from day to day, and from band to band. Other than their primary duty as musicians, band members are required to do administrative work, managing finance, public outreach, library and supply. Engagements come in all kinds: parades, governmental ceremonies, public concerts, recitals, military and state dinners. The ensembles can be split into stage and dance bands, classical chamber groups and jazz combos.

“There is quite a bit of musical satisfaction you can get: it’s not just all marches,” says Bligh. “There are engagements you can expect to get year after year, like Remembrance Day, but a lot of the time you have no idea what’s coming up next. For public shows we strive to play music that the audience will appreciate and is also rewarding for the musicians.”

The Naden Band has played Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 and Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition, pieces you would expect to play only in larger orchestras. Although the bands consist of only about 35 members, they are not always limited to small-ensemble repertoire; collaboration with local ensembles opens up a lot of possibilities.

Then there are the exciting travel opportunities and the chance to connect emotionally with history and people through music. Bligh has toured the Kootenays, Haida Gwaii and Dieppe, to name a few. Taylor has toured France and Belgium commemorating the Centenary of the End of World War I.

“We get to learn so much of the history of military and local areas by playing in so many ceremonies. You get to see so many people and places, and help bring an emotional context to events,” says Taylor.

MARPAC Imaging Services

MARPAC Imaging Services

It’s an attractive job for young Canadian musicians out of university, who love travel and the excitement of doing something different every day, and want the security of health, dental, and even housing benefits. But given the unpredictable work schedule and long tours away from home, it can be exhausting too, especially for people with families. There is the trade-off of having to work overtime during busy seasons, too.

For both Bligh and Taylor, a major draw is the opportunity for professional growth – musicians can develop their careers by taking courses paid for by the military in music composition and arrangement, band management, conducting and directing.

“A lot of the job is what you make of it. You can take the bull by the horns and rise up to become Commanding Officer, Band Chief, or [you can] take out-of-trade postings to learn about other parts of the military,” says Bligh.

Looking forward, Bligh wants to keep expanding her knowledge and be the best musician she can be. Taylor aspires to work his way up through the military ranks, spend time as a conductor, and get involved with the public relations and production aspect of his band.

For more information about musical careers in the Canadian Military, visit

Banner image: MARPAC Imaging Services

Alumni Making Waves: A bouncy castle organ, a Volvo commercial, new appointments, and awards galore

Soprano Emily Cheung (BMus’06) was recently featured in television ads for Volvo’s 2019 SUV campaign.

Tina Wang (BMus’15) received a Teacher of Distinction award from the Royal Conservatory of Music, in recognition of her work training young saxophonists. She teaches at the Vancouver Academy of Music and co-directs a saxophone ensemble with fellow alumnus Michael Morimoto (MMus’14), in addition to running her own teaching studio.

Stefan Sunandan Honisch (MMus’07, MMus’08, PhD’16) recently published a book chapter, "Virtuosities of Deafness and Blindness: Musical Performance and the Prized Body," in the Oxford Handbook of Music and the Body, edited by S. Gilman and Y. Kim. He also joined the board of the Canadian Centre on Disability Studies.

Carter Johnson (BMus’18)

Carter Johnson (BMus’18)

This November, Carter Johnson (BMus’18) won the grand prize in the 2018 Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal (OSM) Manulife Piano Competition, with his outstanding performance of Prokofiev's Concerto No. 3 in C major, Op. 26. The prize includes a $10,000 scholarship, a performance with the OSM in January 2019, a professional broadcast on Radio-Canada’s ICI Musique, and other performing opportunities. Carter also won first prize in the Canadian Music Centre’s Stepping Stone National Competition in Montreal.

Also at the OSM Manulife Piano Competition, alumna Nicole Linaksita (BSc/BMus’16) won the Orford Music Prize, a scholarship covering accommodation and tuition for an advanced program at Orford Music in 2019. Her other prizes this year include the Tom Cuff Award for Best Performance of a Canadian Work; the Linda Stobbe Memorial Award as the winner of the National Piano Class; and the Marilyn Wiwcharuk Memorial Scholarship for the Outstanding Performance at the Vancouver Kiwanis Festival. She also won first prize in the Senior Category at the Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra’s Clef Concerto Competition and will be playing with the VMO next season; and placed sixth at the Shean Piano Competition.

Nicole Linaksita (BSc/BMus’16)

Nicole Linaksita (BSc/BMus’16)

Harpist Samantha Ballard (BMus’15) advanced to the semifinals of the 2018 OSM Manulife Harp Competition.

Daniel Marshall (MMus’13) is the new Director of Programs & Communications at the Vancouver Academy of Music.

Antares Boyle (PhD’18) was awarded the prestigious 2018 SMT-40 Dissertation Fellowship from the Society for Music Theory.  Her dissertation project, “Formation and Process in Repetitive Post-Tonal Music,” theorizes how musical segments, processes, and larger forms arise in recent post-tonal works that feature extensive varied repetition. Dr. Boyle completed her dissertation in August and is now teaching at the University of Northern Colorado.

Tuba player and Canadian Army reservist Tony Taylor (MMus’18) performed this summer in the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London, and with the Ceremonial Guard in Ottawa.

Brian Garbet (MMus’13) is working toward a PhD in Composition at the University of Calgary. His dissertation project combines ambient sounds such as the “hum of Windsor” — a mysterious acoustic phenomenon — with the clarinet music of François Houle.

In June, composer Chris Sivak (BMus’09) premiered “Patrick Stewart Bakes a Cake,” a new music video for his string quartet.

Woodwind quintet Fifth Wind — which features flutist Jack Chen (BMus’03) and clarinetist Eileen Walsh (BMus’03) — took part in Our Canada: Forecasting Canadian Wind, a national and international showcase of Canadian composers and wind quintet musicians. The concert series, took place in five cities in September, celebrates the diversity of Canada’s land, people, and cultures. Cris Derksen (BMus’07) and Cameron Wilson (BMus’88) were among the featured composers. UBC School of Music hosted the Vancouver performance in September, featuring Ventos Wind Quintet. Members include Jeff Pelletier (DMPS’10), flute; Morgan Zentner (MMus’07), oboe; Mike Brown (BMus’01), clarinet; Nick Anderson (BMus’07, MMus’09), horn.

Michael Juk (BMus’84) recently joined Hot Air, CBC radio’s long-running weekly jazz program, as the producer.  

Bassist and composer Frederick Schipizky (BMus’74) was commissioned by the Pacific Wildlife Foundation to create Gathering Flock, a new composition for brass. The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra brass quintet performed the piece to open the 2018 Vancouver International Bird Festival and the 27th International Ornithological Congress held in Vancouver, B.C. this past August.

Conductor Al Cannon (DMA’12) recently accepted the position of Assistant Conductor with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra on a three-year contract.

In June, pianist Bogdan Dulu (DMA’15) appeared on short notice as concerto soloist with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra for the premiere of Bramwell Tovey’s (LLD’12, honoris causa) new work, Shalimar Variations for Piano and Orchestra.

Michael Park (DMA’15)

Michael Park (DMA’15)

In August, composer Michael Park (DMA’15) staged a wildly creative concert fundraiser for the Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Vancouver. With the help of organ builder David Quinton, he combined a bouncy castle with organ parts to create a one-of-a-kind instrument that makes music as kids jump inside it. It’s also, Park notes, a “proof of concept” for further musical experiments. In August, Michael also performed a one-man recital of music for speaking pianist, narrating stories about love, death and everything in between at the historic Roedde House Museum in Vancouver’s West End.

Alan Corbishley (BMus’98) directed a new production of Side by Side by Sondheim, the Tony Award-winning musical about Stephen Sondheim, at theatres in Vancouver, Kamloops, and Sidney, B.C.

Trevor Hoffmann

Trevor Hoffmann

The Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra launched its 2018-19 season with a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 and Piano Concerto No. 1 that involved three School of Music alumni, including pianist Libby Yu (BMus’96, MMus’98, DMA’10), artistic director and conductor Kenneth Hsieh (BMus’03), and assistant conductor Kemuel Wong (BMus’08, MMus’10), who gave the pre-concert talk. Premiering alongside the Tchaikovsky pieces was a new work by VMO composer-in-residence and former student Trevor Hoffmann.

This past spring, Simone Osborne (DMPS'09) released her debut album, Simone Osborne: Live in Concert with Anne Larlee, and was nominated for the 2018 Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Performance – Female (Opera Division) for her role as Adina in The Elixir of Love with the Canadian Opera Company.

Simone Osborne (DMPS’09)

Simone Osborne (DMPS’09)

Marco Del Rio (BMus’14, B.Ed’15) is the composer-in-residence of the Laudate Singers. For the Singers’ recent Celtic Spirit concert he created new arrangements and works for the choir to sing with the North Shore Celtic Ensemble.

Based in North Vancouver, the Laudate Singers were founded by Lars Kaario (BMus’79). Lars is Artistic Director of the choir and is Director of Choral Studies in the Diploma of Music Program at Capilano University where he directs the Capilano University Singers and Capilano University Festival Chorus. He is also the head instructor in the university’s Conducting Certificate Program.

Baritone Sheldon Baxter (BMus’14, MMus’15) recently performed Trouble in Tahiti and Cabaret with the Kammer Theatre of the Semper Opera. He made his mainstage debut at the Semper Opera in Dresden, Germany in August.  

Roydon Tse (BMus’13)

Roydon Tse (BMus’13)

In June, Roydon Tse (BMus’13) won the the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta’s Emerging Artist Award. This is a prestigious prize worth $10,000 and is awarded every two years to emerging artists of all disciplines from Alberta. Below are some links and a video made to accompany the award citation.

In May, Alfredo Santa Ana (MMus’05, DMA’10) premiered three works for string quartet and voice at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre.

Soprano Eva Tavares (BMus’14) sang the role of Christine in The Phantom of the Opera in a North American tour of the musical this year.

Bass-baritone Scott Brooks (BMus’08, MMus’17), baritone Max van Wyck (BMus’11, DMPS’13) and tenor Spencer Britten (BMus’15, MMus’17) are currently performing with Opera Atelier.

This summer, Nat Jay (Minor’04) taught as a sessional instructor in the Digital Music Program at Langara College.

Clara Shandler (BMus’12)

Clara Shandler (BMus’12)

This past spring, Clara Shandler (BMus’12), also known as The Sidewalk Cellist, staged performances on Burnaby Mountain, at MP offices in Vancouver, and at UBC in support of the protests against the Kinder Morgan Pipeline project.  

In May, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra performed The Promised Hand, an exciting new work by composer Iman Habibi (BMus’08, MMus’10). 

In October, Jordan Back (BMus’07) won a seat on the District of North Vancouver council. A former voice student, he also sings with the Vancouver choir Chor Leoni.

Former opera student Matthew Mori is now an otolaryngologist and assistant professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. His brother, Michael Mori (BMus’04, MMus’06), is the Artistic Director of Tapestry Opera, which won the 2017 Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Production in the Opera Division for Rocking Horse Winner, with Michael receiving an award for outstanding direction.

A studio of one's own

Music production has seen a huge technological shift in recent years, but what has not been as quick to change is the diversity of the people behind the soundboard. Innovators Hildegard Westerkamp (BMus'72) and Kiran Bhumber (BMus'14)  talk about tech, gender, and trusting your inner voice.

By Aryn Strickland

Hildegard Westerkamp

Hildegard Westerkamp

When Hildegard Westerkamp (BMus'72) looks back on her decades-long career as an experimental composer and sound ecologist, she marvels at how much music production has changed. During her student days, there were no computer screens, no visualizers, no such thing as ‘digital.’ Everything was analogue and you relied solely on your ear as you edited. She remembers working in her studio, surrounded by pieces of audio reel that she had cut, marked, and hung up for quick reference until they could be spliced — literally taped together — into ambitious compositions that embraced unpredictability, merging music, found sounds, and field recordings.

Her chosen instrument — the sounds of the environment — and the limitations of the technology available at the time necessitated deep listening and spurred creativity: “I tried to find the musicality in the sounds that I had recorded,” Westerkamp says. She experimented with painstaking production techniques such as pitchshifting (that is, slowing down and speeding up the recordings), filtering and equalizing, and delay feedback among others, to achieve the effects she wanted.

In so doing she helped pioneer the field of ‘sound ecology.’


Hildegard Westerkamp, The Edge of Wilderness (2000)


Westerkamp and the other composers and producers of her generation — she cites R. Murray Schafer and Barry Truax as important influences — developed ideas and techniques that during the shift to computer-based production became standard tools in the producer’s repertoire.

“Working in the studio totally aurally then as opposed to now, where soundfiles are displayed visually on computer screens, makes an absolute world of a difference,” she says. 

Indeed, new technologies have both democratized music production and made new things possible: “Anyone can be a bedroom producer nowadays, and that is a very powerful thing in itself,” Kiran Bhumber (BMus’14), a graduate of the School of Music’s Music Technology program, says.

The up-and-coming composer, producer, and performer cut her teeth on software like Cubase and Garage Band while still in high school. At UBC she created work that wouldn’t have been possible even a decade ago, blending cutting-edge technology, visuals, and using some of the same compositional techniques Westerkamp helped to develop. In the Digital Performance Systems class (SUBclass) at UBC, Bhumber developed RUBS, the ‘Responsive User Body Suit,’ which melds composition and performance.

“I was thinking, I wonder if there is a way we can look at contact improv and use technology as a bridge between triggering a music sample or changing a visual on screen,” she says.

The RUBS suit allows performers to compose music as they move and dance on stage, touching or stroking different sensors sewn into the fabric to trigger sounds and sequences. Her innovative suit has brought her recognition from within the electronic music world with an invitation to present her work at the New Interfaces for Musical Expression Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark last year and a coveted spot at the University of Michigan to continue her work in the Masters of Media Art program there. 

“I am interested in fusing not just music but also emerging technologies, dance, interaction and visual arts together,” Bhumber says.


Excerpt from "Raula," a piece by Bhumber (using the RUBS bodysuit) and J.P. Carter (trumpet)


Westerkamp long ago made the switch to computer-based production, and she embraces some of the visual possibilities new technologies present. But she remains committed to the idea that listening — slow, deep listening  — is central to the art of composition. In installations such as Seascapes (2008), her compositions are paired with photography and sculpture by other artists. But her most visually performative works are the sound walks that she leads together with members of the Vancouver Soundwalk Collective every year around Vancouver, where she teaches people how to appreciate environmental sound. For Westerkamp, hearing is still the dominant sense.

Westerkamp, Schafer and the other members of the World Soundscape Project created soundwalks in the 1970s. Today, Vancouver New Music runs annual soundwalks open to everyone. For an hour, participants walk in silence taking in sounds that are usually written off as noise. According to Westerkamp, soundwalks do more than just teach people how to listen. “When you do that kind of listening in a safe context, inspiration emerges, new ideas emerge and when you get that inspiration you can tackle the world quite differently,” she says.

Hildegard Westerkamp, Kits Beach Soundwalk (1989)


Much of her time is now spent organizing and travelling to international conferences about sound ecology. “People are really interested in acoustic ecology and soundscape studies. There’s just a huge amount happening — at universities, there are many scientists who are now realizing that if they do any studies on sound they have to include the listener as an important source of perceptual information about the sound environment into their studies, into their data,” she says.

If technology has influenced the course of both Westerkamp’s and Bhumber’s development as artists, gender is another important factor. Music production and electroacoustic composition was — and remains — a male-dominated field. Although the World Soundscape Project (WSP) was a source of inspiration early in her career Westerkamp was surprised by her male colleagues attempts to relegate her to jobs at the typewriter and the photocopier. “The group consisted of five men and me. I was passionate about my research work. This and a basically good relationship with my colleagues enabled me to nip in the bud these unconscious assumptions about the work given to a woman.”

Ultimately, though, Westerkamp was forced to leave the WSP because of gender discrimination. Her enthusiastic and committed contributions to the group’s research inexplicably caused problems within the group, she says. Refusing to be deterred, Westerkamp decided to strike out on her own as an independent artist.

You have to trust your own inner voice. Listen to where your passion is located.
— Hildegard Westerkamp

Bhumber arrived in the industry at a very different time, not long before the rise of #MeToo and what has become a wholesale reconsideration of gender and gender discrimination in the workplace.

But while the example of women like Westerkamp and the hard work of generations of feminist activists have opened up the conversation about equality, and while the move to digital production has opened up the industry to people of different backgrounds, women remain greatly underrepresented.

Particularly, Bhumber says, women of colour: “There was never someone that looked like me growing up, there was never anyone that I could relate to identity-wise,” she says. “It’s tough because it’s not just music production, all these tech fields are male-dominated it’s not just music production itself.”

Her experience within the Digital Performance Systems class (SUBclass) that reignited her interest in music technology is an exception, she says. 

“I think [because it’s an interdisciplinary program] you are going to get people coming from different backgrounds, including gender. So I think that’s one of the main reasons, because if it was just an engineering or music tech engineering group it might not be that diverse.”

Bhumber and Westerkamp believe that greater equality is inevitable, but change depends not just on movements but on individuals. 

Westerkamp’s advice for young women starting out in music? Trust your own internal voice: “Listen to where your passion is located, where your skill is located and how that resonates with which part of society. Trust your own ears, trust your own inclination on, especially for women, where your interests lie.” 

World premieres, new commissions, a Juno nomination, and more

Stephanie Nakagawa.  Photo: UBC

Stephanie Nakagawa. Photo: UBC

Awards, announcements and other news from our alumni

In November, Stephanie Nakagawa (BMus’09, DMA’17) received a Barbara Pentland Award from the Canadian Music Centre BC for her remarkable doctoral project, The Canadian Opera Anthology for Soprano.

Nicole Linaksita (BMus/BSc’16) was named as a finalist in the 2018 Shean Piano Competition. The finals will take place May 17–19, 2018 in Muttart Hall, Alberta College in Edmonton, Alberta. 

Composer and saxophonist Colin MacDonald (BMus’93) premiered The Sky Is a Clock, his ambitious, hour-long audio installation at the Roundhouse Community Centre in November 2017. Presented by Redshift Music as part of its “Sonologues” series, Colin’s piece interweaves recordings of 16 saxophones to “create a pulsating and slowly evolving texture of sound that mimics the rotation of the stars in the sky.”


Jared Miller.  Photo: CBC

Jared Miller. Photo: CBC

Jared Miller (BMus’10) was commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) to create a new work inspired by classic techno music. DSO and Leonard Slatkin will perform the piece for the very first time on May 31st and June 2nd, 2018 along with works by Chopin and Stravinsky. CBC News recently profiled Jared.

Composer Michael Oesterle (BMus’92) wrote a new work for the Sea and Sky Trio, which they performed as part of the Vetta Chamber Music concerts in Vancouver in March.

Producer and recording engineer Will Howie (BMus’04) recently published a new article on “Listener Discrimination Between Common Speaker-based 3D Audio Reproduction Formats” in AES Journal and delivered a paper on three-dimensional audio recording techniques for orchestra at the 142nd convention of the Audio Engineering Society in Berlin.

Fraser Walters

Fraser Walters

Fraser Walters (BMus’03) and his group The Tenors were nominated for a 2018 Juno Award in the category of Adult Contemporary Album of the Year for Christmas Together, which “captures the joy and magic of the season, combining a mix of holiday classics, contemporary favourites and original songs.” This was The Tenors' third Juno nomination — they won in the same category in 2013.

Kristin Fung (BMus’07) has had a busy year, to say the least. She debuted her experimental vocal/movement trio, Celeste, at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto; recorded with free jazz master Anthony Braxton in New York; worked as a wedding singer in Hong Kong; and taught ukulele in parks across Toronto as part of the city’s “Arts in the Parks” initiative — as well as in Bermuda.


Cellist, composer and Erato Ensemble member Stefan Hintersteininger (BMus’04, MLis’09) recently premiered arrangements of songs by 50’s cult singer-songwriter Connie Converse at the group’s POP ART! concert at the Orpheum Annex in Vancouver. 

Lani Krantz (BMus’00) became Acting Principal Harp with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in January.

Samatha Ballard

Samatha Ballard

Samantha Ballard (BMus’15) released her first solo album, On Christmas Night, on iTunes and Google Play. Twice a month she also posts new arrangements and covers on her YouTube channel, which has attracted over three million views to date.

James Mitchell (BMus’82) has produced a video with the National Library of Scotland to mark the March 25th centenary of the death of Claude Debussy (1862-1918).


Stephanie Bell (BMus’14) recently won the 2nd flute and piccolo position with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra. Stephanie studies with Brenda Fedoruk.


Two UBC Music alumni, Kathleen Allan (BMus’11) and John William Trotter (BMus’98), have been named to the shortlist for artistic director of the Vancouver Chamber Choir

Alumni Making Waves: An outstanding new book, a (very) modern adaptation of Handel, orchestra news, and more  

This November, Rose-Ellen Nichols (BMus ’05, MMus ’08) performed the role of the Native Mother in Missing, the new Pacific Opera Victoria/City Opera Vancouver co-production that “gives voice to the story of Canada's missing and murdered Indigenous women.” 

Julia Chien (BMus ’14, MMus student) has won the Principal Percussion position with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra and the Principal Timpani position with the Kamloops Symphony, while Stephanie Bell (BMus ’14) is the new Second Flute with the Victoria Symphony. Catch Julia at Barnett Hall on Feb. 14th, 2018.

Left to right: Julia Chien, Debi Wong, and Rose-Ellen Nichols

Left to right: Julia Chien, Debi Wong, and Rose-Ellen Nichols

Choral composer Matthew Emery (BMus ’14) has been awarded the University of Toronto’s 2017 William and Phyllis Waters Award. The $25,000 award recognizes “graduating students… who are deemed to have the greatest potential to make an important contribution to the field of music.” 

Debi Wong (BMus ’08) debuted Acis & Galatea: A Gender Liberation Opera, her adaption of the Handel opera, in Vancouver this fall. The production also featured performances by UBC alumni Rachel Fenlon (BMus '10, MMus '12) and Peter Monaghan (BMus '14, MMus '15), with Alan Corbishley (BMus ’98) directing. Debi performs in Barnett Hall on March 7th, 2018 as part of the Wednesday Noon Hour series. 

Music theorists and editors Laurel Parsons (MA ’91, Ph.D ’03) and Brenda Ravenscroft (Ph.D ’93) won the Society for Music Theory’s 2018 award for the Outstanding Multi-Authored Publication for Analytical Essays on Music by Women Composers: Concert Music, 1960-2000 (Oxford University Press, 2016). It is the first of a four-volume series. 

Fiona Blackburn (BMus ’82, BEd (Sec) ’02, MMus ’10) was recently appointed as Conductor of Pacifica Singers, a select vocal ensemble that exists as part of the Vancouver Chamber Choir organization. Fiona's eclectic musical career has included performing as a classically trained soloist and recording artist, teaching voice, adjudicating festivals, conducting choirs, and educating in classrooms.

Natalie Calhoun (BMus ’95) was nominated for an East Coast Music Award as part of the ensemble Atlantic String Machine. Their album, Lost Time, was nominated in the category of Classical Recording of the Year.

Shang Ko (Sunny) Chan (BMus ’16) was named as a finalist in the Shean Strings Competition. The finals were held May 18–20, 2017 in Edmonton, Alberta. 

Nicole Linaksita (BMus/Bsc ‘16) has had a busy few months. She was Guest Artist for Music Without Borders, performed Moszkowski’s Piano Concerto Op. 59 at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, and won a Silver Medal and Best Performance of a Canadian Work at the Vancouver International Music Competition. She also performed numerous concerts with Musica Moderna Camerata and others.

In May, world-renowned pianist and former School of Music student Jon Kimura Parker, O.C, received an honorary Doctorate of Lettershonoris causa, from the University of British Columbia in recognition of his countless contributions to the world of classical music. 

Jocelyn Morlock (MMus ’96, DMA ’02) and John Estacio (MMus '91) were among four composers commissioned by the National Arts Centre Orchestra for Life Reflected, an “immersive symphonic experience” that celebrated four exceptional Canadian women. Jocelyn’s piece, “My Name is Amanda Todd” tells the story of the vibrant 15-year-old who, after suffering for years from cyber abuse, spoke out against harassment and bullying on YouTube. For his piece, “I Lost My Talk,” John draws inspiration from the life and work of acclaimed Mi'kmaw elder and poet Rita Joe. Life Reflected premiered in Vancouver in October.  

Violist Sarah Kwok (MMus ’11, DMA student) and percussionist Julia Chien made their debuts with the award-winning Turning Point Ensemble during International World Music Days in November. You can watch their performance here

An all-female orchestra, tours in Europe and Canada, and awards galore

School of Music alumni who are making waves in the world of music and beyond

Composer Matthew Emery (BMus’14) released Sing Your Song, a new choral album with Amabile Choirs of London, on CMC Centrediscs. The album was featured on CBC Music in February. In 2016, Emery was named one of CBC’s “hot Canadian classical musicians under 30.”

Cynthia Yeh teaches a masterclass in Paris.  Photo: Todd Rosenberg Photography

Cynthia Yeh teaches a masterclass in Paris. Photo: Todd Rosenberg Photography

Cynthia Yeh (BMus’99), principal percussionist with Chicago Symphony Orchestra, gave a masterclass at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris during the CSO’s European tour this winter.

Jocelyn Morlock (MMus’96, DMA’02), the current Composer-in-Residence for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, has been recognized with a City of Vancouver Mayor’s Arts Award in the music category.

Pianist Bogdan Dulu (DMA’15) recently embarked on a seven-week, 19-date Canadian tour with Jeunesses Musicales du Canada.

David Sabourin (BMus’79), owner of Tapestry Music in White Rock, recently opened a new location in Vancouver. Tapestry specializes in classical instruments, school band rentals, and private music education, and more.

The Canadian Music Centre recently welcomed five UBC alumni among its latest cohort of Associate Composers: Kathleen Allan (BMus’11), Adam Hill (DMA’16), Stefan Hintersteininger (BMus’04), Lucas Oickle (MMus’15), and Michael Trew (BMus’72, MMus’82, DMA’86). The CMC “represents composers working in a variety of areas including concert music, music for instrumental and vocal ensembles, electroacoustic music, improvised music, educational music, music with other disciplines, and music that crosses a variety of genres and responds to different cultural influences.”

Janna Sailor (MMus'08, DMPS'12)

Janna Sailor (MMus'08, DMPS'12)

Conductor and violinist Janna Sailor (MMus’08, DMPS’12) recently formed Allegra Chamber Orchestra, an all-female orchestra devoted to performing the work of female composers. One of the few of its kind in the world. Listen to Sailor’s interview with Sheryl MacKay of CBC Radio’s North by Northwest about the genesis of ACO and its mandate “to empower women and those who identify as women through music, maintaining the role of the artist in society to bring to light issues that need to be addressed, while provoking creative thought and solutions.”

In 2016 John Trotter (BMus’98), an associate professor at Wheaton College in Illinois, directed a production at Wheaton College called Handel’s Messiah: Unexpected. This was the culmination of Trotter’s years-long dream to offer a convincing and semi-staged performance of Handel’s masterwork during the Easter season. It featured 10 student soloists and a number of unexpected elements. Watch the performance here.

Pianist and composer Lisa Cay Miller (DMA’07) debuted “Lessing Stories,” a piano concert inspired by the work of British writer Doris Lessing, at Pyatt Hall in October 2016. Guest artists who performed alongside Miller included fellow UBC alumna Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa (DMA’07).

Composer Christopher Tyler Nickel (BMus’01) received a 2016 SOCAN Award for Achievement in Music for a Television Movie, for his score for the TV movie Honour Student. Always busy, Nickel recently completed scores for the movies Anything for Love, starring Erika Christensen, Love in Paradise, starring Luke Perry, as well as for the TV series Highway Through Hell for Discovery Channel.

Annie Yim (BMus'02) 

Annie Yim (BMus'02) 

Pianist and Minerva Piano Trio founder Annie Yim (BMus’02) recently completed her DMA at City University of London and was selected — alongside her group — for the prestigious St. John’s Smith Square Young Artists’ Scheme. They will perform three different concerts at St John Smith’s Square in London over the course of the concert season.

Antonio Bittar (MMus’16) is now working at Vancouver’s Goh Ballet Academy as Administrative and Operations Coordinator. In his other life as an opera singer, he recently performed in Opera Kelowna’s production of The Magic Flute.

Clara Shandler (BMus’12), also known as the Sidewalk Cellist, recently released “Lights in the Dark,” a brand new single. You can listen to it here

Three School of Music alumni won prizes at the SOCAN Music Foundation Young Composer Awards. Roydon Tse (BMus'13) won the Sir Ernest MacMillan Award for his composition "Genesis 2015," while Joseph Glaser (BMus'14) was second runner up in the same category for "Ecstasis."  David Storen (MMus'16) was first runner up for the Serge Garant Awards for "Mångata." Tse also placed third overall in the Pierre Mercure Award category for "Meditation."   

Music theorist and pianist Dr. Lucas Wong (BMus’04) published “Humour in Late Debussy: multiple perspectives on Douze études,” a fresh take on the composer’s Twelve Etudes, in the British journal The Musical Times. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Piano at Soochow University School of Music in China.  

Sergei Saratovsky (DMA’12) and his brother, Nikolai, recently completed their tour of British Columbia. The four-hand piano duo performed in Nelson, Oliver, West Vancouver, and Vancouver.

Pianist Natalie Lo (BMus’16) won the 2016 Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra Clef Concerto Competition (Senior Category). 

Pianists Jocelyn Lai (BMus’13) and Natalie Lo won second and fourth prize, respectively, in the 2016 Shean Piano Competition, taking home prizes of $5,000 and $3,000. Natalie also won the $1000 Paul J. Bourret Memorial Award for Best Performance of a Test Piece. She played The Lark by Mikhail Glinka, transcribed by Mily Balakirev, revised and edited by Leopold Godowsky.

Mark Takeshi McGregor (BMus'95, DMA'12)

Mark Takeshi McGregor (BMus'95, DMA'12)

Mark Takeshi McGregor (BMus’95, DMA’12) recently stepped down from his role as artistic director of the Powell Street Festival Society to join the faculty at the University of Victoria School of Music as Instructor of Flute for the fall semester. He also recently served as invited flute faculty for Nucleo Musica’s International Symposium of New Music 2016, a week-long festival of masterclasses, workshops, and performances in Curitiba, Brazil. 

Harpist Samantha Ballard (BMus’15) performed at the Rio Harp Festival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016. Ballard played two full programs and made special appearances at two other concerts. She performed a number of works by Canadian composers, as well as some of her own arrangements.

A number of UBC alumni have performed with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra recently! They include violinist Sunny Chan (BMus'16), clarinetist Syndey Tetarenko (BMus'16), and percussionist Graeme Tofflemire (BMus'15).

Pianist Amy Seulky Lee (BMus) has been appointed a fellow for the 2017 Toronto Summer Music Festival. Lee studied with Terrence Dawson during her time at UBC School of Music.