A passion for music, a desire to help students

The 255-seat Barnett Hall in the UBC Music Building.  Photo: Dina MacDougall

The 255-seat Barnett Hall in the UBC Music Building. Photo: Dina MacDougall

In 2010, UBC alumnus Roy Barnett (BCom '61) made a donation of $2 million to renovate the School of Music's recital hall, which now proudly bears his name.

Twenty years after he retired, Roy Barnett was determined to play the piano. At 72, he enrolled at the Victoria Conservatory of Music.

Four years later, Barnett plays a range of classical music which includes some Beethoven sonatas, Bach preludes and fugues, and Chopin etudes.

“I’m hoping to develop my playing to a high level and am having a lot of fun in the process,” says Barnett, former treasurer of what was then Novopharm, one of Canada’s largest generic pharmaceutical companies.

“I have always admired performances by classical pianists,” recalls Barnett. “I played and performed classical music on the accordion until my late teens, but knew all along that it was a much less versatile instrument than the piano. In the 1980s, I bought a piano but didn’t have enough time to devote to practicing seriously on it. Time passed, and finally it was my wife, Gunilla, who urged me most persuasively, to start taking lessons.  The decision to do so was one of the high points in my life.”

A lifelong interest in music led Roy, with the full support of his wife, Gunilla, to make a gift of $2 million dollars to the UBC School of Music, part of which has now been used to renovate the Recital Hall.  This performance and rehearsal facility was renamed the Roy Barnett Recital Hall in his honour and reopened with a ceremony and concert on September 15, 2010.

“I felt that the opportunity to fund the renewal of the Recital Hall was an exciting and very effective way to give back to the community,” says Barnett of enhancing the facilities for the education and professional development of music students.

“It appealed to me instantly, especially since my funding of this truly worthwhile project would enable me to participate, to some extent, in certain decisions to be made during the renovation.  is involvement would be most satisfying.”  

The 255-seat concert hall and rehearsal space is occupied nearly every day of the week with student recitals, ensemble programs and performances by faculty, alumni and guest artists.

“Hundreds of events take place in the Recital Hall every year,” says Professor Richard Kurth, Director of the School of Music. “It has been the core of the music building since it opened in 1968 and the renewed space will allow both undergraduate and graduate students to develop as solo and chamber music performers.”

Enhanced acoustics, new audiovisual equipment, updated aesthetics, and increased accessibility make the Roy Barnett Recital Hall an essential space for budding musicians.  e enlarged and reconfigured stage will improve the acoustics of students’ performances and allow audience members to bene t from a more intimate experience with the musicians.

“It’s exciting to think that I will actually see and hear the results and bene ts that have been realized from this particular renovation,” Barnett says.