Austrian-Canadian Joseph Kandler built musical ties between beloved countries

Photo courtesy Trudy Duller 

Photo courtesy Trudy Duller 

by Michelle Keong

For aspiring classical musicians and performers, there is no better place to learn than in Austria, a country deeply rooted in the traditions of Western music.

During her final year of studies at UBC, mezzo-soprano Evanna Chiew (BMus’13) travelled to the Mozarteum International Summer Academy in Salzburg to train with renowned teachers, attend concerts and immerse herself in Austrian culture. As a two-time recipient of the Johann Strauss Foundation Lotte and John Hecht Memorial Scholarship, Chiew was thrilled to have a second chance to deepen her opera studies.

“I am so grateful for this amazing opportunity to learn and become a better musician,” said Chiew, who completed the four-week intensive program before beginning graduate studies at Yale University. “Austria definitely has a special place in my heart and I look forward to perhaps one day returning—maybe even to sing at the Salzburg Festival!”

Since 1988, the Johann Strauss Foundation Lotte and John Hecht Memorial Scholarship has provided many UBC students with transformative experiences, thanks in large part to the efforts of the late Joseph Kandler (December 13, 1921 – March 25, 2014). He dedicated his life to creating lasting links between Canada and Austria, and provided transformative artistic opportunities for emerging Canadian musicians.

“In Austria, music is an essential part of life. Not having music is the equivalent of not having food,” said Trudy Duller, a close friend of Kandler and past Honorary Vice Consul (Cultural Affairs) of Austria. “Dr. Kandler was passionate about connecting young people with Austrian culture. He believed in never closing doors and exploring all the possibilities.”

Kandler was the founding president of the Johann Strauss Foundations in Edmonton (est. 1975) and Victoria (est. 1985), which created an endowment at UBC to fund scholarships for advanced study of music in Austria, in partnership with the Lotte and John Hecht Memorial Foundation. Kandler’s vision and energies have propelled the careers of more than 70 UBC music students and his efforts have similarly benefitted numerous students from the University of Alberta and the University of Victoria.

“I had the honour of working closely with Joseph, and I vividly recall how his eyes brightened with enthusiasm and delight whenever musical performances of scholarship applicants exuded confidence and eloquence,” said Richard Kurth, professor and director of the UBC School of Music. “Every scholarship winner returned from Austria energized with new inspiration and insight, and they have all pursued their artistic journeys with lasting commitment and success.”