New degree for Music

Over the past few years, the School of Music’s string faculty has been working with the university to establish a program for young musicians to study intensively—not as individual artists, however, but as a quartet. The School of Music is now proud to announce the launch of the Masters Degree Program in String Quartet Performance—a first in Canada.

The Lafayette String Quartet

The Lafayette String Quartet

While there are other institutions where individual musicians can earn graduate degrees in string performance, UVic is now the first Canadian degree-granting institution to offer a Masters with a string quartet emphasis. This new program will allow previously formed quartets the opportunity to study both as a group and individually with the Lafayette String Quartet, UVic’s acclaimed Artists-in-Residence.

“This will bring an outstanding student quartet to UVic to work directly with the Lafayette String Quartet for a two-year residency,” says School of Music director Susan Lewis Hammond. “The program will bring the high level of the LSQ’s creative activity directly to students. The result will be an innovative student experience that builds directly on the creative and research expertise of the Lafayette String Quartet.”

The LSQ's Ann Elliott-Goldschmid with students at QuartetFest West 2013

The LSQ’s Ann Elliott-Goldschmid with students at QuartetFest West 2013

For more than two decades, the LSQ has taught some of Canada’s finest young string players, and also used their residency to enhance local performances and community involvement.

“Not all universities have a resident string quartet, and there’s a real mentoring by having all of the string teachers in one ensemble,” says LSQ violinist Sharon Stanis. And as the renewed success of their annual QuartetFest West summer teaching program for string quartet players proved, it seems only natural to create a Masters in String Quartet here at UVic.

Biró’s Mediterranean voice

School of Music professor and internationally recognized composer Dániel Péter Biró will be spending the 2014/15 academic-year at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, thanks to the prestigious Fellowship he recently received—a first for the University of Victoria. But he is also currently engaged with his latest round of international projects as well.

Dániel Péter Biró

Dániel Péter Biró

Biró’s new composition Al Ken Kara (That Is Why It Was Called) will be performed on July 26 at the Teatro Fondamenta Nuove in Venice, Italy. It was originally composed as part of the film project Mediterranean Voices, which premiered in February 2014 at the Eclat Festival in Stuttgart, Germany. Biró was one of 12 international composers invited to participate in the ambitious undertaking.

“It’s a project that incorporates video, architecture and music,” he explains. “There are six rooms, so in between pieces they go to these rooms where there are 12 video screens. The video artist traveled for eight months through 12 countries shooting different themes.”

Take a few minutes to watch and listen to the video of the premiere of Biró’s composition Al Ken Kara Kara as part of the Mediterranean Voices project.

Biró in Tunisia

Biró in Tunisia

Mediterranean Voices explores themes like “public places” (religious buildings, demonstrations) and “borders” (both political and physical). Biró himself traveled to Tunisia in December 2013, where he visited the ancient El Ghriba synagogue in Djerba, an island where the oldest Jewish community outside of Jerusalem has existed for 2,500 years.

Click here to listen imam Slah Ben Daoued’s amazing recitation.

“My piece dealt with the problem of language in the Mediterranean. It’s based on the Tower of Babel, is written for seven voice and uses 36 languages,” he says. “It was quite intense at times in Tunisia due to the tense political atmosphere. We witnessed a major demonstration just in front of our hotel.”

Biró also just returned from Istanbul in June, where he was participating in the Fourth International Workshop on Folk Music Analysis at Bogazici University. The conference dealt with computational ethnomusicology, the study of indigenous musical cultures using cutting-edge technology.

When asked how he gets involved with so many global projects, Biró chuckles. “People actually know about Victoria through our contemporary music scene,” he explains. “Last year I was in Vienna and just met someone by chance on the street and they said, ‘Oh, you run the SALT New Music Festival.’ So people know Victoria is a place for contemporary music composers. There’s a long history of this also—Victoria has always been known as kind of a weird place, a place for experimentation. Our students also go out into the world and they continue, and come back here.“

Biró and students

Biró and students

Biró feels the School of Music‘s alumni also enhance our reputation. “We just had our interviews with potential student composers and we asked them why they came here to Victoria and a number of them said, ‘I met this former student who said I should come here.’ So our students in the world are spreading the word that this is a place where students can develop a voice, experiment and do things.”

Ultimately, Biró sees the School of Music—and the Faculty of Fine Arts as a whole—as something of an incubator. “It’s small enough and lively enough that people are able to develop things here and not get too distracted,” he says. “That’s also a strength we have in our program too—a lot of people go to McGill or other large schools and they say it’s really a factory out there. But we’re not a factory; we’re small and personal and that’s necessary for not only acquiring skills but for incubating material.”

Four on the Floor

New faces will soon be seen in the faculty boardroom, as four departmental mainstays step into fresh administrative roles for three-year terms. Three new Chairs have been announced: Allana Lindgren in Theatre; David Leach in Writing; and Paul Walde in Visual Arts. Not to be left out, Evanthia Baboula of History in Art has been named the new Associate Dean.

Baboula

Baboula

“As we welcome the new leadership team we should also remember to thank those who have been serving in these jobs over the past few years,” says Dean Sarah Blackstone. “These individuals—Lynne Van Luven, Bill Gaston, Daniel Laskarin, and Warwick Dobson—have been working very hard on behalf of the Faculty, sometimes sacrificing their own scholarship and creative activity to be sure everyone else had the proper support to be successful in their own endeavours.”

“Good leadership is key to everything we do and all we want to accomplish as a Faculty,” Blackstone continues. “We have been very well served by the outgoing team, and I am looking forward to working with the new team.”

Lindgren

Lindgren

While appreciating the amount of work the position will entail, Lindgren is clearly looking forward to her new post. “I am grateful to my colleagues for their support and encouragement, and buoyed by our collective desire to solidify our reputation as one of the best theatre departments in Canada,” says Lindgren, a specialist in theatre history. “We’re going to continue to produce exciting theatre while preparing our students to be creative leaders.”

For his part, Leach is “thrilled and honoured” to lead the department he first joined as a student 25 years ago. “Every day, we hear good news about the creative success of our alumni,” says Leach, currently the director of both the Professional Writing and Technology and Society programs.

Leach

Leach

“I hope to increase the awareness of our program, nationally and internationally, so that any student seriously considering a career in the literary arts will put UVic on the top of their wish list . . . I also hope my hair doesn’t turn completely grey until after my second year!”

Both Leach and Lindgren highlight the importance of interdisciplinarity—in Fine Arts and across campus—as well as UVic’s core values of experiential learning, socially engaged research and community outreach. (Walde was out of town as of this writing.) Lindgren also notes the importance of the Phoenix as one of UVic’s most public faces. “In the coming years, I encourage everyone to catch a show and see our ideals in action!”

Walde (photo: Pat Morrow)

Walde (photo: Pat Morrow)

When asked for some words of advice, outgoing Theatre Chair Warwick Dobson offered this sage wisdom to the new Chairs: “Visit your Dean briefly and infrequently,” he quipped. “And know that you can usually help students—but faculty is trickier.”

Dean Blackstone also appreciates the time and effort taken by those who assisted with the appointments. “Join me in thanking the search committees who undertook this important work and congratulating the new administrative team,” she says.

Theatre grad already in good company

It’s safe to say few students would be proud of being called a scam artist, but Department of Theatre graduate Max Johnson’s pride comes from the spelling. Johnson, who has been working for local professional theatrical company Theatre SKAM since 2011 (whose associates are charmingly dubbed “SKAM artists”), is graduating with a double major in Writing and Theatre. But it’s the practical experience he learned at Phoenix Theatre that has made him such a valued member of SKAM’s team.

Max Johnson (photo: Pamela Bethel)

Max Johnson (photo: Pamela Bethel)

As with many students in the Faculty of Fine Arts, Johnson didn’t wait until graduation to put his experiential learning to work. He was hired into a part-time position as the Administrative and Communications Assistant for Theatre SKAM while only in his second year.

“Theatre is a department where you absolutely get out of it what you put in,” says Johnson. “My entire time at university was spent stepping sideways into things that would lead me places I never expected—which is how I got into marketing and Theatre SKAM in the first place.”

Daniel MacIvor (seated, left) with the cast & director of Inside (photo: Travis Bower)

Daniel MacIvor (seated, left) with the cast & director of Inside (photo: Travis Bower)

Even though marketing and communications wasn’t his first choice as a specialization, that’s where he was placed in his second year. “They needed someone with writing experience—and I was part of a group where I needed to solve a lot of crises,” he recalls.

One of those crises? Helping to market Phoenix Theatre’s 2011 production of Inside, a world premiere by Daniel MacIvor, one of Canada’s leading theatre artists. But when Johnson’s communications team of three lost two members due to illness and the Tohoku earthquake (“one of my group was an exchange student from Japan, so she was out of the picture making sure her family was okay”), he soon found himself as a solo act. “It was a crash course on marketing, publicity, photography and media relations,” he says. “It definitely acclimated me to the whole trial-by-fire scenario.”

Johnson at Theatre SKAM HQ

Johnson at Theatre SKAM HQ

No surprise, then that Theatre SKAM thought Johnson would be a good fit when they found themselves in a similar situation: just as SKAM was beginning to plan a tour of their show Cariboo Buckaroo, a medical crisis and an unexpected resignation left them bust in the dust. “To say Theatre SKAM was desperate for good help would be entirely accurate,” recalls alumnus Matthew Payne, SKAM’s Artistic Producer. Payne contacted Adrienne Holierhoek, Marketing & Communications Manager for the Department of Theatre, who recommended Johnson; as a Phoenix grad, Payne well knew the potential Theatre students had for putting learning into action. “I just wished a tour in Max’s general direction and somehow he pulled it off—a three-week tour in rural B.C. A true SKAM artist was born.”

While it sounds funny now, Johnson recalls it as being anything but. “I had never planned a tour before, but suddenly I was the sole person responsible for finding venues,” he says. “Then while the show was on tour, I was the only person left in the office. But it turned out to be a very harmonious fit—I got the vibe of the company very quickly.” While he started as a tour coordinator, Johnson is now SKAM’s full-time Administrative Assistant, and soon to be Artistic Associate.

Johnson dressed for success at SKAM's Bike Ride

Johnson dressed for success at SKAM’s Bike Ride

Given the current drumbeat of practical employability, does Johnson ever worry about pursuing a career in the arts? “I took a couple years off after high school to try and come up with something more practical than the arts, but I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to study outside of that,” he admits. “I could have become an electrician, but that’s not where my skills lay.”

Ultimately, says Johnson, studying Theatre at UVic revealed his true passion. “I wanted to better myself, and I’m a better person now for having come here. I understand the need to be practical, but we clearly want to live in a society that values creativity. That needs to be encouraged.”

Theatre SKAM’s annual Bike Ride mini-theatre festival runs along the Galloping Goose trail July 12-13 & 19-20. Full details here, and be sure to say hi to Max.

Growing the Concrete Garden

If you’re like many of the Garden City’s residents, you’ll be spending part of your summer getting your hands dirty. But whether you have a backyard garden, community plot or simply grown tomatoes on your balcony—or are part of one of the more serious urban agricultural projects like the Mason Street City Farm, City Harvest Co-op, Lifecycles Project Society or the Compost Education CentreConcrete Garden is the magazine for you.

The second issue

The second issue

Now heading into its third issue, Concrete Garden originally began as a project in the Department of Writing’s Magazine Publishing class but has since evolved into an actual hard copy magazine that’s now for sale around the city.

With its focus on sustainable urban agriculture, Concrete Garden is Victoria’s first magazine to focus on sustainable urban food production. As their website notes, “Concrete Garden showcases the agricultural ingenuity of communities, organizations and individuals . . . [and] walks a fine line between activism and educational entertainment.”

Concrete Garden is a magazine that focuses on how an urban population is feeding itself,” says editor Kimberley Veness. “That’s everything from growing your own food in a planter box to learning about city problems like the current food composting issue.”

“We’re also interested in the ‘culture’ aspect of agriculture—architecture, green businesses, the political structures that make us need to feed ourselves and create a better system—because you can’t have community gardening without community,” says senior editor Quinn MacDonald. “We want to engage younger people, young families who are worried about sustainable agriculture. It’s a best-solution oriented magazine too.”

Urban beekeeping (photo: Hugo Wong)

Urban beekeeping (photo: Hugo Wong)

With two issues already under their belt, 500 copies of the latest issue are due to come out near the end of July. A sneak-peek at their story list reveals features on urban beekeeping, land-based salmon farming, the Pedal to Pettle composting company and the problems with urban deer.

Both Veness and MacDonald are enthusiastic about the magazine’s future. “It’s had such a good reception,” says MacDonald. “We already have people watching for the next issue. And instead of just students, we now have a few professionals working with us.”

Do you know where your compost goes? (photo: Hugo Wong)

Do you know where your compost goes? (photo: Hugo Wong)

“It’s really nice to see it expand beyond the university,” says Veness. “We don’t just want it to be a student publication. We want good writing, whether that’s good student writers who we can help grow or people on more of a community engagement level.”

Concrete Garden was showcased during this spring during UVic’s IdeaFest, where they presented as part of the “So You Want To Launch A Magazine” panel alongside other UVic-created publications like The Warren, This Side of West, Plenitude and the online Coastal Spectator. Right now, Veness is focused on the magazine’s business plan. “We’re looking at getting long-term funding so we can focus on the magazine and not on the business side of things,” she says.

With that in mind, Veness just completed a fellowship at UVic’s Centre for Cooperative and Community-Based Economy. “I was looking at the transformative effects of modern print media, specifically magazines, and how they influence communities. Ideally, I’d like Concrete Garden to be a catalyst, a system-changer.”

MacDonald (left) and Veness

MacDonald (left) and Veness

As part of her fellowship, Veness interviewed professional magazine editors locally and in Vancouver about the recent changes in the print industry. “But what are doing well are the niche magazines that focus on one thing and are hyper-local in their content” she says. “That really brings people together and creates a community. That’s good for advertisers and good for content.”

And good for Concrete Garden, of course.

“We distributed more than 400 copies of the last issue all over the place—mostly downtown, but also up in Mill Bay and out in Sooke—so the demand is there. The Compost Education Centre in Fernwood took a stack of copies, and Swan’s even put them in their rooms for their guests,” says Veness.

“We’ve always been really focused and our aesthetic quality has always been really high,” says MacDonald. “That’s been important to us since the beginning. Our audience are the people who are out there in the community, the ones with green thumbs who want to talk about these kind of things.”

Harald Krebs wins Craigdarroch Award

Scholar, pianist, author, artistic collaborator and professional speaker—School of Music professor Harald Krebs is one of Canada’s finest music theorists, and has been named this year’s winner of the Craigdarroch Award for Excellence in Artistic Expression.

Harald Krebs (UVic Photo Services)

Harald Krebs (UVic Photo Services)

“It’s very touching that my colleagues would do this, given the nomination process,” says Krebs. “In fact, I really thought someone else should be nominated this year, but it’s very sweet that the department nominated me. I have such great colleagues.”

Recognized internationally as an expert on musical meter and rhythm— especially in the 19th-century German art song known as Lieder—Krebs was also named a UVic Distinguished Professor in 2010. This award comes with a $1,000 prize, which Krebs characteristically is considering using for the greater good. “One thing I’ve done with other awards I’ve received is to bring in a guest speaker, so it’s not just for my benefit but also for the benefit of the School and the faculty,” he says. “It’s really nice to contribute in this way.”

Now the Head of Theory, Krebs joined the School of Music back in 1986 “It’s been almost 30 years, and there have been a lot of changes over the years,” he says. “Good friends have retired, but we’ve been very lucky with the new people who have come in—they’ve maintained the collegial atmosphere that was there when I came in. I’m really proud of my colleagues, and the students too—it’s not just about doing scholarly work, it’s also about performing.”

Krebs pauses for a moment. “I think that’s probably why I was nominated,” he continues. “The award says ‘uses artistic expression to further knowledge’—and that’s certainly what I try to do. My talks always have a live performance aspect; I always clarify my points by actually performing—which makes it more fun for me, and the listeners too.”

Krebs' 2007 book

Krebs’ 2007 book

In his 34-year academic career, Krebs has produced two groundbreaking books, a steady stream of peer-reviewed articles and collaborative performances fusing scholarship and musical practice. At the core of this work is his talent as a pianist, which he shares regularly with the broader community of music lovers—notably through his Lieder at Lunch series, which has been running since 2001. “It took a bit of time to take off—it is an esoteric genre, after all,” he chuckles. “But now we have quite a large following from town as well as campus.”

Immediate plans include traveling to Belgium for a pair of conferences (“I’m a little stressed about it, but I’m sure it’ll be fun once I get there”) and a German research trip to both Berlin and Bonn.

Only three other Fine Arts representatives have won Craigdarroch Awards: Marcus Milwright in 2013, Lorna Crozierin both 2012 and 2011, and the Lafayette String Quartetin 2010.

The Craigdarroch Research Awards were established in 2003 to recognize outstanding research-focused and creative contributions at UVic. They were named for Craigdarroch Castle, the estate that was once home to UVic’s predecessor institution, Victoria College, from 1921 to 1946.

Summer plans (part two)

What else is on the horizon for Fine Arts faculty members?

book-U6-A146-B319-R493Department of Writing professor Lee Henderson has his sophomore novel, The Road Narrows As You Go, coming out this fall . . . which he’s, uh, still putting the finishing touches to this summer. But it has already been touted as “one of the most anticipated (Canadian) titles of 2014″ by the National Post . . . no pressure, eh? Henderson has previously released the short story collection The Broken Record Technique and the novel The Man Game (which the Post described as “an audacious, wildly inventive novel that deserved a wider audience”). For  The Road Narrows As You Go, Henderson is fusing his love of art and graphic novels into a story about Victoria-born comic artist Wendy Ashbubble, who may or may not be the illegitimate love-child of then-US President Ronald Reagan

Described as “a highly entertaining and unendingly surprising novel about love, comics, Ronald Reagan, and the true meaning of success,” The Road Narrows As You Go is “simultaneously the portrait of a young woman struggling to find her place and a bright, rollicking, unflinching depiction of the 1980s.” Stay tuned for more details.

Over in the School of Music, sessional instructor Anita Bonkowski spent the month of June performing in Europe and will have a full summer slate of playing gigs as well, both locally at out in Winnipeg.

Hogg, (left) on the set for Two 4 One  (photo: Arnold Lim)

Hogg, (left) on the set for Two 4 One (photo: Arnold Lim)

After producing Maureen Bradley’s transgender rom-com Two 4 One this spring, busy digital media staffer and filmmaker Daniel Hogg just finished shooting the short film Gord’s Brother with Writing department alumnus filmmaker and frequent collaborator Jeremy Lutter. “Gord’s Brother is about a boy trying to find a place for his monster brother to fit in, the film grapples with unspoken issues of discrimination from a child’s perspective, accessible by a layer of fantasy,” says Hogg.

The Lafayette String Quartet has a busy recording session ahead of them this summer, thanks to the August release date set for their world premier recording of Piano Quintet by Canadian composer Kelly Marie-Murphy, featuring pianist Alexander Tselyakov. Marie-Murphy was commissioned by the Pender Harbour Chamber Music Festival to compose a piano quintet for Alexander (the festival’s artistic director) and the LSQ in celebration of the festival’s 10th anniversary. As a bonus, the CD will also feature the Shostakovich piano quintet. The LSQ will perform the world premier of Marie-Murphy’s quintet at the fest in August, where they will also launch the CD.

The Lafayette String Quartet

The Lafayette String Quartet

And in other LSQ news, having just completed QuarteFest West here on campus, the busy quartet will be in Ontario for a large part of the summer performing in Leith, Waterloo, Ottawa, and the 35th annual Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound. Just by way of showing the range of works they’ll be tackling this summer, their lineup of composers includes Murray Adaskin, Fanny Hensel-Mendelssohn, Benjamin Britten, Beethoven (“Op. 95 String Quartet and the 9th Symphony with a smash-up band organized to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Festival of the Sound,” says the LSQ’s Ann Elliott-Goldschmid), Alberto Ginastera, Felix Mendeslssohn, Luigi Boccherini, Arthur Foote, Rebecca Clarke, Joseph Haydn, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Dmitri Shostakovich (quartet and piano quintet), and Ernst Chausson.

David Leach

David Leach

In addition to getting up to speed on his duties as the new Department of Writing chair, David Leach will be off to Madison, Wisconsin, for the Games Learning Society conference. “I’ll be presenting a paper on the results of our research study into the benefits of ‘gamification’ tools—badges and leader boards—to promote online learning,” he says. “David Broome plus colleagues in Education, the Library and an undergrad research assistant are listed as co-authors for helping with the research.” Leach will also be on a panel about using augmented reality tools in the classroom, as his TS400 students created AR guides to the future of the campus, using a geolocative tool called ARIS. Got all that? (Good, ’cause there’s going to be a quiz!) Any extra spare time will find Leach “finally finishing my damn book! (Maybe…)”

Noted pianist and School of Music professor Arthur Rowe is back in his role as the artistic director of the 19th annual Victoria Summer Music Festival in July—a position he has held for at least 10 years now. “It’s a good festival, ever growing in stature and popularity,” he says.

poster-bellaAlthough it’s a bit further off than the summer, acclaimed theatrical set designer, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and Department of Theatre professor Mary Kerr is in the planning stages of her upcoming musical about Bella Chagall—the wife of famed artists Marc Chagall. Titled Bella: The Colour of Love, Kerr designed and co-wrote the production with Theresa Tova, who will be playing Bella. The show will have a 3-week run at Toronto’s Harold Green Theatre in October

Also in the theatrical vein is news from famed playwright and Writing professor Joan MacLeod. “I’m just writing, starting a new play,” she says. “What it’s about? No clue!” MacLeod latest play, The Valley, was most recently mounted in Winnipeg, and the book of the script was released this spring by Talon Books.

Summer plans (part one)

Who doesn’t like summer? Classes are finished, the fall semester is still far enough away to not worry about and we’ve all got some time to put towards our own creative practices. What’s on deck for some of our faculty this summer? Let’s find out.

Lynne Van Luven

Lynne Van Luven

Outgoing Associate Dean Lynne Van Luven has been busy winding up her job in the Dean’s Office and trundling all her books back upstairs to her permanent home in the Department of Writing. But, before she assumes full teaching duties again, she’s taking a well-deserved administrative leave for the 2014/15 academic year.

“In the period of my leave, I hope to get a whole lot of work done on Flesh Wounds, which is the working title for my new book of essays about the hilarious and hair-raising process of ageing,” she says. “I have lots of research and writing to do, so I am most appreciative of the time off.” But having time off doesn’t come naturally to the diligent Van Luven. “I have never—since I started teaching at universities back in 1981—had a full year off to work on a project,” she admits. “I hope I just don’t blow all my time pursuing Skittles and beer . . . or, alternately, wine and roses.”

Bland with Canadian actress Neve Campbell

Bland with Canadian actress Neve Campbell

Busy Department of Theatre continuing sessional instructor Leslie Bland always has some fascinating side-projects on the go. Recently back from a trip to Paris and from attending the Banff World Media Festival in June, he’s currently completing his latest film project.

“I’m wrapping post production on our feature documentary Gone South: How Canada Invented Hollywood,” Bland reports. “There will a world premiere of it in August in Los Angeles hosted by the LA Consul General for Canada.” Word is the premier might even be held at the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. (Maybe Bland can give a tour of all the famed Canadian hand-prints in the concrete there.) Gone South comes on the heels of the all-female stand-up comedy series She Kills Me that Bland recently produced and directedfor broadcast on APTN.

Lewis Hammond & Monteverdi

Lewis Hammond

School of Music director Susan Lewis Hammond is cracking the books this summer—her own book, that is. “I’ll be finishing a textbook titled Baroque Music: History, Culture, Performance—forthcoming with Routledge in 2015″, she says. On top of that, she’ll be presenting on a panel “on the value of a Bachelor of Music degree” at Congress 2015 at Brock University, and traveling to do research at the University of Toronto. Let’s hope there’s time for some relaxing in her schedule, too.

Writing professor and filmmaker Maureen Bradley recently completed editing her locally-lensed debut feature film Two 4 One—Canada’s, and possibly the world’s, first mainstream transgender romantic comedy— and is now in the process of submitting it to major film festivals, both Canadian and international.

Dániel Péter Biró

Biró

As well as preparing for his prestigious Fellowship from the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University in 2014/15, School of Music professor Dániel Péter Biró will have his new composition Al Ken Kara (That Is Why It Was Called) performed on July 26 at the Teatro Fondamenta Nuove in Venice, Italy. This piece was originally composed as part of the Mediterranean Voices film project. In addition, the book The String Quartets of Béla Bartók: Tradition and Legacy in Analytical Perspective that he co-edited with fellow School of Music professor Harald Krebs, has just been released by Oxford University Press.

Youds photoVisual Arts professor Robert Youds currently has his light-based sculpture “turn on your electric* on view as part of the Vancouver Art Gallery’s exhibit Out of Sight: New Aquistions, running to September 1. He’s also completing a major sculptural commission which will be opening at the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Offsite this fall. Locally, his piece “soft works for complicated needs*” is featured in the current AGGV exhibit Through the Looking Glass until September 7.  In addition to that, Youds will have the paintings “our aurora borealis and everything else” as part of the Transformation of Canadian Landscape Art: Inside and Outside of Being at the Xi’an Art Museum in China from August 10 – September 21. Better still, he’ll be travelling to Xi’an and Beijing to give talks and to meet foreign dignitaries as part of the exhibit.

Stay tuned for more summer plans!

Jackson 2Bears explores the future of tradition

Three things set Jackson 2Bears apart as the 2013/14 Audain Professor of Contemporary Arts of the Pacific Northwest for the Department of Visual Arts. Not only is he the first UVic alumnus and first local artist to hold the position, but he is also the first person reappointed for a second year.

Jackson 2Bears

Jackson 2Bears

Following in the footsteps of such noted Indigenous artists as Rebecca Belmore, Michael Nicol Yahgulanaas and Nicholas Galanin, 2Bears is a Kanien’kehaka (Mohawk) multimedia artist and a frequent face around campus. Having completed both his Masters and PhD here, he taught for both Visual Arts and UVic’s Pacific Centre for Technology and Culture before accepting the Audain position. But he’s kept busy off-campus this past year by participating in solo and group exhibitions such as Ghost Dance: Activism. Resistance. Art. at Toronto’s Ryerson Image Centre, the Beat Nation tour which saw him invited to perform in Montreal and a number of East Coast performances with the Noxious Sector collective, as well as participating in Open Space Gallery’s recent public art symposium Reclaim The Streets.

As with all Audain professors, 2Bears’ year was split between teaching and studio practice. “There were periods where I was really focused on working with students—which was fantastic—but because of the way the position is set up, I found a lot of time for my own work,” he says. “Much of my year was about intense research; I really wanted to use this time to experiment with my own practice. Sometimes at the mid-career level, you find yourself in ruts or overly familiar ways of working; I was conscious of trying to upset that for myself. I wanted to do the research in order to recreate my practice.”

But he was also found himself challenged by his experience teaching the 300-level Audain seminar, which included students working in a variety of mediums: from painting and sculpture to digital media, performance and music. “Working with students at the senior level, it feels less like teacher/student relationships and more like we’re a group of artists working together, helping each other out,” he says. “I found that immensely helpful—especially in an environment where you’re forced to be critical of other peoples’ work all the time in that role, you go home and do that to yourself; it enhances your own practice. You look at your own work, and the voice in your head says, ‘Am I following my own advice here? Have I really thought this through?’”

2Bears in performance

2Bears in performance

Currently working on creating entirely new digital instruments for his Audain exhibition in September 2014 (“I’m adapting an old analogue synthesizer into a video performance machine . . . I want to treat video like sound, so it can warp and move like a synthesizer and music”), 2Bears has also been writing (“I’m also working on some new texts directly related to indigenous philosophy and technologies”) and looking at enhancing community engagement with the Audain position.

“I’ve been building relationships between Visual Arts and First Peoples House, Open Space and the community, but it’s taken a lot of this year just to get that off the ground,” he says. “But it would make me very happy to see that carry on, create more of a sense of community with the Audain position—not just community here on campus but bringing in other artists as well.” Already in the works is a series of mini-residencies with fellow contemporary indigenous artists Maria Hupfield, Sonny Assu and Corey Bulpitt.

All in all, 2Bears is pleased with his first year as an Audain Professor. “Absolutely, it’s been a great year,” says an enthusiastic 2Bears. “It’s been a real challenge working with students—in this environment, it’s very rich, very interdisciplinary, and everybody’s coming at things from different angles and perspectives—but it’s been fantastic.”

Created in 2009 as part of a $2-million gift from B.C. art philanthropist Michael Audain and the Audain Foundation, the Audain professorship brings in mid-career professional artists to both work with students and further their own work.

School of Music alumna needs votes for top teaching award

School of Music alumna Andrea Blair has been nominated as one of Canada’s top teachers by Canadian Family magazine.

andrea-top-v2Blair, who received her Masters in Music Education in 2007, is among the top 12-finalists selected in Canadian Family’s annual awards—only one of two teachers from BC, and the only one on Vancouver Island. “It was completely out of the blue,” says the Gordon Head Middle School music teacher, who has now been teaching for 19 years. “It’s quite an honour to even be nominated and be one of the 12.”

The awards are decided by reader voting, which means Blair needs as many votes as possible before the June 25 cut-off date; click here to vote—and you can vote from any device once a day, so don’t be shy. (As of this writing, she’s in second place!) The teachers with the top-three vote tally will each win $2,500 for their schools.

Daniel Davenport in band class (Photo: Travis Paterson, Victoria News)

Daniel Davenport in band class (Photo: Travis Paterson, Victoria News)

But it wasn’t like Blair put herself into the running—she was actually nominated by the parent of one of her students, Daniel Davenport. “My son has learning disabilities—he is dyslexic and dysgraphic,” wrote Leslie Davenport in her nomination letter. “When he started middle school he told us he wanted to join the band. The problem was that he was incapable of reading music. I approached the music teacher, Mrs. Blair, and asked if he might be able to join in some way. I was thinking of him banging a tambourine or something. Mrs. Blair said she would find a way. This started a three-year project of my son’s journey into music. For Mrs. Blair, it was not enough for him to just do some simple percussion; instead, she designed a whole new sheet music system for dyslexics.”

Having dyslexia and dysgraphia means Daniel can’t read or write either music or the English language—but, thanks to the creative and continued efforts of his dedicated band teacher, he is now playing clarinet in the school band.

Read more about Andrea and Daniel in this recent Victoria News article.

Andrea Blair's innovative music system

Andrea Blair’s innovative music system

Blair was inspired by a toy xylophone with coloured bars and colour-coded sheet music to create a musical system that didn’t rely on notes, bars and musical staffs. Instead, she used coloured markers and graph paper to create a system that Daniel could read and understand.

“I was taking a class with [UVic Music educator] Mary Kennedy and thought, ‘Why not just put it on graph paper?’,” Blair recalls. “So, a 2×2 block of squares represents a quarter note, and a half note would be four squares. It’s all based on math. You know how music sometimes gets all jumbled up? This is quite simple.”

Blair says she spends a “couple of hours” transposing the music for Daniel. “If I was going to do it for anyone else, I would use Excel, but for him it would be too much.” Obviously, her system works. “He’s doing pretty well,” she says of Daniel’s ability. “For the most part, he’s able to play all of our classes music.”

Andrea Blair leading one of her band classes

Andrea Blair leading one of her band classes

Given the success she’s had overcoming Daniel’s dyslexia and dysgraphia, does she see a future for her innovative system? “Yes, it’s got good potential,” she says. “My thing here at Gordon Head is inclusion for all, and this is a good system. I would definitely like to explore it more. Dr. Kennedy was saying to me, ‘Would you please start your doctorate?’” she pauses and laughs. “It’s a possibility.”

As for the prize, Blair doesn’t want to put too much thought into that yet. “The wish-list keeps growing,” she laughs. “The kids in my class certainly have some ideas about what’s needed, but we’ll deal with that when it happens—if it happens. I did tell Daniel he would be able to choose something for the room as well.”

Right now, Blair just needs people to vote. “You can vote daily, on as many devices as you wish,” she says. “It’s now literally a popularity contest—but everyone on the list is deserving.”

And that’s not false modesty—every teacher on the list has amazing stories to share. “When I got the email saying I was nominated, I went to my administration and said, ‘I really feel like I was just doing my job’,” Blair recalls.