LSQ forum explores healing power of music

Health and music have a remarkable relationship. Studies have shown that music has the ability to affect our mental and physical well-being due to the way our autonomic nervous system responds to sounds and rhythms. To mark a decade of the Lafayette String Quartet’s Health Awareness Forum, the group has aptly devoted this year’s October 1 forum to “The Power of Music on Emotion and Health.”

LSQ_HW_10_poster_w1021h1649Music and well-being are integral in the daily lives of the Quartet—from their own practice and health to the students they teach at UVic and the audience members with whom they share their music.

The Quartet quickly became aware of how the health of one person can directly impact the lives of others when LSQ cellist Pamela Highbaugh Aloni was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer in 2001. “I played and played [the cello] during my treatment,” recalls Highbaugh Aloni, who believes that music was an aid in her recovery.

Following that experience, the Quartet wanted to give something back to the community and created the annual Health Awareness Forum to provide expert and updated health information to the public. Since the first forum in 2006, topics have ranged from menopause and aging to mental health and happiness. Many of the guest speakers have been experts from the Victoria area and the Forum always strives to provide the opportunity for specialists, health professionals and the general public to meet and dialogue on important health topics.

The Lafayette String Quartet

The Lafayette String Quartet

This year’s guest speakers include Dr. Lee Bartel, Professor of Music at the University of Toronto and acting director of the Music and Health Research Collaboratory; Dr. Johanne Brodeur, head of music therapy at the Victoria Conservatory of Music; and Dr. Brian Christie, director of the Neuroscience Graduate Program at UVic.

But if you can’t make the event or tickets have already sold out, you can still click here to listen live.

The Lafayette Health Awareness Forum on “The Power of Music on Emotion and Health” runs 7 to 9pm Thursday, October 1, in UVic’s David Lam Auditorium (MacLaurin A-Wing). Admission is free and everyone is welcome.

Victoria Symphony starts 75th season with new Butterfield piece

When the Victoria Symphony opens its 75th anniversary season on September 21, School of Music professor Christopher Butterfield will be helping them celebrate—courtesy of the world premiere of his latest composition.

Christopher Butterfield

Christopher Butterfield

Simply titled Canter, Butterfield’s piece will be conducted by maestra Tania Miller alongside the likes of Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3, Wagner’s Ride of the Valkries and Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, among others. Vaunted company, to be sure, but apt considering Butterfield’s latest was commissioned by the Victoria Symphony itself.

“They called me up and asked me to do a piece for their 75th anniversary. The only thing they said was, ‘Don’t make it a dirge.’” Butterfied pauses and laughs. “’Don’t worry,’ I said to them, ‘I don’t do dirges.’”

Butterfield—a School of Music alumnus himself—has been a professor of composition and theory at UVic since 1992. His music has been performed across Canada and in Europe, is recorded on the CBC and Artifact labels, and he’s no stranger to the Victoria Symphony. From 1999 to 2002, he was their first composer in residence and a number of his compositions have been showcased by the Symphony—including his popular WWII inspired Convoy PQ 17 requiem, which has been remounted a number of times since its 2001 debut.

Butterfield describes the eight-minute Canter as being like a concerto for the orchestra. “That just means it’s focussed more on individual players, rather than the orchestra as a whole,” he explains. “Instead of just having the first or second violins playing in unison, for instance, I have a lot of individual string parts—18 separate violin parts, 6 separate viola parts, 6 separate cello parts and 4 separate bass parts. The result will be an impressionistic conveyance of either motion or utterance.”

Did the commission come with any specific requests? “There are orchestras that say they want this kind of a piece or that kind of piece,” he says, “but I’m very lucky. For whatever reason, nobody has ever told me what to do, so I usually just do whatever it is I feel like doing. ”

Victoria Symphony

Victoria Symphony

There are a number of decisions that go into creating a commissioned work, Butterfield explains, ranging from the composer’s circumstances and a symphony’s season context, to the size of the orchestra and what else may be on the program the night the piece debuts. The beauty of a commission, he says, is that it provides a composer with an ideal opportunity to play.

“When you find out you have orchestra to work with, it gives you the chance to try out ideas that otherwise might’ve only done with smaller groups,” he says. “Canter, for instance, has radical dynamic changes in volume within the ensemble—a great scattered sound that creates almost a perspective from very quiet to very loud but happening all at once. I’m very fortunate that I’ve got a bigger orchestra for this one  than I might have . . . I’ve even got a harp.”

And what happens to Canter once it has debuted? “It’ll go to the symphony library,” he says. “When an orchestra commissions a piece, it’s very much part of their artistic capital—it’s been written specifically for them.” Sometimes, he explains, new pieces will languish in the library for years before being dusted off, while others—such as his Convoy PQ 17—goes on to be performed internationally by other orchestras. Butterfiled mentions the first piece he ever wrote for the Victoria Symphony which he was able to revise 10 years later as part of their New Music Festival. “I didn’t change anything structurally at all, just essentially tidied it up, and that worked really well. So sometimes the material goes in the library and gets quite a long life.”

Butterfield is looking forward to hearing the complete Canter . . . especially now that he can move on to other projects. “It’s funny how eight minutes can absorb weeks and weeks and weeks of work,” he chuckles.


Last-minute electives!

Looking for a last-minute Fall elective to replace the course that sounded good in June but now has you scratching your head? (“Uh, did I really intend to register for A History of Molds and Fungi?”) You’re in luck—Fine Arts has you covered with a wide ranging of fascinating electives guaranteed to enhance any degree.

Missy Elliott's in the house for an Intro to Hip Hop

Missy Elliott’s in the house for an Intro to Hip Hop

Check the technique behind An Introduction to Hip Hop (FA 200). As well as looking at the roots of hip hop and groundbreaking originals like Kook Herc, you’ll be doing case studies on artists like Missy Elliot, Kanye West and Jay Z. You’ll also focus on the role of graffiti, turntablism and bboy/bgirl culture. Taught by Melissa Avdeef—the creator of last year’s popular Beyonce course— An Intro to Hip Hop runs 4:30-5:50 pm MW to Dec. 4.

HA200PosterThe creation of art has always been a hands-on process, but now you can look back at the historical roots of arts & crafts with How is Art Made? (HA200) Very much a hands-on course  itself, this Art History elective with Marcus Milwright examines how people actually make beautiful objects and buildings. From the painting of an icon to the casting of a bronze figure, you’ll have the chance to connect and handle a wide variety of ancient and medieval objects. How is Art Made? runs 3:30-4:20 pm MWR to Dec. 4.

Last year's Phoenix production of A Midsummer Night's Dream (photo David Lowes)

Last year’s Phoenix production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (photo David Lowes)

Thanks to the likes of the Belfry Theatre, Intrepid Theatre, Theatre SKAM, Theatre Inconnu, Langham Court, UVic’s own Phoenix Theatre and many others, there’s no question that Victoria is a theatre town. But watching—or creating—a stage play can often be daunting if you have no background to it. That’s where An Introduction to Theatre (THEA 101) comes in. Taught by local theatre artist and filmmaker Leslie Bland, you’ll be introduced to practical and theoretical approaches to play analysis, dramatic criticism, theatrical form and to the principles of stage production. Better still, attendance at live performances is required—which means you’ll get to go to plays, for credit! An Introduction to Theatre runs 3:30-4:50 MTH to Dec. 4.–

ICarraccideal for anyone interested in History, Medieval or Italian studies, as well as Art History, consider going for Baroque with the fascinating  Baroque Art in Italy 1550-1700 (HA342A). Taught by Anne Williams, this course explores the innovations in Italian art & architecture at a time marked by clashing dogmas of faith, political upheaval and scientific discovery. We will examine in depth selected works of painting, sculpture, and architecture by artists including Caravaggio, Bernini, and the Carracci. Baroque Art in Italy runs 2:30-3:20pm MWR to Dec. 4.

VA_painting labMore interested in developing your own artistic skills than studying the legacy of others? Check out Foundation Drawing and Painting
 (ART 103), which explores both drawing and painting. Normally reserved for Visual Arts students, ART 103 is now open to general enrollment. Discover how developing basic art skills can contribute to a wide variety of academic pursuits, from anthropology and engineering to law, sciences and more. Through studio exercises and exciting creative projects, you’ll get hands-on with a wide variety of methods and materials. Foundation Drawing and Painting
 runs to Dec. 4 at a variety of times.

Experimental photography by Victoria's own Hannah Maynard

Experimental photography by Victoria’s own Hannah Maynard

We live in a world ruled by Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, but how did we get to the point where everyone always has a camera with, or on, them? Find out with the History of Photography (HA369). Taught by Menno Hubregste, you’ll discover how this medium has developed since its invention in 1839, both technically and aesthetically, as well as the different types of images created by artists, journalists and scientists. From travel and documentary photography to Dada, Surrealism and conceptual art, you’ll also look at the rise of women photographers and how photography changed in the age of Postmodernism and advertising. The History of Photography runs 12:30-1:20pm TWF to Dec. 4.

Interested in learning why people practice thea394.2theatre in places of conflict and war? Want to know how theatre can be used in international development settings? Wondering what kind of techniques work in conflict zones? Back by popular demand, Theatre professor Kirsten Sadeghi-Yekta still has space in her popular Applied Theatre elective, Theatre, Conflict & Development (THEA 394). This exploration into the practice of theatre in places of conflict and war—a topic Sadeghi-Yekta knows well—will include examples from the likes of Cambodia, Sudan, Kosovo, Nicaragua, the Congo and Brazil. Theatre, Conflict & Development runs 9-10:20am MR to Dec. 4. To register, contact the Theatre Department secretary directly at

Joseph Salem joins School of Music

The School of Music is pleased to announce the appointment of its latest faculty member, Dr. Joseph Salem.

Joseph Salem

Joseph Salem

Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Salem studied piano at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and holds a BM in Piano from the University of Texas at Austin and an MA in Music Theory from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As a lover of new and old traditions, Joe pursues topics at the boundaries of the musicological discourse: musical/intellectual history, analytical studies of post-Wagnerian music and writings, semiotics, music aesthetics, and hermeneutic trends in the arts.

“Dr. Salem comes to us from Yale University, where he completed a doctoral degree with a dissertation on Pierre Boulez,” says Susan Lewis, Director of the School of Music. “A scholar with expertise in music after 1950, he brings a strong analytical focus to his approach to music. He is a passionate teacher who will ignite the classroom and instill a love for music our students.”

French composer, conductor, writer & pianist Pierre Boulez

French composer, conductor, writer & pianist Pierre Boulez

Salem’s dissertation examines the development of Boulez’s serial techniques between 1948 and 1962, through a close examination of the composer’s manuscripts housed at the Paul Sacher Stiftung. “Recent scholarship on Pierre Boulez has emphasized the rigorous, thoroughly serial nature of the composer’s music during the 1950s and the corresponding shift toward more transparent compositional techniques in later works due to Boulez’s increasing interest in musical perception,” writes Salem in this abstract.

“My paper nuances this perspective by arguing that practical compositional concerns (commissions, deadlines, and the like) led Boulez to reuse compositional material in ways that contradicted his early serial aesthetics while also expanding the expressive range of his compositional style—all well before his post-1970s writings and compositions . . . . Changes to this essential compositional process reveal Boulez’s shifting priorities as a serial composer well before the publication of Boulez on Music Today, such as his changing conception of structural coherence and musical organicism.”

Salem’s previous studies have focused on the manuscripts of Francesco Cavalli and WA Mozart, among others. He will be filling the Assistant Professor position vacated by Jonathan Goldman, who has now moved over to the Université de Montréal.

Joe is also a cat lover and describes himself as being “silly for culinary delights”—so we’re sure he’ll enjoy discovering Victoria’s epicurean treats.

Victoria Summer Music Festival celebrates 20 years

Twenty years is a long time in the life of any festival, and it’s especially exciting when it’s a music festival. As such, this summer marks the 20th anniversary of the Victoria Summer Music Festival, which has been presenting a series of chamber music concerts every summer since July 1996.

School of Music professor & VSMF artistic director Arthur Rowe

School of Music professor & VSMF artistic director Arthur Rowe

VSMF Artistic Director and School of Music professor Arthur Rowe has lined up a fantastic celebration for their anniversary: the artistry of some of North America’s finest soloists and chamber musicians performing music that resonates in UVic’s intimate Phillip T. Young Recital Hall with its terraced, comfortable seating, excellent sightlines and warm acoustic.

Rowe has arranged seven great concerts featuring sublime music by a range of favourite artists from previous seasons and outstanding new talent. Back again too are the popular pre-concert talks, in which the artists get personal about their music and their repertoire (starting at 6:40pm on most evenings).

Returning to the VSMF stage this year are Gary Karr and Harmon Lewis with their amazing evening of 18 double basses, the Alcan Quartet, cellist Eugene Osadchy with pianist Arthur Rowe, and the amazing Dover Quartet, back for two concerts. New for the 20th anniversary are the internationally renowned Gryphon Trio as well as Victoria’s dynamic violin duo, the Chooi Brothers.

All concerts take place at 7:30 pm in the UVic’s Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, School of Music’s Maclaurin B-wing.Tickets range from $10 to $30, with a 10% discount for tickets to four or more concerts. Here’s the complete schedule:

Basses Loaded 19 • 7:30pm Tuesday, July 28

In the traditional festival opener, Gary Karr, double bass, and Harmon Lewis, piano, introduce 18 double bassists from around the world who have spent July at the KarrKamp summer workshop. Audiences will marvel at the deep, resonant sound of heartfelt music-making.

The Alcan String Quartet

The Alcan String Quartet

The Alcan Quartet • 7:30pm Thursday, July 30

Featuring Laura Andriani and Nathalie Camus (violins), plus Luc Beauchemin (viola) and David Ellis (cello),the Alcan Quartet performs quartets by Haydn (op.52 no.1) and Beethoven (op. 135); Borodin’s A-flat Major Scherzo, and Andrew MacDonald’s Perfect Day—a work specially commissioned for their 25th anniversary.

Eugene Osadchy and Arthur Rowe • 7:30pm Tuesday, August 4

Eugene Osadchy (cello), former principal cello of the CBC Radio Orchestra, joins the Festival’s artistic director Arthur Rowe (piano) in sonatas by Beethoven (G Minor op. 5, no.2), Debussy, and Rachmaninoff (G Minor, op. 19).

The Chooi Brothers

The Chooi Brothers

Nikki and Timothy Chooi • 7:30pm Friday, August 7

Victoria natives Nikki and Timothy Chooi (violins) and Lorraine Min (piano) join forces in a wide-ranging program of works for one or two violins and piano by Saint-Saëns, Prokofiev, Sarasate, and Arcuri. All three have been on the wish list for a few seasons, and it will be thrilling to have these dynamic performers together in one program.

The Gryphon Trio • 7:30pm Saturday, August 8

Long-overdue to the VSMF, this performance by Annalee Patipatanakoon (violin), Roman Borys (cello) and Jamie Parker (piano) highlights the 20th anniversary celebration with piano trios by Haydn and Mendelssohn, as well as Wijeratne’s Love Triangle.

The Dover String Quartet

The Dover String Quartet

The Dover String Quartet • 7:30pm Monday, August 10 & 7:30pm Tuesday, August 11

After two sold-out VSMF concerts last season, the Dover String Quartet—Joel Link and Bryan Lee (violins), Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt (viola) and Camden Shaw (cello)—returns with Wolf’s Italian Serenade, Dvorak’s American Quartet, and Shostakovich’s Quartet No. 2 on August 10, then perform with guest artists Arthur Rowe (piano), David Harding (viola) and Ariel Barnes (cello) as they present Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet and Tchaikovsky’s stirring Souvenir de Florence string sextet.

Voices Without Borders

Looking for the finest in new music? Add a taste of SALT to your musical diet—with an international flair! This year’s fifth annual SALT New Music Festival & Symposium focuses on “Voices Without Borders” and will present a diverse and exciting range of global talent. Running July 23 to 27, SALT will focus around the voice and will provide an opportunity to hear a variety of new and recently composed work for voice and vocal ensemble.

The Tsilumos Ensemble

The Tsilumos Ensemble

This fifth annual SALT festival will feature five concerts at Open Space, as well as a series of lectures, masterclasses and open rehearsals at the School of Music. The Festival’s Hosted by the Tsilumos Ensemble—made up of School of Music professors Ajtony Csaba, Joanna Hood and Dániel Péter Biró, plus Kris Colvin—is pleased to collaborate with the internationally acclaimed German vocal ensemble Neue Vocalsolisten, Austrian flautist/ composer Sylvie Lacroix, School of Music technician Kirk McNally, and local vocalist & School of Music alumna Cathy Fern Lewis. Concerts will feature new works by Biró, plus Canadian and international composers Charles-Antoine Fréchette, Annesley Black, Justin Christensen, Georg Friedrich Haas, and Samir Odeh Tamimi.

All concerts will be performed at downtown’s Open Space and the masterclasses will be here in UVic’s School of Music. Tickets range from $11 to $20 and you can get a festival pass for $55 to $75. View the full schedule of events here.

The festival opens with a performance by the Tsilumos Ensemble on Thursday, July 23, followed by Sylvie Lacroix on July 24, Neue Vocalsolisten on July 25, Cathy Lewis on July 26 and the UVic Alumni Ensemble on July 27.

SALT-2015-brochure-500x647Since 2011, the Tsilumos Ensemble has been performing chamber music ranging from duos to large instrumental combinations. Its main objective is to give new and little-known Canadian and international works an optimal performance, regardless of technical and intellectual demands or compositional style. Since its inception the ensemble has brought high quality, challenging new music to the larger community of British Columbia.

The Neue Vocalsolisten established as an ensemble specializing in the interpretation of contemporary vocal music in 1984. Founded under the artistic management of Musik der Jahrhunderte, the vocal chamber ensemble has been artistically independent since the year 2000. Each of the seven concert and opera soloists, with a collective range reaching from coloratura soprano over countertenor to “basso profondo”, shapes the work on chamber music and the co-operation with the composers and other interpreters through his/her distinguished artistic creativity.

Sylvie Lacroix is an accomplished flute soloist and chamber musician with a special emphasis on contemporary and new music. The freelance flutist lives in Vienna, Austria and works regularly with composers side-by-side, searching for new sounds and expressions all the way through until their first performances. This interest in working with living composers has accompanied Sylvie Lacroix since the beginnings of her career. A founding member of Klangforum Wien, she remained an active member until 1997.

School of Music alumna Cathy Fern Lewis is an ambassador and active exponent of the professional new music and art scene in Canada since 1974, versatile and experimental soprano/voice artist Catherine Fern Lewis graduated from UVic’s School of Music, where she specialized in contemporary music. Lewis spent a further three years in Europe, predominantly in Paris, studying French song with the noted Peirre Bernac, Madame Chereau and Winifred Radford.

Benjamin Butterfield wins Craigdarroch Award

Performer, artistic collaborator and educator—Benjamin Butterfield continues to make an indelible impression on the future of Canadian singers and on audiences worldwide. He is a tenor of international renown, with a repertoire ranging from baroque to classical to contemporary. This much-loved School of Music professor is now the 2015 winner of UVic’s Craigdarroch Award for Excellence in Artistic Expression.

Benjamin Butterfield (UVic Photo Services)

Benjamin Butterfield (UVic Photo Services)

Benjamin Butterfield is an outstanding performer, artistic collaborator, and educator, whose body of artistic work and song serves as a link to a greater sense and understanding of one’s self, others, and the world around us,” says Dr. Susan Lewis, Acting Dean of Fine Arts. “The measure of Professor Butterfield’s impact on the musical world can truly be found in how he applies his talent and expertise to the training of a new generation of singers at the School of Music. He makes the difference for young singers, providing both inspiration and sound teaching to prepare them for the world stage.”

Butterfield’s artistic knowledge and production experience is broad, versatile and widely recognized by peers, critics and audiences for its quality and impact. He has performed with the world’s top musicians and conductors, and is highly sought-after as a teacher who transforms young singers into emerging professional artists. Many of his students have gone on to give performances with major opera companies and symphonies throughout North America.

“This award clarifies the value that the University of Victoria places on the arts by acknowledging artistic expression as a point of recognition amongst it’s community members,” says Butterfield. “To be included with scientists, scholars, historians, technicians and health professionals sends a valuable message that the whole is made stronger by the sum of it’s parts. This award also helps me clarify for myself the importance of continuing to grow and learn as a singer, educator and human being.”

Butterfield, dressed for success on the stage

Butterfield, dressed for success on the stage

As an example of how busy Butterfield is during his off-campus hours, he is performing at two prestigious music events this summer alone: the Ukrainian Art Song project—which will find Butterfield at the Glenn Gould Studio this July recording alongside the acclaimed likes of fellow Canadian vocalists Russell Braun, Virginia Hatfield, Andrea Ludwig, Krisztina Szabó, Monica Whicher and Pavlo Hunka as part of the overall project to record 1,000 Ukrainian art songs by 26 composers as an extraordinary musical legacy to the world—and at Vermont’s famous Yellow Barn Concerts, which presents 23 concerts between July 10 and August 8.

“Music binds, educates and serves—the human voice is common to us all and is at the very core of our collective abilities, story telling and passions. Music can heal and rally, console and inspire. It is a reflecting pool for our common struggles and joys,” says Butterfeld. “Our world today is full of seemingly insurmountable obstacles and conflicts presenting a complicated and challenging future. There has never been a better time to sing. It helps one find the strength of character to be inspired, find solace and understanding and to know our responsibilities towards this world. As a performing artist, how do I inspire others to better appreciate the world around us? By singing about it.”

Butterfield teaching one of his students

Butterfield teaching one of his students

And, considering the range of students he’s had over the years, what kind of impact does Butterfield see UVic graduates having on the world? “An old sailor once said, ‘There are two kinds of people in this world: those who have hit a coral reef, and those who are going to hit a coral reef.’ UVic grads know that true success comes from developing the strength of mind to negotiate and manage failure; they are taught to deal with life’s inevitable ups and downs through UVic’s faculty, staff, facilities and location,” he says.

“They become committed, thoughtful and interested contributors to our society rather than focusing on self serving ventures. Our music grads in particular achieve this through learning to communicate through their music, developing their point of view and by taking chances every day. Their impact on the world is simple: they make music.”

Butterfield joins the likes of previous Craigdarroch Award winners Harald Krebs, Lorna Crozier and Marcus Milwright. The Craigdarroch Research Awards were established in 2003 to recognize outstanding research-focused and creative contributions at UVic, and were named for Craigdarroch Castle—home to UVic’s predecessor institution, Victoria College (1921-1946).

You can view Craigdarroch winners’ “Faces of UVic Research” videos here.

Vikes Band wants you!

Love sports? Play an instrument? With the brand-new Vikes Band course, you can now combine both—for credit!

Join the Vikes Band & help jazz up the games! (photo:

Join the Vikes Band & help jazz up the games! (photo:

A new initiative between the School of Music and Vikes Athletics, Vikes Band (MUS 189) is a new for-credit course that will rehearse and perform at Vikes Varsity events and special events on campus. If you played in your high school band or just play for fun, you can still put those skills to use to play game-day music—even if you aren’t a Music major.

“The Vikes Band will make an incredible contribution to creating the most unique and exciting venue in Canadian Interuniversity Sport,” says Vikes Athletics director Clint Hamilton. “Joining the Vikes Band will make you part of our team as we make our athletic venues energizing, fun and inspiring for our home crowds and a challenge for our visiting opponents. The Vikes Band will be a great way to engage with UVic and show your team spirit as you join Vikes Nation and bring your talents to the team!”

Blow your horn—for credit—in the Vikes Band (photo:

Blow your horn—for credit—in the Vikes Band (photo:

Open to any student with the basic ability to play a band instrument, Vikes Band is a 1.5 unit course that can even be taken more than once, to a maximum of six units. Better still, there’s no audition necessary!

“This band is both a way to increase school spirit and bolster the atmosphere at sporting events while also giving a fun musical outlet for UVic’s entire population,” says School of Music professor and Vikes Band leader Scott MacInnes. “A dedicated Vikes Band is something that has been a long time coming—and now that it’s here there’s a buzz around the entire city that’s so exciting.”

While the School of Music jazz band has been playing at key Vikes games since 2013, the idea of creating a dedicated band course has been in the works for a couple of years now. “Now that UVic has a top-notch athletics facility like CARSA, it seems only logical that there is a dedicated ensemble to bring live music to already great sporting events,” says MacInnes. “Having a live group at the games will create a level of excitement and energy that will be felt not only by the fans but also by the Vikes athletes.”

Vikes Nation ambassador Dan Mecham is already pumped about signing up for the Vikes Band course!

Vikes Nation ambassador Dan Mecham is already pumped about signing up for the Vikes Band course!

Current student and Vikes Nation ambassador Dan Mecham has already decided he’ll be enrolling in the Vikes Band course. “I’m really keen on school spirit,” he says. “I was on the pep band in high school and I love the atmosphere of people coming together, all united over something like a game. That’s really big for me.”

Mecham, who went to high school in Sacramento, California, immediately noticed the difference between American games with bands and Canadian games without. “In high school it made a huge difference having the band there,” he says. “At first it was just at the football games, but eventually all the sports teams were requesting we show up to their big games. I’m sure we can create the same atmosphere here at UVic, where people will recognize how much the music adds to the energy and enthusiasm.”

Music student Josh Lovell belts out the Vikes Rally Song before a game (photo: Armando Tura)

Music student Josh Lovell belts out the Vikes Rally Song before a game (photo: Armando Tura)

MacInnes is already working on a play list for the Vikes Band (“our repertoire will span popular tunes like ‘Sweet Dreams are Made of These’ and the Rocky theme ‘Gonna Fly Now’ to Balkan gypsy music and New Orleans jazz-style tunes, as well as the Vikes Rally Song by Music teacher Colleen Eccleston”), and says he hopes the Vikes Band will attract the more “energetic and outgoing” students. “A group like this gives students the opportunity to hone their skills and foster relationships with students from other parts of campus that will no doubt last into their professional lives.”

Given that this course is open to anyone who can play an instrument—even if you’re not a Music major—even a super-fan like Mecham is eager to sign up. What’s his instrument? “I played a little marching xylophone in the high school pep band, so I’m going to see what I can do to make that work here.”

2015-05-25-ATRS-VikesBand-infocasterUltimately, Mecham—who plans on becoming an elementary school teacher—compares the Vikes Band to the Vikes Cheer Squad. “It’s part of that whole game-day atmosphere,” he says. “It will be great to both get credit for it and to have that mandatory practice time. I’m optimistic about the whole course!”

Remember, no audition is necessary and Vikes Band is open to any student with the basic ability to play a band instrument, and can be taken more than once.


Performing to perfection

When it comes to academic achievement, good things often come in quiet packages. Consider the case of graduating School of Music student Spencer Davis, who has been named the recipient of the 2015 Victoria Medal—awarded annually to the student with the highest GPA in the Faculty of Fine Arts—thanks to his impressive graduating average of 8.94. Yet as one of his instructors notes after four years of working together, “I had no idea what kind of a player he would be because he is so unassuming.”

“This is a great honour, and one for which he obviously had to work tremendously hard,” notes Acting Dean Lynne Van Luven. “I congratulate Spencer on this wonderful cap to his Bachelor of Music career.” Davis graduates on June 11, along with the rest of the Fine Arts class of 2015.

2015 Victoria Medal winner Spencer Davis

2015 Victoria Medal winner Spencer Davis

Vancouver-born but Calgary raised, Davis returned to the coast to attend UVic. “I auditioned for, and was accepted at, a few other schools but I chose to attend UVic because of the distinct friendliness I experienced from the students and faculty during my audition. I’ve had a great experience at UVic, and I’m glad that I chose to come here.”

When it comes to achieving such a remarkable GPA, Davis puts it down to the fact that he worked “tremendously hard.” “I prioritized school above everything else in my life, and I focused all of my energy on it.” Not that he feels this puts him above his peers. “I have friends who did the same, and I feel strongly that they are just as deserving of this award as I am.”

“Spencer [is] as a musician and performer of the highest caliber,” notes School of Music director Susan Lewis. “He gave major solo performances and collaborative recitals, culminating in a graduating recital featuring music by Debussy, Beethoven, and Chopin.”

You can listen to his graduation recital here, which features Davis performing Debussy’s “Suite Bergamasque,” Beethoven’s “Bagatelles, Op 126,” Chopin’s “Mazurkas, Op 24 Nos 3 & 4” and “Sonata No 3 in B Minor,” as well as some of his other performances.

But the soft-spoken Davis downplays his academic accomplishments (“To be honest, receiving this award feels like my greatest achievement here,” he says), calling his solo graduation recital “an incredibly daunting challenge—and one of the most character-building experiences of my life.”

Bruce Vogt

Bruce Vogt

Describing him as “a quiet-spoken young man who would always come to his lessons with very particular ideas about interpretation,” supervising professor Bruce Vogt calls Davis “a special talent . . . I never had to push him or remind him that things were behind. He basically was taking almost the equivalent of two degrees, and yet he kept the highest standards in everything. He is indeed a special student—thoughtful, compassionate and extremely intelligent.”

Beyond performance, the other of those “two degrees” came about as a result of Davis taking professor Andrew Schloss’ “Music, Science & Computers” course. “It introduced me to new ways of thinking about music and sound, and stoked my interest in music technology,” Davis recalls. “It also got me interested in studying math and science, at which I had excelled in high school, but for which I had never felt any passion.”

Following Schloss’ class, Davis swiftly registered in two introductory computer science courses. “At this point, I knew I wanted to pursue my new interest academically, but also felt driven to finish my music degree, so I supplemented my music courses with courses from the software engineering program, applied for it, and was accepted,” he says. “I’ve long had an interest in electronic music, and am well-acquainted with modern digital audio tools. It’s my hope that I’ll be able to draw on my background as a musician and performer to create new kinds of tools for digital audio that are less restrictive and more intuitive.”

With his departure from the School of Music, Davis singles out piano professor Bruce Vogt. “I should take this opportunity to thank Bruce Vogt, with whom I have worked closely for the past four years, and for whom I have a great deal of respect. I’ve learned a lot from him, and he has had a really positive influence on me personally and artistically.”

As for the future, Davis says he hopes to find an occupation that “capitalizes as fully as possible on my unique set of aptitudes, and on what will be, at the close of my time at UVic, my unusual and diverse educational background.”

Curious who else has won the Victoria Medal? Read about such diverse winners as Art History & Visual Studies architectural student Genevieve Neelin, Department of Writing poet Kyeren Regehr, and Art History honours student Regan Shrumm.


Music for Mycologists

It sounds like a Zen koan: What kind of music would a mushroom make? The answer isn’t to be found in meditation, however, but at this week’s Music for Mycologists concert.

The Experimental Music Unit

The Experimental Music Unit

American composer John Cage—an avid mycologist—often quipped that music and mushrooms have nothing to do with one another . . . except for the fact that they appear next to each other in the dictionary. The Experimental Music Unit (EMU) puts the veracity of this statement to the test with Music for Mycologists, a collection of musical works by local composers Paul Walde and Tina Pearson, Czech composer Vaclav Halek—described as “the world’s most prolific composer of mushroom songs”—and the EMU trio. Music for Mycologists explores relationships between music making and mushroom hunting, exposing the sometimes fragile process of discovering sounds of rare and raw beauty that exist just beyond perception.

The Music for Mycologists CD release concert begins at 8pm Saturday, June 6, at Open Space. Tickets are $11-$16 advance or $15-$20 at the door. There will also be “mushroom-themed” refreshments (we’ll leave that to your imagination), signed CDs available for purchase and informal discussions with the artists.

EMU is the core ensemble of LaSaM Music, which has been producing adventurous music events since 2008, and three of the four members hail from UVic: Visual Arts chair Paul Walde (bass guitar), School of Music audio specialist & recording engineer Kirk McNally (live electronic processing), Computer Science professor George Tzanetakis (bass clarinet), plus composer Tina Pearson (flute, voice). Known for its themed projects informed by aural tradition and improvisation, LaSaM explores the relationships between the natural world, sound and music, acoustic ecology and the provocative ideas of music practitioners from many times and places.

m4m-coverMusic for Mycologists features Walde’s piece “Interdeterminancy (for John Cage)”, the musical realization of a set of eight large mushroom spore printed panels designed as a graphic notation, which appeared as part of the Legacy Gallery’s 2013 Visual Arts faculty exhibit Paradox. Also on the bill is Pearson’s “Hunt (3) Chanterelles”, a set of sonic textures that reflect the sensations, sounds, colours, smells and attention states inspired by her mother’s memories of lifelong mushroom hunting. Balancing the program are “Mycelium Running,” a sonic enactment of the life cycle of a single mushroom from mycelium through spore, three short Halek compositions from his collection of short melodies transcribed from sounds he heard directly from mushroom species near his home, as well as live electronic processing by audio artist McNally.

In EMU’s Music for Mycologists soundworld, intentional microscopic attention is paid to typically peripheral instrument and body sounds, such as the nuances of breath, pre-tone whispers and whistles, the tap of instrument keys, the sound of a bow slowly crunching, and the charged pause of acute listening. You can listen to an excerpt below.

Whether performing in the Royal BC Museum’s natural history exhibit or exploring the sonic life of spores, the Experimental Music Unit always lives up to its name.

EMU and LaSaM are known for their original themed projects inspired by relationships between the natural world, sound and music, and the provocative ideas of music practitioners who work outside the margins; and the act of listening itself. Previous major projects include Dark Listening (2014), Music for Natural History (2012), In a Large Open Space (2011), “And Beethoven Heard Nothing” (2010), and Removing the Demon (2009) among others.