Writing alumni news

Ali Blythe

Ali Blythe

Fall is the season for new book launches, and there are a few on the horizon for our busy Department of Writing alumni.

First up is Ali Blythe, who is launching their first book of poems, Twoism. Recently described as “a stunning debut” and named one of the top-10 hottest books coming out this fall by CBC books, Twoism was also praised by Quill & Quire in their fall preview for how it “questions the validity of gender binaries and bodily limits.” Blythe will be joined by at the launch reading by friends and fellow Writing alumni Garth Martens, Melanie Siebert and Anne-Marie Turza.

Don’t miss Blythe’s launch at 7:30pm Tuesday, September 15, in the Bard and Banker Pub’s Sam McGee room, 1022 Government. Hosted by Russell Books.

Arleen Paré

Arleen Paré

Hot on the heels of that comes the latest poetry collection from 2014 Governor General’s Award-winner Arleen Paré, whose latest volume is titled He Leaves His Face in the Funeral Car. Another collection of lyrical poems, but with a darker exploration than her GG winning Lake of Two Mountains, Paré’s Funeral Car is described as “elegiac, lyrical, ironic; a series of reflections, recollections; a collection about relationships—to family, clocks, water, trees, ungulates, endings—recognizing that not all relationships are straightforward.”

Join Paré for her launch at 7:30pm Tuesday, September 29, at Munro’s Books, 1108 Government—and be sure to congratulate her about Lake of Two Mountains being nominated for the 2015 City of Victoria Book Prize!

Frances Backhouse

Frances Backhouse

Another fall launch features the much-anticipated nonfiction book by MFA alumnus and current Writing instructor Frances Backhouse. Once They Were Hats: In Search of the Mighty Beaver examines humanity’s 15,000-year relationship with the beaver, and the beaver’s even older relationship with North American landscapes and ecosystems. Backhouse goes on a journey of discovery to find out what happened after we nearly wiped this essential animal off the map, and how we can learn to live with beavers now that they’re returning.

Don’t miss the launch, 7pm Thursday, October 8, at the Copper Owl, 1900 Douglas.

Also debuting this fall is the debut feature film by Connor Gaston. The Devout will be

A scene from Connor Gaston's The Devout

A scene from Connor Gaston’s The Devout

making its world premiere nearly simultaneously at both the Vancouver International Film Festival and Korea’s renowned Busan International Film Festival (aka “the Cannes of Asia”). VIFF comes first on October 2 with Busan following less than 12 hours later on October 3. In Busan, The Devout was selected as one of 10 films in competition for the Busan Bank Award—the festival’s top international prize—and at VIFF it will be appearing in the Canadian Images program, as well as highlighted in the BC Spotlight competition.

Gaston wrote the screenplay for his Master’s thesis, and the story follows a Christian schoolteacher who has a profound crisis of faith after his terminally ill four-year old daughter claims to have had a past life. Obsessively seeking answers, he risks his marriage and his last remaining days with his child to determine is she has lived before, and if she will live again.

Journey Prize longlister K'ari Fisher

Journey Prize longlister K’ari Fisher

In other alumni news, congratulations go out to both alumni Eliza Robertson and Melanie Siebert (also a former Writing sessional instructor) for each winning $5,000 in the Writers’ Trust of Canada “Five x Five” program, sponsored by the RBC Emerging Artists Project. Impressive that two of the five winners both emerged from the Department of Writing! And we’re very excited to announce that former BFA and current MFA K’ari Fisher was named to this year’s Journey Prize longlist. Better still, her nominated story—“Mercy Beatrice Wrestles the Noose”—originally appeared in UVic’s very own The Malahat Review. Writing MFA alumna Yasuko Thanh was a Journey Prize winner in 2009.

Remembering Gene Dowling

The Faculty of Fine Arts mourns the passing of an inspirational teacher, invaluable colleague and dear friend: School of Music professor Eugene Dowling. Following a 2013 diagnosis of prostate cancer, Dowling passed away at his home on June 30 with his family and close friends at hand.

edowling_x200“Gene was a wonderful teacher, talented performer and delightful colleague and friend,” says Acting Dean of Fine Arts and former School of Music Director Susan Lewis. “He showed incredible generosity and thoughtfulness towards his students and helped make the School of Music a great place to be. He is sorely missed.”

An inspirational mentor to more than one generation of students, Gene Dowling worked in the School of Music for 39 years before retiring as a Teaching Professor in 2014, but he was perhaps best known locally for his 35 years leading the annual Tuba Christmas ensemble which raised thousands of dollars for local charities. “He was a devoted and insightful instructor, often offering extra hours of teaching and mentoring to his students,” recalls fellow professor and School of Music Acting Director Harald Krebs. “The many successes of his students worldwide honour his legacy. He will be sorely missed by the many in whose lives he made a difference.”

A young Eugene Dowling shows his brass

A young Eugene Dowling shows his brass

Raised as a Michigan farmboy, he intitially took up the tuba at the prodding of his sixth grade school band teacher—but Dowling’s professional career really began in Chicago, where he was a student of the legendary pedagogue Arnold Jacobs, tubist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He joined the School of Music faculty in 1976, where he taught low brass and aural skills, conducted the Wind Symphony (in 2010 and 2013-14) and made significant contributions as both the School’s graduate advisor and Music Education advisor. “Over the decades, Gene maintained a strong studio in tuba and euphonium and taught an impressive range of courses, including musicianship, music appreciation, theory and Symphonic Winds,” notes Lewis.

Dowling leading his final TubaChristmas event in 2014

Dowling leading his final TubaChristmas event in 2014

But in addition to his teaching duties, Dowling was also a very active performer: for 25 of his 39 years at UVic, he was Principal Tubist with the Victoria Symphony, as well as an internationally known soloist. He was also nominated for a Juno Award for his first recording, The English Tuba (Fanfare/Pro Arte), featuring Ralph Vaughan Williams’s “Tuba Concerto” with the London Symphony Orchestra, which received favourable reviews and radio play throughout North America and was recently re-released. A recent CD features Dowling performing with Stephen Brown and the Bastion Band, and he even played in bands for the surprising likes of Sarah Mclachlan and the Moody Blues. “His recitals, always featuring a wide spectrum of music, were a joy to attend,” says Krebs.

In this Times Colonist memorial of his life and legacy, fellow trombonist and School of Music instructor Scott MacInnes credits Dowling with helping him get hired at UVic a decade ago . . . at the tender age of 24. “If he saw someone who he thought had a love of music, teaching ability or ability to play, he definitely went out of his way to make sure they had every opportunity possible,” recalled MacInnes, who played with Dowling in the Pinnacle Brass Quintet.

Gene Dowling takes a bow at his final School of Music concert, alongside accompanist Charlotte Hale (photo: Robert Davy)

Gene Dowling takes a bow at his final School of Music concert, alongside accompanist Charlotte Hale (photo: Robert Davy)

But if there’s a natural successor to Dowling’s legacy, it’s his former student and Faculty of Fine Arts Distinguished Alumni Paul Beauchesne. Beauchesne succeeded Dowling as principal tubist with the Victoria Symphony, will continue to organize Tuba Christmas and will now be teaching at the School of Music this fall. “He was really dedicated to sharing his musical gifts with people around him,” Beauchesne told the Times Colonist.

Always concerned with the future and well-being of students, Dowling recently established a scholarship for the benefit of low brass students at the School of Music. True to form, he even appeared at a concert supporting the Eugene Dowling Scholarship—just two days before his death, despite having to travel to and from the concert by ambulance. A donation to this scholarship would be an appropriate way for anyone to remember him.

“He was widely recognized as a dedicated teacher and advisor,” concludes Lewis. “We will miss Gene’s expertise, good humour, and collegial nature.”

Appropriately enough, we’ll give the last word to Gene Dowling himself. “It’s a hard way to make a living,” told the Times Colonist back in 2012, “but it’s a glorious way to be involved in music.”

A public memorial for Eugene Dowling is planned for 1pm Saturday, September 26, at St. John the Divine, 1611 Quadra St. All are welcome.