Adam Con looks to rebalance the scales of music education

To paraphrase the poet Longfellow, music may well be our universal language, but how it’s traditionally taught in our schools no longer speaks to students in a multicultural society. That’s why School of Music professor Adam Con is looking to rebalance the musical scales.

“We need to broaden the perspective of how and what we’re teaching,” he says. “We have to honour the past, but we also have to move forward by ensuring students see their own cultures reflected.”

Dr. Con, co-head of UVic’s music education program and principal investigator of the National Study on the Status of Music Education, says he believes we can build a better society by integrating concepts of access, equity, diversity and inclusion (AEDI) into every school’s music classroom and ensemble—a difficult task as the study revealed vast disparities between provinces’ approaches to music education.

“At UVic, we’re teaching students that when they create music together, they become a community,” he says. “We’re actually teaching life—music just happens to be the vehicle.”

Education rooted in experience

Con’s AEDI concerns are not only core to his teaching—including 15 years in the K-12 system as well as his role as Choral Canada’s national chair of AEDI—but are also rooted in his experiences growing up in Vancouver.

“None of my music teachers looked like me … they were all white,” he says, adding, “I’ve recognized I can be one small piece of the representation puzzle: people see me and hopefully see possibilities in themselves.”

Putting an AEDI lens on music education means reframing how it’s taught, with an emphasis on process over performance. While Con’s research revealed there’s no single solution, essential steps forward include diversifying cultural partnerships to include Indigenous ways of knowing and being, and expanding the musical portfolio that’s taught to better reflect Canada’s multicultural makeup.

“People tend to think about this lens by colour—what you can see—but sometimes it’s more about what you don’t see,” says Con.

While the Western tradition places emphasis on reading sheet music, many cultures learn by ear, and that’s where access and inclusion become important. “When we only teach music for music’s sake, we start to exclude people,” he explains.

A groundbreaking conference

This shift in approach was at the core of the groundbreaking inter-faculty collaboration led by Dr. Anita Prest in the Faculty of Education and Dr. Steven Capaldo and Con in the Faculty of Fine Arts, with grateful contributions of Indigenous partners. The Indigenizing Music Education conference held in May at UVic was attended by more than 200 people and was an essential next step after research revealed the need to include First Peoples Principles of Learning in the curriculum.

“We’ve never had music educators, Indigenous cultural bearers and knowledge keepers from all of BC’s 60 school districts together before.”

Con says he realizes that more research and a long-term approach are needed to adopt an AEDI approach and decolonize the reliance on Western classical music. “Once our students start teaching in the public school system and are able to make a difference, it could be another five or 10 years before we see significant change,” he says. “But we plant the seeds and put our hope into our students.”

Advocating AEDI into music education reflects UVic’s commitment to quality education as articulated in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.


Edgewise: find out more

  • With financial support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Indigenizing Music Education conference, Everything is Connected: Songs, Relationships and Indigenous Worldviews, featured eight partner organizations: the Victoria Native Friendship Centre, BC Ministry of Education (Indigenous Branch), BC Music Educators’ Association, School Districts 61 (Victoria) and 83 (North Okanagan-Shuswap), Pacific Opera, University of British Columbia and UVic.

  • It focused on developing respectful relationships and exploring ways to embed Indigenous ways of knowing and being into BC music education classes in ways that are culturally appropriate to each school district. “This was a historic event,” says Con. “We had spontaneous drumming and sharing of songs, as well as critical conversations about decolonizing music education.” Next steps? Developing local relationships with First Nations peoples in every district and expanding the conversation nationally.
  • UVic is one of only two Canadian universities supported by Ontario’s Don Wright Foundation through a $1-million, one-time endowment to the School of Music, focused specifically on music education.
  • A recent report on music education in Canadian schools found that only one in three had a specialized or certified music education teacher on staff and that, over the past decade, music education funding has decreased while student participation in music programs has increased.


This story originally appeared on June 26, 2022, as part of UVic’s KnowlEDGE research series in the Times Colonist 

Visual arts grad Dieu Anh Hoang has designs on life

If you ask international student Dieu Anh Hoang what aspect of her undergraduate degree had the biggest impact on her, she’ll tell you it wasn’t the pandemic, it wasn’t her co-op terms and it wasn’t even earning her BFA in Visual Arts with honours: it was actually a teacher’s advice about living with fear.

“At the start of my second-year sculpture class, my professor told me, ‘If you’re not scared, you’re not in the right place’—and that stuck with me,” she says. “It changed my attitude completely: I was scared of that professor and wanted to drop the class, but I realized it was good for me to accept the challenge and step out of my comfort zone. Now, I just tell myself ‘I can do this’ and I don’t think there’s anything I wouldn’t be able to do.”

Learning by doing

That “no-fear” attitude perfectly sums up Hoang on the cusp of graduating: in addition to her academic and artistic accomplishments, her workstudy positions with the Faculty of Fine Arts and her leadership as chair of the Visual Arts Student Association, she also stepped up as the architectural lead for UVic’s Seismic Design Team and as a Community + Engage Leader, representing both the faculty and her department.

“I like to put myself in a working environment and take charge of whatever I can,” says Hoang on a Zoom call from her family home in Hanoi, Vietnam. “That’s how I learn: leadership skills, communication skills, managing skills . . . I actually put my studies at the bottom of my priority list, as it was always the least of what I was doing.”

Hoang wasn’t even phased by the pandemic. “I was really lucky,” she admits. “I did my co-op terms online working with UVic’s Learning and Teaching Support and Innovation, and my classes were among the few held in-person during the pandemic. And my family managed okay in Vietnam, too, so I didn’t have to worry about that. It was actually pretty good for me!”

Hoang shows her work to CHEK TV

Behind the scenes

Describing herself as a visual designer (“I like to solve problems within any existing design to make it better and more accessible for everyone”), it was an interest in art and architecture that drew her to UVic after completing the International Baccalaureate Diploma in Abbotsfordbut it was her online abilities that probably had the biggest impact on campus life: her three co-op terms with LTSI saw her managing the transition from CourseSpaces to Brightspace.

“I was there the entire time migrating the platforms during the pandemic, facilitating the Zoom workshops for faculty and students,” she says. As well as organizing training sessions, she also created helpful infographics and content for the campus community. “It was great problem-solving!”

Skills beyond degree

As for her art practice, Hoang has a clear preference towards geometric and design imagery—whether that’s an exploded cube-based wall sculpture or culture-jamming a bag of groceries as a commentary on consumerism and food fads. (“Do people actually read the labels on what they’re eating?”)

Looking into the future, she can see herself working at a design agency in Seattle’s tech hub (“It’s very fast-paced and competitive there—I like that environment”) and possibly earning a Master’s in computer science.

In addition to having learned the positive side of fear itself, Hoang feels one of her biggest degree takeaways is her enhanced people skills. “Knowing how to work with people, learning how to focus on their strengths rather than their weaknesses . . . those are skills I can apply anywhere.”

South Asian Art History Student Symposium

Interested in exploring the fascinating history of South Asian art? Don’t miss the South Asian Art History Student Symposium, hosted by our Department of Art History & Visual Studies.

Join leading and emerging historians of South Asian art history as they present research on diverse topics from Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh running from the ancient to contemporary eras.

This free hybrid event runs from 10am to 5:30pm on Saturday, June 4 in room 103 of the Fine Arts building, but can also be viewed online via Zoom.

Keynote speaker Rebecca Brown

Schedule of events:

  • Welcome coffee: 9:30am
  • Plenary talk with Dr Dulma Karunarathna: 10:20am
  • Keynote/Orion talk with Dr Rebecca Brown on “Modern Ecologies: KCS Paniker’s Painted Gardens”: 1:00pm

All are welcome to attend!

Thanks to our partners for this event, including UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts, the Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives and the Centre for Global Studies.

Orion Series presents Rebecca Brown

The Orion
Lecture Series in Fine Arts

Through the generous support of the Orion Fund in Fine Arts, the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Victoria, is pleased to present:

Rebecca Brown

Professor & Chair, Department of Art History, Johns Hopkins University


“Modern Ecologies: KCS Paniker’s Painted Gardens” 


1:00pm (PST) Saturday, June 4, 2022

Room 103, Fine Arts building + streaming online


Free & open to the public

Part of the South Asian Art History Student Symposium

Register here for the Zoom session 


Presented by UVic’s Department of Art History & Visual Studies

For more information on this lecture please email:

Dr. Rebecca M. Brown’s research engages in the history of art, architecture and visual culture of South Asia from the late 18th century to the present. She is particularly interested in the tensions and struggles that emerge within visual culture at moments that present themselves as transitional (but usually do not constitute a true “break”)—the early British presence on the subcontinent, the anti-colonial movement of the early twentieth century, the decades after India’s independence in 1947, and the economic and political machinations of the long 1980s.

Her current research focuses on the painting and editorial work of K.C.S. Paniker (1911–77) as it evinces a rich mode of experimentation with gesture, colour and line to deeply question the foundations of knowing in a fraught postcolonial linguistic and political landscape of southern India.

“Throughout my work, I am attentive to the interplay between space and the activities it shapes and enables, as well as the temporality of movement, performance, and duration as embodied by textiles, photographs, paintings, and people,” she says. “At the core of each of these engagements lies an attentive commitment to visual culture in its materiality, its instability, its active role for history, and its reconstitution in different epistemes under changing political demands.”

Paniker’s work explodes with vibrant life, both vegetal and animal, all carefully arranged alongside the marks humans make to seek understanding of the world: writing, math, charts, and astrology. His work thus presents an ecology of human-animal-plant mutuality, one of painted, curated modernist “gardens.”


About the Orion Fund

Established through the generous gift of an anonymous donor, the Orion Fund in Fine Arts is designed to bring distinguished visitors from other parts of Canada—and the world—to the University of Victoria’s Faculty of Fine Arts, and to make their talents and achievements available to faculty, students, staff and the wider Greater Victoria community who might otherwise not be able to experience their work.

The Orion Fund also exists to encourage institutions outside Canada to invite regular faculty members from our Faculty of Fine Arts to be visiting  artists/scholars at their institutions; and to make it possible for Fine Arts faculty members to travel outside Canada to participate in the academic life of foreign institutions and establish connections and relationships with them in order to encourage and foster future exchanges.

Free and open to the public  |  Seating is limited (500 Zoom connections) |  Visit our online events calendar at

New Summer Arts Series with Continuing Studies

New for summer 2022, Fine Arts is offering our inaugural Summer Arts Series in partnership with UVic’s Division of Continuing Studies and Alumni Relations, which will see returning alumni teaching courses for the general public. And for this first series, we’ve chosen to focus on two topics:  one related to sustainability and the arts, and the other on professional development. 

Environmental Writing Workshop: Turning Knowledge into Feeling

Join environmental journalist, author and Department of Writing alum Arno Kopecky for this four-day workshop exploring how to turn complex information into emotionally compelling narratives. Participants will dive into a range of current environmental writing, from advocacy journalism to op-eds and longform creative nonfiction.

This in-person session runs on the UVic campus from 9am to 1pm Monday-Thursday, July 4-7 ($390).

Arno Kopecky graduated from UVic in 2001 with a double major in Creative Writing and Environmental Studies. A regular contributor to The Globe and MailThe WalrusThe TyeeThe Narwhal, and other publications, he has also written three books of literary nonfiction: The Devil’s CurveThe Oil Man And The Sea (shortlisted for the 2014 Governor General’s Award), and most recently, The Environmentalist’s Dilemma: Promise And Peril In An Age Of Climate Crisis.


But if you’re looking for something more performance-based, check out an Introduction to Voice Acting.

In this series of four online workshops, Department of Theatre alum and now LA-based voice actor Erin Fitzgerald will introduce you to the basics of voice acting. You’ll learn how to apply theatre experience to behind-the-mic acting and pick up the basics of body and breath for creating characters for either animation or video games. You’ll also learn proper breathing and vocal warm-up techniques, create fresh new characters, and go over professional voiceover audition copy for animation and video games. Erin will then provide personalized feedback and teach a new technique on how to approach audition copy.

Erin is a Canadian-American voice actress and actress who has been living and working in LA since 2000. She is best known for her voice-over roles of May Kanker and Nazz in Cartoon Network’s classic original series Ed, Edd n’ Eddy. Erin also plays Bo in the Emmy Award-winning show  Storybots on Netflix and is known for her voice work in We Bare Bears, Ever After High, Monster High, Wild Grinders, The Jungle Bunch and Miraculous Ladybug. She is also a frequent voice on video games, including World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor, Heroes of the Storm, Hearthstone, The Last of Us, Danganronpa, League of Legends: Skullgirls, Persona 4: Golden, Persona 5, FFXIV, FFIX, FFVIIR, Bravely Default and many many more.

While current or former theatre students will get the most out of this workshop, however this method is for anyone. This session runs July 5 – 14, online ($390).

For full information and registration, please visit the Summer Arts Series page on the Continuing Studies website.