Climate Disaster Project wins national award

UVic’s Climate Disaster Project has been named the winner of a Special Recognition Citation at the National Newspaper Awards—Canada’s top journalism awards.

Announced at a gala event in Toronto on April 26, the award is designed to recognize exceptional journalism that doesn’t fit into existing categories and to open the door to experimentation in journalism. This is only the second time the National Newspaper Awards have bestowed the honour.

“We are entering a new era of disaster, where our seasons will become increasingly defined by the traumatic events they bring, and we need to learn how journalism can help us survive those traumas together,” says Sean Holman, UVic’s Wayne Crookes Professor of Environmental and Climate Journalism, who founded the project in 2021. “We are so honoured the National Newspaper Awards have recognized our efforts to empower disaster-affected communities inside and outside Canada.”

About the Climate Disaster Project

The Climate Disaster Project is an international teaching newsroom whichtrains students to work on the frontlines of humanitarian crises and create an extensive archive of eyewitness accounts. To date, 219 students in 13 post-secondary institutions have been trained in trauma-informed interviewing skills and co-created 288 disaster-survivor testimonies, many of which have appeared in local, national and international publications.

Their work has also been featured in national radio and television broadcasts, and at the Royal BC Museum. “Each semester, educators at post-secondary institutions across Canada and around the world spend hundreds of hours teaching students how to compassionately help survivors share their stories,” says Holman. “Our students then take that knowledge into the community to co-create a people’s history of climate change that honours the human dignity of their experiences.

Our partners 

Institutional partners for this award include Carleton University, the Campus Journalism Lab (Philippines), First Nations University of Canada, Humber College, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Langara College, MacEwan University, Mount Royal University, Simon Fraser University, Toronto Metropolitan University, and the University of British Columbia, the University of the Fraser Valley and the University of Stirling.

Media partners include the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Asparagus magazine, Canada’s National Observer, The Fraser Valley Current, Megaphone street news and The Tyee, plus Neworld Theatre, the Reach Gallery and Royal BC Museum.

The Climate Disaster Project aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of good health and wellbeing, quality education, sustainable cities and communities, climate action and life on land, and demonstrates how UVic is powered by climate traction.

More for the CDP

The Climate Disaster Project, in partnership with The Tyee, is also currently nominated for awards with the Canadian Association of Journalists and the Canadian Journalism Foundation.

Brazil’s largest newspaper will soon publish testimonies co-created by students at the Federal University of São Paulo. A live theatre project from Neworld Theatre featuring verbatim testimonials will be making its debut at UVic in fall 2024, and an anthology of survivor testimonies from Purich Books is forthcoming in 2025.

Coming up next, the Climate Disaster Project will be hosting the two-day workshop Stories on Fire: Sharing Lived Experiences with Climate Change as part of the Legacy Gallery’s new exhibit, Fire Season.

In this two-day workshop (running 9am-5pm Sat-Sun May 11-12), CDP editors will teach you the trauma-informed process to create powerful first-person testimonies from fellow participants’ experiences of climate change. Past testimonies have been published by Reader’s Digest, the Royal BC Museum and The Tyee, and interviews from this workshop may be shared by similar publications and organizations. Register online for this free event.

Through learning how to compassionately listen to other people’s stories and telling them, you can help show the world that climate change isn’t something that’s far away. Instead, it’s something close at hand that’s affecting each of us in countless ways: from the smoke that keeps us indoors during the summer to the floods and droughts that affect so many communities in so many ways.

Chamber Singers mark 50 years at UVic Music

For 50 years, the UVic Chamber Singers have proven to be one of the most endearing — and enduring — ensembles in our School of Music. Over the years, the Chamber Singers have performed to enthusiastic audiences in 140 cities and 30 countries on 6 continents, and have been recorded for broadcast on the CBC, University of California Radio and NCRV Radio (Holland), as well as the national radio stations of China, Poland & Hungary. They have also been winners in the CBC choral competition and took part in a 2000 recording that won a Juno Award.

While their performances are primarily held in UVic’s Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, the Chamber Singers have transcended local boundaries by performing in venues around Vancouver Island, across BC, and, from 1987 to 2009, across the globe.

Today, the Chamber Singers are led by Music professor Adam Con, but Professor Emeritus Bruce More was the ensemble’s longest-standing conductor with an impressive 37-year tenure leading the group. While More retired in 2008, he continues to host alumni reunions and foster connections that strengthen the long and prestigious history of the Chamber Singers.

This spring, the Chamber Singers are marking their 50th anniversary with a mini-tour that includes March 2 performances in Port Alberni (following a day-long workshop with Urbanstreet Choir and Barkley Sounds Choir) and Parksville, alongside UVic Music Education alumni Brent Kellas (choral director at Bellenas Secondary) and Crystal-Anne Howell (choral director at Kwalikum Secondary).

They will also be performing two concerts in Victoria: 2:30pm March 9 at UVic’s Phillip T Young Recital Hall, featuring the return of 40+ Chamber Singers alumni and conductor Bruce More performing Healey Willan’s “Rise Up My Fair One” (also available as a live stream), and 3:30pm March 10 at Broadview United alongside the University of Puget Sound Chamber Singers. Expect to hear a repertoire spanning 400 years of world and folk music, newly composed music, music of the Renaissance, Canadian composers and traditional African American spirituals.

Their 50th anniversary mini-tour will then conclude at a very special April 21 performance at Vancouver’s Pacific Spirit Church, alongside 2024 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient and Chamber Singers alumna Carrie Tennant, featuring a pre-concert reception open to all UVic alumni.

An exhilarating experience

For former Chamber Singers director Bruce More, the 50th anniversary offers both a chance to reconnect with former singers and to lead the group in song once more.

“I’ve been retired for 15 years and am well along the path of aging, so it is a wonderful reminder of the joys of working with gifted young musicians,” he says. “I expect it will be an exhilarating experience to be in front of Chamber Singers alumni again, although I’m not much older than some that I conducted in the 1970s!”

When asked for a favourite memory from his years leading the Chamber Singers, More singles out their touring years. “The desire to become a touring ensemble was greatly enhanced in 1981 during our first trip to California by the realization that several of the singers had never seen a palm tree before,” he recalls.

Bruce More (bottom right)

“Five years later, we were sailing down the Danube; 10 years later we were seeing long bread-lines in Leningrad; 15 years later we were singing with students in Soweto; 20 years later, singing in the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square; and 25 years later sharing a concert with a Cambodian school choir in the presence of a Cambodian prince.”  (Read about more touring adventures in More’s book, The Conductor is the One in Front: 37 Years with the UVic Chamber Singers.)

An education on multiple levels

Current Chamber Singers leader Adam Con echoes More’s enthusiasm. “The UVic Chamber Singers is that one place to practice the art of singing at the highest level with others who share that burning passion,” he says. “There’s something about having that very high-level experience that sparks a huge interest in composing, conducting and many other activities in music.”

Far from going out of fashion, choral presentations continue to be an essential part of public ceremonies internationally, ranging from coronations and presidential inaugurations to the Olympics. Con sees this as proof that singing together is a quintessential human endeavour. “Music is like food: why do we eat? To Live! Why do we sing? The same, to live,” he says.  “Worldwide, we see people make art, music and dance not only as a part of culture but also as part of simply being and passing down stories and experiences.”

Adam Con

But Con points out the Chamber Singers also fills an essential pedagogical role for music educators. “It’s important in the education of young musicians to experience all genres and all eras,” he says. “Our students must learn to use their voice in different ways to honour the respective singing traditions: this is part of a solid education in music and singing, and it practices the decolonized approach to choral music education.”

Con is already planning for the future of the Chamber Singers. “Next year we hope to do an international competition and more touring. Future years will include the CBC Choral Competition and expanding our horizons to embrace other communities of singing. We hope the larger community will come out to support our efforts to fundraise for these projects as well.”

Planning for the future

Indeed, a generous contribution from a Chamber Singers alumni in 2023 led to the establishment of the Bruce More Legacy Fund, aimed at supporting the Chamber Singers and their future tours.

“I am truly honoured to loan my name to the Legacy Fund, and I look forward to the future benefits provided by its growth over time,” says More. “Of course, I hope the Chamber Singers will continue forever—but, at the very least, I hope it will offer the opportunity to School of Music students to perform the best of the choral art and to experience the community that can come with it.”

2023 Student Impact Award winners

For the third year in a row, Fine Arts honoured the winners of our annual Student Community Impact Awards as part of the Greater Victoria Regional Arts Awards. Held on November 24 at Victoria City Hall, Fine Arts Dean Allana Lindgren presented three separate awards of $1,000 each to Heidi Goetz and Nathan Malzon (both School of Music students), and recent Visual Arts grad Laveen Gammie.

Including our 2023 winners, Fine Arts has now given over $10,000 to eight different students over the last three years — all thanks to the generosity of our donors.

Created in 2021 by the Dean’s External Advisory Committee, the Student Community Impact Awards recognize individual achievements or outstanding efforts made by full-time Fine Arts undergraduate students for a local arts organization.

Next-generation learning

Heidi Goetz (seen here with Fine Arts alum Matthew Payne) won her work as the coordinator of Music Discoveries, the School of Music’s annual weekend music camp — which, in January 2023, welcomed over 100 SD61 middle-school students and involved more than 40 volunteers in the two-day event.

As Music professor Steven J. Capaldo pointed out in his support letter, “Heidi demonstrated genuine dedication and commitment to providing strong service to the music education community, as well as her desire to improve the lives of the students with whom she connects.”

Music technology in action

Nathan Malzon won for being an enthusiastic part of creating the permanent live-streaming system for downtown’s Christ Church Cathedral; this has become an essential method for broadcasting both their regular worship services and substantial music performances.

As Christ Church’s Reverend Canon Jeannine Friesen says, “Nathan has devoted hundreds of hours to this work . . . thanks to him, we can bring sacred and secular music to thousands of people, not only in Victoria, but around the world.”

Engaging the public

Laveen Gammie picked up her award for her unflagging work in taking an unwanted room in downtown’s vibrant Rockslide Studio and turning it into the vibrant Vault Gallery. Currently pursuing her MFA at the University of Chicag, Laveen wasn’t able to attend the ceremony.

As Rockslide’s chair Logan Ford says, “Laveen worked tirelessly — and fully voluntarily — to develop and lead this innovative space for over a year. The Vault has made a remarkable impact on the local creative scene and has shown that Laveen has a genuine passion for the arts and dedication to her community.”

A legacy of achievement

While the GVRAAs recognize a variety of early- and mid-career achievements, we consider our own Student Community Impact Awards as more of a pre-career category, as all our recipients are definitely talents to watch.

For over 50 years, Fine Arts has been the city’s incubator for artists, technicians, curators, scholars, volunteers, arts administrators, board members, and appreciative audience members.

Indeed, a great many of our alumni can be found on the list of previous GVRAA winners: Matthew Payne, Lindsay Delaronde, Mercedes Batiz Benet, Andrew Barrett, Rebekkah Johnson, Colton Hash, Sarah Jim, Chelsea Kutyn
. . . all have emerged from Fine Arts to become key players in Victoria’s arts scene.

Finally, we were excited to see Theatre alum Andrew Barrett‘s performance company Impulse Theatre win the $15,000 JAYMAC Outstanding Production Award this year for their recent performance, The Soft Spaces.

Congratulations to all! 

Giving Tuesday in Fine Arts: Climate Disaster Project

November 28 is Giving Tuesday, a day when the entire UVic community will unite around a common cause — supporting the students and programs that make this university the very special place it is.

This year, UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts is raising funds to help create the world’s largest living library of climate disaster experiences, which will help connect climate disaster survivors around the word, and spark urgent action on climate change.

We hope you’ll join together with our entire Fine Arts community and make a donation to the Climate Disaster Project. Your gift will support UVic journalism students in their field work and interviews as they collect these climate disaster stories for an anthology that will be published in Fall 2025 by Purich Books (UBC Press). 

Climate disaster survivors Patsy Gessey & Owen Collins look towards Lytton, where they lost their home
during the 2021 Lytton Creek Fire. The next year, they faced fires again. (CDP/Jen Osborne)


Hope through community

Climate disasters — like forest fires, floods and extreme drought — are becoming more and more common. In the coming decades, these disasters could divide us, as walls are built around the world to protect those with the most and keep out those with the least.

But these disasters could also unite us if we see the commonalities in one another’s experiences.

With your support, the Climate Disaster Project, which is based in UVic’s Department of Writing, is creating a massive archive of eyewitness climate disaster accounts. The Climate Disaster Project trains students to work on the frontlines of climate change — a skill that will only become more necessary as time goes on.

To date, 194 students have been trained in trauma-informed interviewing skills, and students have interviewed 128 survivors of climate disasters about their experience. The Climate Disaster Project has already published 44 testimonies in The Tyee, the Fraser Valley Current, Asparagus and Megaphone magazines, partnered with APTN Investigates and the Royal BC Museum’s Community Gallery, had two students interviewed on CBC Radio’s national climate-change show What On Earth, and is about to be featured in the December/January issue of Reader’s Digest — Canada’s most-read magazine.

Donor created, donor supported

The Climate Disaster Project’s work covering the humanitarian crisis of climate change was founded in 2021 thanks to a generous donation from philanthropist and businessman Wayne Crookes. Our work is inspired by his deep concern for preserving our planet.

Your gift today will help create the world’s largest living library of climate disaster experiences, and will support UVic journalism students in their field work and interviews.

We hope you’ll consider joining the Giving Tuesday movement with a gift to the Climate Disaster Project.

Legacy gift highlights Steinway anniversary

Arthur Rowe performing on one of UVic’s Steinway pianos (photo: Leon Fei)

Fifteen years ago, UVic’s School of Music was named Canada’s first All-Steinway School and, while there are now over 200 All-Steinway schools globally, UVic is still the only one in Canada — a significant designation currently being celebrated with both a new $300,000 estate gift and a signature concert.

“Steinways are recognized worldwide for their excellence and are by far the most preferred concert piano in the world,” says School of Music piano professor Arthur Rowe.

But keeping 63 pianos ready for daily student use also requires constant tuning and repairs, which makes the new $300,000 Martha Cooke Fund so important. Named for the late Public Archives Canada curator, Cooke’s legacy earmarks $200,000 for essential piano maintenance.

 “These pianos are now 15 years old, so this gift comes to us at a critical time,” says Rowe. “Maintaining our excellent instruments is crucial, so these funds will help ensure the longevity and excellence of our Steinways.”

Internationally renowned guest pianist

The Martha Cooke Fund also sets aside a further $100,000 for three years of annual concerts and masterclasses with internationally renowned Korean-American pianist Minsoo Sohn — the first of which debuts October 3 at UVic when he presents an awe-inspiring performance of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s complete Études-Tableaux.

Sohn will also host a free public masterclass with School of Music piano students at 10:30am Wednesday, Oct 4, which all are welcome to attend.

As the winner of many prestigious competitions and a teacher of renowned pianists himself, Minsoo Sohn’s concerts and masterclasses will demonstrate his own pursuit of musical excellence for the benefit of UVic students. This promises to be an extraordinary experience that will transport audiences to a realm of emotion, virtuosity and musical brilliance.

Masterful virtuosity

Known for his musical intelligence and masterful virtuosity — qualities that have earned him acclaim throughout the United States, Canada and Korea — Sohn’s readings of the works of Bach and Beethoven in particular have placed him among the elect in this repertoire, and the inspired ingenuity of his performances of orchestral repertoire have earned him many accolades.

Sohn owes much of his success to his mentors, Russell Sherman and Wha Kyung Byun, with whom he studied at the New England Conservatory in Boston. After teaching at Michigan State University, Sohn returned to South Korea where he instantly became a much sought after performer and pedagogue, as he joined the faculty at Korean National University of Arts. He has also served on the jury at prominent international piano competitions including Honens, Top of the World and Busoni Competition.