It’s only been 10 years since sister duo Twin Kennedy graduated from the School of Music, but during that short decade, the acclaimed country/roots duo already released two albums, toured across North America, moved to Nashville and won the hearts of country radio and fans alike. Now, the sisters are headed back to UVic on February 5th to be honoured among UVic’s 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award winners — an award that’s doubly special this year, given the School of Music’s 50th anniversary.
Know for their distinctly “Canadiana” country roots sound, seamless harmonies and heartfelt songwriting, Carli and Julie Kennedy (BMus ’08) are the latest recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award for the Faculty of Fine Arts.
Dubbed “the next big thing in country music” by the Nashville Music Examiner, Twin Kennedy’s latest album — 2015’s It’s a Love Thing — was produced by Canadian country superstar George Canyon, and their 2017 winter single “Cold Weather” was chosen by Rolling Stone as one of the “10 new country and Americana Christmas songs to hear right now!”
Each year at Alumni Week, UVic’s Alumni Association — in partnership with the universtiy’s faculties and divisions — present Distinguished Alumni Awards to outstanding members of the alumni community. The recipients are selected by their respective faculties or divisions based on a number of criteria, including career accomplishments or service to their community.
“We’re very proud of years at UVic,” says Carli. “Not everyone in the popular-music world has a degree, and it’s an important part of our story. To be recognized for that side of our career is a huge honour; it means a lot to us.”
“And we did it together!” laughs Julie.
Twin Kennedy will be performing a free, on-campus show as part of the Orion Series in Fine Arts during Alumni Week: their intimate, acoustic concert at Felicita’s kicks off at 8pm on Wednesday, February 7, and is already almost sold out. Reserve your free tickets now. And you can read more about them in this Feb 1 Black Press article.
First, and best, choice
Originally hailing from Powell River, the twin sisters specifically chose UVic’s School of Music to study for their Bachelors of Music, with Carli focusing on classical guitar performance and Julie on violin. “We didn’t plan it, but guitar and violin go really well together,” says Carli.
“UVic was definitely our first choice, because it’s the best string program in Canada, hands down,” says Julie. “We did go and do some lessons with teachers at other universities while we were deciding, but fell in love with the Lafayette String Quartet and [guitar professor] Alexander Dunn.”
“I distinctly remember Carli’s audition at UVic,” says Dunn. “After a few moments, it was apparent there was a true musical mind at work — innate musicianship, ease of execution, effortless focus. I was made aware that her sister was auditioning as well. I nervously contacted the strings instructor to make sure she was aware of the Kennedys. Naturally, they both sailed through and, in the course of their studies, evolved into mature musicians and a wonderful duo.”
Lafayette String Quartet violinist Ann Elliott-Goldschmid similarly recalls her time working with Julie. “Innately talented, Julie had the disposition of a performer from the moment she auditioned,” says Elliott-Goldschmid. “She had a beautiful, singing tone and a will to constantly improve. I remember her captivating Franck Sonata and excellent Saint-Saens concerto to this day!”
Beyond focusing on their individual instruments, the Kennedys were also instrumental in the development of UVic’s Vocal Jazz Ensemble, which is still very active today, under the guidance of Wendell Clanton. “He created a directed study for us, and helped to build the whole vocal jazz program—we were the first year of that,” says Carli. “He really encouraged us to try some really out-of-the-box stuff, which is a big part of what we do now,” agrees Julie.
Victoria had an impact on the Kennedys beyond their studies, however, resulting in their family moving to “this beautiful city” and their sister Katelyn choosing UVic for her Education degree. “Where you go to school can really change your life in ways you never even realize,” says Julie.
“We found this out later, but we were both asked the same question at our entrance interview: ‘What are you going to do if your sister quits music?’ And I just couldn’t conceive of that,” she admits. “We’ve always known from the beginning that our path would be together, so I said, ‘That’s not a possibility.’ And they were like, ‘Sure, sure.’” Both sisters pause, look at each other, and burst out laughing. “Look at us now!”
For his part, Dunn isn’t surprised by their success. “I know their dedication and hard work have afforded an unshakable musical foundation,” he says. “I am proud of their accomplishments and will always regard the Kennedys with great fondness and admiration.
Perhaps because they are twins, there’s a clear connection between the two sisters that goes beyond both the personal and professional. (“And we are actually twins—which we got asked recently—although it’s pretty obvious,” laughs Julie.) They frequently finish each other’s sentences, and never hesitate to chime in with additional details.
“Lots of family groups break up, but we work really hard at our professional and personal relationships,” says Carli. “And because we’re legitimately best friends, we’re also pretty lucky. You have this built-in best friend who agrees with you musically 99% of the time.”
“It’s only with Carli that I could do this, and I couldn’t do this without her,” Julie admits with a smile.
Achieving, and inspiring, excellence
With a steadily growing amount of industry recognition — including multiple nominations from the Canadian Country Music Association (three) and the BC Country Music Association (12) — Twin Kennedy have also already won two John Lennon Songwriting awards for their song “Secondhand Gold,” which picked up the Grand Prize (Country) in 2015 and Best Country Song in 2016, as well as a pair of Vancouver Island Music Awards (Country Album of the Year).
“I’m really delighted that Julie and Carli have succeeded so brilliantly in this business,” says the LSQ’s Elliott-Goldschmid, “but I never doubted for a moment that they would go far with their many talents and incredible generosity of spirit.”
But it’s their roots in classical music that continue to set Twin Kennedy apart. Combining classical training with country roots allowed them to not only establish their signature sound and unique live show, but also develop their unique “Classical to Country Workshop” geared towards young musicians. By visiting elementary schools, high schools, and community music programs, Carli and Julie help music students craft their skills and find their confidence on stage.
“It’s really fun to bring both styles into classrooms,” says Julie. “We bridge the two worlds, which are totally different worlds. My favourite thing is when people come up and say, ‘You know, I don’t really like classical music but I really like what you did.’ You give them a taste and hopefully they’ll go to the symphony next.”
“But music is music,” Carli interjects. ”Being in Nashville, we’re surrounded by more people who do what we do, but we’re also exposed to more audiences and more styles of music. The world is getting more genre-less.”
As part of Alumni Week, Twin Kennedy will also be visiting the School of Music and sharing their experiences as recording and touring artists with the likes of the “Business of Music” class. Now based in Nashville, the sisters feel they’re getting “a Master’s degree in songwriting” just by living there.
“All the publishing houses, record labels, writers, artists . . . they’re all there — and not just doing country,” says Julie. “In the music industry, there’s LA, New York City, Toronto and Nashville. And for Americana — or Canadiana — Nashville is the place to be. You’ve gotta go where your music is the thing.”
“Every country song you hear on the radio, 99% of the writers live in Nashville, so we just go to their houses to write,” says Carli. “It’s really elevated our songwriting, once we started working with these hit writers; you can’t help but grow. It’s like coming to UVic—you get to work with the best professors.”
“This is your best possible foundation”
When asked for advice for current students, the Kennedy’s stress the importance of what students are actually doing right now.
“This is the best possible foundation ever: developing your technique and discipline, honing your abilities, dealing with performance pressures,” says Julie. “The study seems incredibly intense, but it really pays off.”
“There’s a lot of people in Nashville who can’t do what we can, because they never went to school,” agrees Carli. “We can do country and classical, but we can also do workshops and recording sessions and write songs . . . that’s the way to make it nowadays. We’re so grateful to have had the time to study and learn before we got out there.”
Beyond an academic background, however, the Kennedys stress the importance of keeping it real. “As an artist, the biggest thing is staying true to who you are,” says Carli. “Maybe it changes, maybe you don’t figure it out right away, but in the world of popular music, it’s all about getting on the road, touring, making an album, putting it out there, booking the gigs, getting a deal, losing a deal, finding an agent . . . you learn by riding the wave.”
“That’s true of any business, but with music it feels so much more personal,” says Julie. “It’s essential to stay genuine to yourself and follow your path, however it may change.”
“People ask what we do for fun, and . . . we do this,” laughs Carli.
And really, how much better can it get than that? “Oh, a world tour, Madison Square Gardens, the Grand Ol Opry, the Grammys, a JUNO Award,” laughs Julie. “How much space do you have?”
“If we get to keep writing songs, making music, building fans — and that’s our career? I’m so grateful for it every day,” concludes Carli. “This award just proves that — we’re so lucky.”
“We really are,” Julie agrees.
And if the School of Music can keep producing talents like Twin Kennedy, then so are we.
The landscape of new and experimental music in Canada has been greatly influenced by the creative individuals who have taught and studied at the UVic School of Music. FromFebruary 2-4, this dynamic community spanning five decades — from former faculty to current students — will converge for aNew Music & Digital Media Festivalas part of the School’s ongoing 50th anniversary season.
Music composition has been a vital part of the program at the School of Music since the early days. In 1971 Rudolf Komorous was named Head of Composition and the School’s first analogue electronic music studio was established. “New and experimental music has always been central to what we do,” explains School of Music Director, composition instructor and alumnus Christopher Butterfield. “Many of Canada’s leading composers and interpreters of contemporary music had their training here . . . and our Music and Computer Science program, a major draw for the School, is the only one of its kind in the country.”
Rudolf Komorous & then-student Tony Genge work in the electronic music studio circa 1979
As a direct result of our program, where contemporary music study, creation and practice are at the core, Victoria itself is recognized world-wide as a hub for new music. Faculty and alumni initiatives — including the Aventa Ensemble, A Place to Listen, the Victoria Composers Collective, and collaborations with organizations such as the Victoria Symphony, Pacific Opera Victoria, and Open Space — continue to produce and perform some of the most exciting music of our time, all on the tip of this island off Canada’s west coast. “Show me any place in the country with that kind of activity,” says Butterfield.
The festival will be a great opportunity to hear music by many of the School’s alumni. On February 2, theUVic Orchestrawill performCassandra Miller’s Round, a new commission from the Toronto Symphony; Miller has twice received the Jules-Léger Prize for New Chamber Music, Canada’s highest honour for composition.
In a UVic Minuteon February 3, features clarinetistHeather Roche and pianist Tzenka Dianova — two leading interpreters of new music — with the Chroma String Quartet performing a smorgasbord of miniature compositions (some written especially for this occasion) by 20 Music alumni. Along with works byLinda Catlin Smith,Anna Hostman, andNicholas Fairbank, you’ll hearfestina lentebyRodney Sharman. Sharman was recently awarded the prestigious $50,000Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts, which recognizes the highest level of artistic excellence and distinguished career achievements by a Canadian professional artist in music, theatre or dance. TheFaculty Chamber Musicconcert on February 3 offers a program of music by the School’s current and former composition faculty as well asKristy Farkas andLiova Bueno.
Music alumna Tzenka Dianova
Many UVic School of Music faculty and alumni can be seen and heard during the screening on February 3 of five short films from the Canadian Music CentreBC’s Legacy Composer Film Series. Produced and directed by award-winning filmmaker John Bolton, each film features a performance of a signature work by the composer juxtaposed against a storyline unique to that piece.
A highlight of the festival is sure to be the lecture-recital with electronic music pioneer and Buchla synthesizer specialist,Suzanne Ciani, on February 4. While the School of Music has a vintage Buchla 200 Series from the 1970s, Ciani will perform on her own Buchla 200e, a modern model of the instrument.
Of course, our current student body is central to the festival. Find out what the School’s composition students are up to at the Fridaymusicconcert on February 2. UVic’s experimental music ensemble,Sonic Lab, as well as theUVic Percussion Ensemble, will each also give performances on February 4.
It’s said nothing succeeds like success, which is an aphorism well-appreciated in the offices of The Malahat Review. Currently celebrating both its 50th anniversary and 200th issue, UVic’s venerable and revered literary journal has served as a springboard for some of the most recognizable names in Canadian publishing over its lifetime.
Writing grad & outgoing Malahat Review editor John Barton (UVic Photo Services)
For instance, the Malahat was the first magazine to publish a short story by Yann Martel — 14 years before he went on to win the Booker Prize for the international bestseller Life of Pi. In 1977, the journal dedicated an entire issue to Margaret Atwood’s work, before she became internationally known. Poets such as Michael Ondaatje, Dionne Brand, Patricia Young and beloved Department of Writing professor Lorna Crozier have frequently graced its pages.
“Publishing in The Malahat is a rite of passage for many writers, who feel that they have ‘arrived,’” says outgoing editor, poet and Writing alumnus John Barton, who has nurtured the journal for more than a decade. “Writers who have won our contests have gone on to win National Magazine Awards, the Journey Prize and to get book contracts.”
One of the world’s best literary mags, right here at UVic
Established in 1967 by fabled Writing professor Robin Skelton and English professor John Peter, The Malahat Review has showcased works by established writers, discovered promising new talent and presented perceptive critical comment on other pieces including essays on both literature and the visual arts.
“Without The Malahat Review, I wouldn’t be the writer I am now,” admits Martel, whose short story “Mister Ali and the Barrelmaker” was published in 1988. The journal has won more National Magazine Awards than any other literary journal in the country and has had six editors over its lifetime, including Writing professor emeritus Derk Wynand, Constance Rooke, Marlene Cookshaw, Barton, and Skelton and Peter.
“The magazine has been an inspiration to generations of writers and students at UVic, in Victoria and across the country — as a place to read some of the best writing from around the world and as a high-profile publication to dream of seeing your own work in one day,” says Writing chair and alumna David Leach. “As a student at UVic, I remember reading one of Yann Martel’s early stories in the Malahat and being blown away by its originality . . . . To have one of the best literary magazines in the world located right here on campus has helped to establish UVic and Victoria as important centres of Canadian literary culture.”
And while the Malahat may have gotten its start back in the days when Writing was part of UVic’s Faculty of Humanities, it has long ties to us here in Fine Arts. “The Malahat Review has a long history with the Faculty of Fine Arts that spans decades,” says Dean Susan Lewis.
“Colleagues in the Department of Writing play key roles on editorial and advisory boards, and our students have learned about the literary publishing industry through the Department of Writing Internship program, established in 2004. The Malahat’s status as one of Canada’s leading literary journals makes it a desirable place for our faculty to publish. The journal enjoys an impressive list of accolades — including 12 times as either winner or finalist of the Western Magazine Award’s ‘Magazine of the Year’ and 14 Malahat authors in the National Magazine Foundation’s roster of finalists, with five gold and four silver awards.”
It’s already been a busy anniversary for the Malahat, given last November’s 200th issue launch party, which paid tribute to the Victoria literary scene and artists — past, present and future — with two previously unpublished poems from the late P.K. Page and creative nonfiction from painter Emily Carr. The issue also offers work by Writing professors (current and past), including Tim Lilburn, Patrick Lane, Lorna Croizer, Shane Book and Patrick Friesen, plus alumni Kyeren Regehr, Danielle Janess, Leah Callen, Philip Kevin Paul, Arlene Pare, Jason Jobin and Annabel Howard, as well as former Writing instructors like Madeline Sonik and Alisa Gordaneer.
200 issues, one fantastic special edition
To better mark the occasion, UVic Libraries is releasing a limited-edition monograph on January 25, edited by Barton: The Malahat Review at Fifty: Canada’s Iconic Literary Magazine is richly illustrated with archival material from UVic Special Collections and University Archives. Contributing authors include broadcaster and UVic Chancellor Shelagh Rogers, as well as Martel, Paul, Wynand, Young, Eve Joseph, Jay Ruzesky, Nicholas Bradley, Heather Dean, Jonathan Bengtson, Jan Zwicky and rising alumna literary star Eliza Robertson, among others.
“The MalahatReviewat Fifty features extraordinary stories and memoirs from a range of celebrated contributors, recognizing the vital culture impact of The Malahat Review on the Canadian and international literary scene,” says UVic librarian and local poet Christine Walde, who, as general editor of the series, led the commemorative project.
There will also be a special art exhibition, Landmarks: The Art of The Malahat Review. Curated by Caroline Riedel of UVic Legacy Art Galleries, Landmarks opens January 25 in UVic’s Legacy Maltwood gallery, located in the lower level of the UVic library. Running until May 13, it highlights the role of art in the journal and includes 200 selected cover images. Canadian artists have dominated the visual identity of The Malahat Review and the synergy between art and literature is particularly evident in the cover art and essays of the journal’s first decade, which featured new work by internationally acclaimed artists such as Henry Moore, Andy Warhol, Mel Ramos and Joan Miró.
Indeed, it would be hard to beat Dean Susan Lewis for a more simple, heartfelt acknowledgement of the magazine’s accomplishments. “My congratulations to The Malahat Review on its 50th anniversary and best wishes for continued excellence in the decades to come.”
Feeling tired? Got the sniffles? Worried about new classes? Start the semester off with a healthy sense of well-being at our Fine Arts Wellness Day! Running 11am – 2pm on Wednesday, January 17, in the lobby of the Fine Arts building, students can shuffle off their January blahs with a variety of special events.
Wellness is an important part of both a general approach to life and student mental health. Fine Arts students often find themselves under additional pressures not shared by other students across campus, given the demands of rehearsals, instrument practice, performance and the push to be creative on top of maintaining a regular class schedule and keeping grades up.
Add to that the unique physical demands that go with being a creative practitioner and you’ve got a lot of good reasons to stay healthy during your academic career.
With that in mind, Fine Arts Wellness Day will feature a number of free services and information essential to your sense of wellness, including
free chair massage
healthy snacks (including a DIY trail mix bar)
a hydration station (featuring both lemon and cucumber water)
And don’t miss the therapy pets at the nearby Pet Cafe (2:30 – 4pm at the nearby Interfaith Chapel), as well as free yoga from 4:30-5:30pm in Hodges 104 (Residence Hub), brought to you by UVic’s SHAPE (Student Health Ambassadors and Peer Educators).
When Maestro Timothy Vernon raises his baton at the School of Music’s 50th Anniversary Gala concert on December 2, it won’t simply be in recognition of the Honorary Doctor of Music he received at spring convocation. Instead, his performance with the UVic Chorus and Orchestra can be seen as the culmination of five decades of academic expansion, faculty excellence, alumni achievement and dedicated community outreach by the School itself.
“I heard a funny story when I was in Berlin,” says School of Music director Christopher Butterfield. “People were talking about where the interesting musical centres are on the west coast of North America and somebody said, ‘Well, there’s Los Angeles . . . and Victoria.’”
An alumnus himself, Butterfield began his studies back in 1971 at what was then simply the music department. “It was very small,” he recalls. “We had three classrooms in the MacLaurin A-wing and all of our concerts were held in the David Lam, as the Farquhar Auditorium wasn’t built until 1978.”
The Wind Quintet in 1977
Music courses were first offered back in 1964 as part of UVic’s fledgling arts & humanities department, before evolving into the division of music in 1967 and earning full department status in 1969. But it wasn’t until the construction of the purpose-built MacLaurin B Wing—complete with the 220-seat Phillip T. Young Recital Hall—that the School was formally established in 1979.
While focus and demand have changed and grown, Butterfield says one essential aspect remains the same. “You have to give people the confidence to think like artists. There’s no manual . . . they need to find their own voice and interests, find out what sustains and feeds them. The payoff comes when you see them making lives for themselves as artists.”
Mark Reid receiving his “Teacher of the Year” Juno Award from Shania Twain in 2013 (Photo: AEG Live)
“Bringing Timothy in is a way of recognizing our commitment to the community, as well his honorary degree,” says Butterfield of the concert, which will also feature faculty pianist Arthur Rowe and trumpeter Merrie Klazek as soloists. “We wanted to make him part of this experience by having him choose the music and work with our students.”
Indeed, Butterfield feels it’s this connection between city, faculty and creative practice that sets the School of Music apart. “We’re never going to be the place for everybody, but the people who do come here soon realize we’re punching way above our weight.”
The UVic Chorus & Orchestra Gala Concert featuring guest conductor Timothy Vernon runs 8-10 p.m. Saturday, December 2, in the University Centre’s Farquhar Auditorium. Tickets are $10-$25 and are available at the UVic Ticket Centre, online or by phone at 250-721-8480. Can’t make the show? You can always tune in on the School of Music’s Listen! Live page.
Sometimes the most inspiring work occurs while students are still enrolled in university. Consider MFA Connect, an inter-institutional visual arts exhibit that literally connects UVic Visual Arts MFA candidates with fellow graduate students at UBC Okanagan.
Works by Conner Charlesworth & Crystal Przybille
Organized by second-year UVic MFA candidate Marina DiMaio, MFA Connect runs November 6-10 in UVic’s Audain Gallery in the Visual Arts building; the first part of the exhibit ran October 10-20 in the FINA Gallery at UBC Okanagan’s campus in Kelowna.
“MFA Connect is like a conference for visual arts,” says DiMaio. “Other departments make these kind of ‘connections’ all the time, but when we get together we share a visual language. This is about challenging each other’s research, getting our research out into the world, creating our own opportunities, establishing communities, and continuing the larger conversation of the place of the visual arts in an academic institution.”
As emerging artists and creative researchers, it’s essential for MFA candidates to connect with both local and international art centers, and to encounter and share visual methodologies. With that in mind, MFA Connect aims to deepen and challenge graduate student practices, as well as equip the larger academic communities with new records of interdisciplinary understanding.
David Michael Peters helps install the exhibit at UVic
“The academic community we are temporarily placed in while being in an MFA is perhaps the most valuable part of being here,” she says. “We have an immediate network of support, of individuals striving towards similar goals with a common passion for creative research.”
The first in what’s hoped to be a series of MFA art exchanges, MFA Connect will showcase the work of six UVic MFAs — Conner Charlesworth, Leah McInnis, David Michael Peters, Evelyn Sorochan-Ruland, Xristia Trutiak, and Di Maio herself — and five UBCO MFAs: Steven Thomas Davies, Jessica Dennis, Joe Fowler, Crystal Przybille and Meg Yamamoto.
“Conceptually, we are all working in very different ways,” DiMaio explains. “You will find some similarities in the general tendencies of each program toward materiality, craft, and the handmade — the show is filled with objects pointing toward a physical human experience — but this show ultimately finds its affinities in the ongoing conversation of visual art as a form of research.”
Pieces on display will tackle concepts ranging from discussions of labour and conversations with the history of art to investigations into process and material politics, explorations of internal and external gender identity, studies of soundscapes and perceptual experience, the mapping of place and possessions, and an examination of Indigenous rights and truths.
“We’re only in our MFAs for two years,” DiMaio concludes. “That goes by fast and we need to make the most of our time here and take advantage of all the opportunities that are available to us.”
MFA Connect runs 10am-4pm Monday-Friday, November 6-10 in the Visual Arts Building’s Audain Gallery, with a closing reception beginning at 4:30pm on Thursday, November 9