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 

Creative Futures: Documenting the Climate Crisis

Creative Futures:
Dean’s Speaker Series

“Documenting the
Climate Crisis”

With Sean Holman, Colin Malloy & Paul Walde

Moderated by Dennine Dudley

12:30pm (PST) Thursday, May 26, 2022

Online webinar 

Free & open to the public via Zoom

Register here

Presented by UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts

The climate crisis is one of the most urgent problems of our time, and the arts can play a vital role in helping people better understand its impact. This moderated panel discussion will explore current work aimed at documenting the impact of the climate crisis, and how Fine Arts artists, scholars and researchers are responding with innovative and compelling ideas. Audience Q&A to follow.

This session features moderator Dennine Dudley (instructor, “Environmental Art”, Art History & Visual Studies), 2022 Ocean Networks Canada artist-in-residence Colin Malloy (PhD candidate, School of Music), Crookes Professor in Environmental & Climate Journalism Sean Holman (Writing), sound & visual artist Paul Walde (professor, Visual Arts). 

“The arts have a central role to play in motivating the average citizen to not only care about the climate crisis but also take action,” says Fine Arts Dean Allana Lindgren. “Sustainability and climate change touch people in an emotional way, so action in this area by us has potential to spur action that, say, scientific reports will not. We have no shortage of faculty members who are doing fascinating work when it comes to sustainability, the environment and the climate crisis.”

About Creative Futures

This continuing Dean’s Speaker Series was established in 2021 by Dean Allana Lindgren to showcase the scholarly and artistic efforts of professors, instructors and graduate students in the Faculty of Fine Arts. Each year we will present two sessions (fall & spring) exploring a central theme showing how Fine Arts has a demonstrative impact on the most pressing social issues of our time. Our Fall 2021 session on Sustainability & the Arts featured Theatre professor Conrad Alexandrowicz (author of Theatre Pedagogy in the Era of Climate Crisis), Writing professor Kathryn Mockler (Watch Your Head: Writers & Artists Respond to the Climate Crisis) and moderator & Writing professor Shane Book. Watch a recording of it here

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

Call for nominations: student community impact award

Are you a current or graduating UVic Fine Arts undergraduate who’s been involved with some community-engaged creative activity in Greater Victoria between Jan 1/21 & May 31/22? If so, you could qualify for $1,000 via our Community Impact Award!

The annual Fine Arts Student Community Impact Award will be awarded in Fall 2022 to undergraduate students who have demonstrated an outstanding effort in a community-engaged creative activity in Greater Victoria. Student recipients are eligible to receive funding of $1,000 or more.

Read about the inaugural 2021 winners here.

2021 winners (from left): Kyla Fradette (Music), Alison Roberts (Theatre) and Dani Neira (AHVS)

Eligibility criteria

Entering, graduating, transferring, or continuing undergraduate students of UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts are eligible for the award at this time. Activity must have occurred between January 1, 2021 and May 31, 2022.

For the purpose of this award, “community-engaged creative activity” may include (but is not limited to) any exhibit, performance, workshop, literary, curatorial, educational, digital, production and/or administrative role within the regional boundaries of Greater Victoria (Sidney to Sooke).

Submission deadline

A completed submission package—including the submission form and all supporting materials—must be received by 5:00pm Tuesday, May 31, 2022.

Submissions and relevant support material must be uploaded here.

Requirements

The following elements will be required in order to submit your award application.

  1. A description of the community-engaged creative activity (maximum 500 words), including a title page with applicants contact information.
  2. A letter from an individual or organization demonstrating how the student was involved in the community-engaged creative activity (maximum 300 words).
  3. Two letters of endorsement of the project (maximum two pages and from different people than #1. The letters must be written by people who are not related to the nominee).
  4. A resume, CV or portfolio encapsulating the student’s work.

Selection criteria

Nominations will be evaluated on the quality of experience, recognition and dedication to creative practice including contributions to, engagement with, and impact on the local arts community.

  • Nominations can be made by any individual or organization in Greater Victoria.
  • Students can nominate themselves for the award.
  • Neither the nominator nor the letters of endorsement can be from a relative of the nominee.
  • Students are only able to receive the award once, but can submit multiple nominations.
  • All nominations will be screened for basic eligibility. If a nomination is incomplete or deemed ineligible, it will not be advanced to the jury.

Selection process

The Fine Arts Student Community Impact Award recipients will be chosen by a jury representing the five disciplines of Fine Arts convened annually by the Dean of the UVic Faculty of Fine Arts, based on the criteria for the award.

The fine print

Approval of the recipient will be made by the Senate Committee on Awards upon the recommendation of the Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts. The Award will be presented annually as part of the annual Greater Victoria Regional Arts Awards (or another suitable event) as determined by the Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts and the Dean’s External Advisory Committee.

Questions?

Contact us at fineartsawards@uvic.ca

School of Music debuts new Ballet BC collaboration

Christopher Butterfield performs “Scenes of Thought” with Sidney Chuckas, Kiana Jung & Emily Chessa (photo: Kristy Farkas)

There’s no question the COVID era has had a devastating impact on the arts industry, but it has also provided time and space for bold new creative collaborations. One such initiative is a new campus/community project involving the School of Music, Ballet BC and Dance Victoria, which sees three teams of choreographers and dancers create a triptych of new works set to brand new music by a trio of faculty composers.

After an initial Zoom meeting in late 2021 that saw Music professors Patrick Boyle, Christopher Butterfield and Anthony Tan connect with Ballet BC’s Justin Rapaport, Livona Ellis and Zenon Zubyk (respectively), the newly formed composer/choreographer teams then set to work, with the composers working in totally different musical styles and the choreographers each assembling their own team of dancers. The resulting pieces—titled 3 x 3 x 3—debuted at an intimate public workshop at the Dance Victoria studios on March 13, moderated by Fine Arts Dean Allana Lindgren.

Justin Rappaport and Patrick Boyle (far right) watch Sophie Robinson, Dex van ter Meij & Kiana Jung in “Letting Go”

The sound of dancers dancing

Tan, who recently won the Canada Council’s 2021 Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music, is creating a roughly 15-minute electronic composition which samples the very sounds of the four dancers themselves as the basis for his piece titled “Multiplicity is a Liberty”.

“I’m interested in the sound of people doing things, if that makes sense: in terms of musical composition, I often work with ancillary sounds that are apart from the primary instrument and are then electronically distorted, so you can’t really tell what it is anymore,” he explains. “In dance, I’m inspired by the sounds of people dancing—their leaps, their breathing, their feet hitting the floor—so I wanted to explore that idea.”

 

Anna Bekirova, Sarah Pippin, Miriam Gittens & Dex van ter Meij in Anthony Tan’s “Multiplicity is a Liberty” (photo: Kristy Farkas)

Creating together

 For Ballet BC’s Ellis, this is the first time she has worked directly with any composer—let alone Butterfield, who will be performing live onstage alongside her three dancers for their 12-minute piece, “Scenes of Thought”.

“It’s interesting because combining two artistic voices can create endless possibilities—or can end in stifling both artists’ expression,” she says. “I feel grateful that Christopher has been so supportive and so open to trying everything. It has allowed me to be more clear about my direction.”

That’s a sentiment echoed by Tan in his work with choreographer Zubyk. “The challenge and joy of interdisciplinary work is very much the process,” he says. “Being a composer is a lot like being a playwright: you’re often locked away on your own until you give your piece to the musicians, and only then do you finally hear it. But this is a collaboration with both a choreographer and dancers, so they’re improvising based on ideas and the piece just organically grows. When a new piece of music is involved, there’s always a certain amount that’s unknown . . . a good deal of delayed gratification is involved.”

Ballet BC artistic director Medhi Walerski (centre) speaks with Allana Lindgren and the composer/choreographer teams

A new approach to collaboration

Ellis—who has previously only choreographed to pre-existing music—is excited by this new approach. “It has been really wonderful to get to know Christopher and his musical history,” she says. “I could listen to him talk for hours; he has such a vast knowledge of music, both in his academic and lived experience . . . . I was interested in seeing how our exchange of ideas would influence my creative vision and what kind of balance we would find. Having the sound develop after the movement has challenged me to understand rhythm, timing and punctuation in a different way, and has pushed me to explore my choreography with a different lens.”

For both Tan and Zubyk, this project offers an opportunity to break down the walls between performers, audience and the artists themselves. “It’s been interesting to do it all remotely—there’s been a lot of back and forth because we haven’t been able to get in the same room very often,” Tan says. “I’m very curious to see how it all comes together.”

Much like a campus/community Venn diagram, finding common ground is very much at the heart of this project, whether between the composers and choreographers or the presenting partners themselves.

“I’m really excited to work with Ballet BC and grateful for this opportunity,” says Tan, who has previously composed for dancers in both Calgary and Montreal. “I’m happy that an academic institution can collaborate with a professional company like this—it’s a good way to bridge the different fields.”

Young Alumni Lunch & Learn Series: Finding Meaningful Work in the Arts

Everyone wants to find a relevant job after graduation, but what are the actual steps you’ll need to take to get there? How do you make connections and learn to network? How important can volunteering be to career development? What career assistance is available to you, both before and after graduation?

Bring your questions when recent Fine Arts alumni offer the inside scoop in these moderated, informal, free lunch & learn sessions on a variety of topics

“Finding Meaningful Work in the Arts” with Caroline Riedel

Find out the steps some recent grads took to get where they are—and how they applied skills they already had—in this new Fine Arts Young Alumni Lunch & Learn webinar series. 

Did you know UVic’s Coop & Career Services offers free career services for students and alumni—regardless of when you graduated? From  brushing up your resume and cover letter to mock interviews and more, the Fine Arts rep can help you find the work you want to be doing. 

An experienced arts professional, Caroline Riedel is passionate about creating job opportunities help students mobilize classroom learning into rewarding professional experiences. with UVic’s she coaches students & alumni on career development, employment prep and work search transitions.

12-1pm Friday, April 8: register here

Are You Media Ready?” with Cormac O’Brien

Regardless of your artistic discipline, you need to be able to tell your story through words and pictures—but are you ready to speak to the media? Is your social content appropriate and relevant to your practice? Do you have current and accurate information online? If you’re putting yourself out there, what’s the media going to find? Join a recent grad for this insider-look at best practices when it comes to working with the media, framing your story, creating a professional social media presence & more.

Currently social media manager with Toronto’s Six Shooter Records, Cormac O’Brien is a multifaceted Department of Writing grad who has held all sorts of jobs across multiple arts industries—including musician, journalist, editor, podcast host/creator, content creator, artist manager and graphic designer!

RESCHEDULED to 12-1pm Wed, April 13: register here

 

Catch up on the other sessions in this series with these recordings of our earlier presentations: 

Distinguished Alumni

Fine Arts was thrilled to see three past graduates named among the 20 recipients of the UVic’s 2022 Distinguished Alumni Awards announced on March 10. 

Presented by UVic and the University of Victoria Alumni Association, the awards recognize graduates who, through their leadership or accomplishments, contribute significantly to communities locally, nationally or globally. New this year, there are three award categories: the Presidents’ Alumni Awards, the Indigenous Community Alumni Awards and the Emerging Alumni Awards—and Fine Arts had winners in each category. Congratulations to all!

Kim Senklip Harvey directing a staged reading of Kamloopa at UVic’s Chief Dan George Theatre in Nov 2021 (photo: Tori Jones)

Kim Senklip Harvey

Syilx and Tsilhqot’in director, writer and actor Kim Senklip Harvey (MFA Writing, ’21) was named one of the winners in the Emerging Alumni Awards category, adding to her 2021 Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama for her groundbreaking play, Kamloopa: An Indigenous Matriarch Story. 

Kim is no stranger to awards, with Kamloopa having won the 2019 Jessie Richardson Award for Significant Artistic Achievement, Best Production and the Sydney J. Risk Prize for Outstanding Original Play. Kim is currently developing three television series, working on her first book of prose and earning her PhD in Law at UVic. She believes that storytelling is the most compelling medium to move us to a place where everyone is provided the opportunity to live peacefully.

Kim feels her work is in deep service to her peoples. “I say my stories are a place of respite for their trying lives and if I make them laugh once or momentarily nourish their spirits I’ve done my job,” she says. “I hope my continued work supports the next generation in the ongoing practice of making a more equitable and peaceful future.”

Read more about Kim Senklip Harvey here.

Marion Newman

Kwagiulth and Stó:lō First Nations mezzo-soprano and CBC Saturday Afternoon at the Opera host Marion Newman (Music, ’93) is the recipient of one of UVic’s new Indigenous Community Alumni Awards. “I hope to bring about better awareness and understanding that will lead to meaningful change in who we see as our leaders and innovators,” she says.

As a singer, Marion is acclaimed for her portrayals of Dr. Wilson in Missing and title roles in Shanawdithit and Carmen, and will make her debut with the Welsh National Opera in June 2022. She is also co-founder of Amplified Opera, a group that centres artists and encourages audiences to embrace diverse and challenging cultural experiences.

She is sought after as a speaker, teacher, dramaturge, director and advisor for institutions and arts organizations across North America.

When asked about her advice to young people entering the world of professional music, who may feel lost or confused about their future, she had this to say: “Never stop learning and don’t be afraid to make mistakes: learn, apologize if needed and move forward. And remain open to other ways of engaging in your area of interest and expertise.”

Read more about Marion Newman here.

 

Karen Clark Cole

Recipient of a prestigious President’s Alumni Awards, Karen Clark Cole (AHVS ’91) is the CEO & co-founder of the award-winning, global experience design firm Blink UX. “Our mission is to enrich people’s lives . . . so the world can have more happy people,” she says from her home in Seattle, where she loves to trail run, garden, backcountry ski, kitesurf and hang out with her amazing daughter.

Karen’s leadership philosophy is grounded in what she calls being a “Possibility Thinker.” Her optimistic, fully present approach to life enables her to turn big visionary ideas into action and plant a seed for what is possible in everyone she meets.

When asked about her time in Fine Arts, Karen recalls, “The campus, the students, and the professors were all top notch. The profs were all so accessible and engaged it created a very personal and intimate learning experience.”

Karen is also executive director for Girls Can Do, a non-profit she founded in 2014. Girls Can Do hosts an event series for girls with the mission to inspire a generation of possibility thinkers and ignite a vision for equal opportunity. In 2016, First Lady Michelle Obama gave a keynote video address, and Karen received a thank you letter from President Barack Obama for her work with girls.

Read more about Karen Clark Cole here.