Quartet Fest West returns

The chamber music experience Quartet Fest West returns to the School of Music from June 24-July 5 with a lineup including former members of the Lafayette String Quartet, guest artists the Jasper String Quartet, the Breakwater Quartet plus this year’s student participants.

You can get the full details here but the public events include:

QFW participant concert: 2pm Friday, June 28 at St. Andrew’s (Broughton & Douglas, by donation) 

Jasper String Quartet: 7pm Sunday, June 30 (UVic’s Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, $20/$25)

The Jasper String Quartet are the recipients of Chamber Music America’s prestigious Cleveland Quartet Award and their playing has been described as “sonically delightful and expressively compelling” (The Strad). The ensemble has released eight albums, including Unbound, named by the New York Times as one of the year’s 25 Best Classical Recordings. This year’s QFW program features the Jasper String Quartet performing works by Gabriella Smith, Grażyna Bacewicz and Antonín Dvořák.

Jasper String Quartet

Live Music Bingo FUNdRaiser with the Breakwater Quartet & $1K+ in prizes: 7pm Wed, July 3 (UVic’s David Lam Auditorium, bingo cards 1/$25, 2/$40, 3/$50)

For the Live Music Bingo FUNdRaiser, refreshments will be served starting at 6:30, with the bingo starting at 7pm—with over $1,000 in amazing prizes up for grabs! There will be a brief intermission for more refreshments and then another round of fun begins.

UVic Music alumni The Breakwater Quartet will perform their own arrangements of pop and classical tunes: each ticket holder receives one bingo card, but additional cards are available at the door. Sing along to your favourite songs, hum to the classics, and win awesome prizes like tickets to the Victoria Summer Music Festival, floral arrangements from Twyla’s Flower Farm, gift certificates to the Synergy Health Centre, Crag X Indoor Climbing Centre, Fig Deli and future performances by the Breakwater Quartet — with more prizes coming in daily!

All proceeds from this bingo event go toward scholarships for QFW participants, this year travelling from Vancouver, Seattle, Calgary, the BC interior and even Mexico. Our goal is to raise $3,000 in scholarships, so help us make it possible for all these talented young musicians to study without worrying about finances!

Breakwater Quartet

Participants Final Concert: 7pm Friday, July 5 (UVic’s PTY, by donation)

A unique teaching experience outside of the regular School of Music curriculum, Quartet Fest West has been running since 2012 (but also 1993-1998) and offers student participants an in-depth study of great chamber music literature alongside former members of the world-renowned Lafayette String Quartet.

Participants receive daily coachings and masterclasses, plus one-on-one consultations on their individual chamber music parts in private lessons; they also gain experience performing in-concert, enjoy chamber music parties with faculty and local musicians, gain insights in listening skills, as well as body awareness and movement through Feldenkrais workshops and get to explore Victoria with fun outings!

Congratulation to the 2024 grad class!

Jude Wolff Ackroyd, BFA Honours 2024

Congratulations to our 2024 grad class! Whether you’re graduating from our department of Art History & Visual Studies, Theatre, Visual ArtsWriting or the School of Music, you’re now part of an extended community of nearly 10,000 other Fine Arts grads!

“While many of you started your current academic journey back in 2020—arguably, the most trying of recent times—we’re hoping you’ll look back on your degree as a time of rewarding and inspiring creative and scholarly exploration,” says Dean Allana Lindgren. “While the weeks ahead will be a whirlwind of emotions ranging from excitement and uncertainty to relief and anticipation, never forget that you’re well-prepared for wherever life takes you. Be bold. Be creative. Believe in yourself. Know that you are ready to succeed.”

Watch the livestream of the Fine Arts convocation starting at 10am Friday, June 14.

We would also encourage you to pause and thank the people who have supported and mentored you during your studies— be they family, friends, faculty, staff, donors or anyone who helped along the way. No matter your career path or the distance you travel, let us know about your projects and events, so we can celebrate your accomplishments.

“The world urgently needs fresh ideas and fresh energy: I challenge you to use your critical thinking and creative skills to give back to society and make a difference as you become the voice of a new generation,” says Dean Lindgren. “Always know that we are very proud to call you a UVic Fine Arts grad!”

2024 Victoria Medal winner Stella McCaig 

Special congratulations also go out to Visual Arts student Stella McCaig, who is graduating with a truly remarkable grade-point average of 9.0. Her perfect GPA earns her the 2024 Victoria Medal, presented annually to the Fine Arts student with the highest grades. 

“Stella McCaig is a daring and sensitive artist,” says Visual Arts professor Beth Stuart. “She combines personal narrative and material investigation fearlessly and from a place of raw vulnerability — in a way that generates art that is singular and resonates deeply with those who have the privilege to experience it.”

Stuart well knows of which she speaks: in summer 2023, while completing and installing a mammoth public art commission in Montreal, she brought Stella along to help with the process as a directed study — which involved undertaking many processes and pathways with which she was not familiar.

“Stella took up this task with effervescent good humour, meeting each obstacle and new set of knowledge with tenacity and grace,” says Stuart. “The project unfolded at breakneck speed, and Stella was completely instrumental in its success . . . . There is no standard metric that can express what this person is capable of — she’s a gift to the field, and I count myself blessed to have been able to work with her. Someday I will say, ‘I knew her when’.”

About the artist

“My sculptural work considers the idiosyncratic material language and forms that are developed through diving into the material and process, responding to and solving the challenges that exist due to experimentation and play. The body dispersed; transformation from the organic to the synthetic — and back again; a growing positive embrace of female sexuality, and an ownership of the gaze. These threads of interest become the genesis of intense sculptural works and installations, and become contemplative rather than predictive.

“Through an entirely personal practice of sewing, I create mangled and uninterpretable objects, that which become sanctified, having an unmatched virility in their endlessness. Because I primarily work from banal found objects and materials, the work enshrines the objects asking the viewer to realize the beauty of that which exists in the world; artificial or once alive. In an attempt to realize this idea, I adorn, embellish, and prettify the forms and objects that emerge, in preserving the infatuation I have with the unaesthetic, the disingenuous, and the absurd.

“I present the installations and sculptural works that I create in a moment of transmutation, from what they once were, to how they stand in front of the viewer. Every choice is presently there for the viewer to see. Everything is something, even the tiniest morsel of material becomes a point of love and thoughtful consideration. Each of the works arrive to and for the moment, functioning as tools gently resting between what is real and what is imagined, acknowledging the beauty of artificiality.”

—Stella McCaig

“There’s always more to learn” says graduating professional musician Philip Manning

When it comes to career paths, most music students aspire to professional positions after graduation—playing with an orchestra, say, or becoming a chamber musician or band teacher. Not so with Philip Manning, who took a different approach to his own musical career: about to graduate with a Bachelor of Music, he’s already been performing as a full-time violinist with the Victoria Symphony since 2016.

“It doesn’t matter where you are in your career, there’s always more to learn,” he says. “Coming back to school when you’re a bit older, you take different things away from your classes and your instruction . . . you just need a clear focus on whatever it is you want to do.”

Filling the gaps during COVID

For the 32-year-old Manning, the Victoria Symphony’s COVID-era performance closures offered the ideal chance to enroll in UVic’s School of Music in 2020.

“When COVID started, it provided an opportunity to fill in some gaps in my training,” he explains. “Work got thrown up in the air for a time and we weren’t nearly as busy as usual—even when we started playing virtual concerts again—so I thought, ‘Okay, how can I be productive with this extra time I have? What are my long-term goals? I just wanted to give myself more options.”

Born and raised in Victoria, Manning has music on both sides of his family (his pianist mother was also a music teacher, and his centenarian grandfather was a post-war semi-professional jazz musician) but he’s the first to work full time as a professional musician. As a young violinist, he took lessons at the Victoria Conservatory of Music and was involved with the Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival, but after graduating from Langford’s Lighthouse Christian Academy he enrolled in Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University in 2014, where he earned an artist diploma in violin performance.

“I’m kind of doing life a bit backwards,” he chuckles. “After high school, I was still trying to figure out if I wanted to carry on with music and make it a career, so I did an artist diploma, which is actually more like a graduate-level program.” After two years of intense training, he then auditioned successfully for both the Calgary Philharmonic and the Victoria Symphony, before choosing to return to the Island.

Long ties to the Symphony

No question, the School of Music has long ties to the Victoria Symphony, thanks to a number of instructors and alumni who regularly perform with them, as well as the likes of the Lafayette String Quartet and VS associate conductor Giuseppe Pietraroia, who has been teaching in Music and leading the UVic Symphony Orchestra since 2022. Then there’s Music’s voice program, whose students sing in the chorus of Pacific Opera Victoria, for whom the VS also play.

“I’ve known Ann Elliott-Goldschmid and the other LSQ members very well for a long time, so it just made sense to study here at UVic because we’ve always had a good relationship,” says Manning.

As part of his degree work, Manning undertook a directed study with Elliott-Goldschmid, focused specifically on the audition process. But, with seven Victoria Symphony seasons already under his bow, how important is a course like that? “It’s actually very important,” he stresses. “Any audition for a professional orchestra involves multiple rounds, and preparing for that means a lot more than just practicing.”

Practical career prep

Case in point? Manning just successfully auditioned for the position of assistant concertmaster with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, which has now resulted in the offer of a short trial period with the orchestra—a next-step success story that might not have happened without that directed study.

“My goal was to audition for a title position with another orchestra, which would essentially mean more responsibility—and ideally more pay—and would offer me a new experience. Ann was instrumental in helping me prepare for that audition.”

And while his professional schedule over the past few years meant he didn’t have the time to play with UVic’s own Symphony Orchestra, he does lead sectional rehearsals for them and does a bit of tutoring with the other students.

“It’s not so long ago that I was in the same shoes as they are right now, so I understand how it is for them,” he says. “But I’ve got a different perspective from when I was in my late teens and early twenties, when I didn’t fully understand what was being given to me and was trying to figure out how to implement it. Now, I have a much better focus and have gotten so much more out of my education. This has been a really good experience for me.”

Feeling of solstalgia inspires Ocean Networks Canada residency

How do we feel when the ecosystems we know and love start to vanish? What happens when our memories no longer match our physical surroundings? And what about the ecosystems we don’t see? These are the kind of questions inspiring the work of Megan Harton, the latest Ocean Networks Canada Artist-in-Residence.

A passionate composer, audio engineer and sound artist currently pursuing a Master’s in Music Technology at UVic’s School of Music, Harton is the fifth artist-in-residence in this continuing partnership between ONC and the Faculty of Fine Arts. Their proposed project, solastalgia [soon to be what once was] is envisioned as an immersive intermedia art installation employing nostalgic retro iconography to create a multisensory experience delving into the emotional and psychological effects of environmental change.

“My artistic practice is primarily about using sound technologies in artistic ways,” Harton explains. “I found that Ocean Networks Canada had all these hydrophones in the Pacific Ocean and there are new recordings every hour on the hour, both visual and audio. My main impetus was to see if there was a way to juxtapose the same recordings over a period of time, and the idea just grew from there to incorporate ideas of ecological loss and grief.”

A graduate student partnership between Fine Arts and ONC, previous artists-in-residence include Neil Griffin (Writing, 2023), Colin Malloy (School of Music, 2022), Dennis Gupa (Theatre, 2020) and Colton Hash (Visual Arts, 2018).

Exploring solastalgia

Set for a Sept 1-6 exhibition at the Audain Gallery in our Visual Arts building — including a special presentation featuring both Harton and 2023 ONC AIR Neil Griffin (7pm Friday, Sept 6, in Fine Arts 103) —solastalgia [soon to be what once was] will explore themes of grief and nostalgia, emphasizing the delicate state—and impending loss—of our ecosystems.

As well as creating a crafted sonic composition based on natural sounds, oral histories and contemporary environmental data, Harton is also interested in incorporating visual elements by presenting the materials with iconic vintage and somewhat antiquated apparatuses like a Viewmaster, film photography, a Speak & Spell and VHS tapes to create an engaging narrative highlighting the tension between past and present.

“The installation will foster a deeper connection between individuals and their evolving surroundings, while also raising awareness of environmental issues and bridging the gap between art, science and the community,” Harton explains.

Inspired by the book Mourning Nature: Hope at the Heart of Ecological Loss and Grief—a call to eulogize ecological loss in creative worksand drawing on environmental philosopher Glenn Albrecht’s concept of “solastalgia” (“the distress caused by environmental change”), Harton intends their installation will evoke a sense of connection, reflection and empathy in the audience by blending elements of nostalgia with the stark reality of environmental change.

“That idea really interests me,” they explain. “Yes, it’s a little bit existential and sad, but it hits home in a different way than just statistics or charts and graphs.”

Connecting with the coast

Growing up in Oakville, Ontario (midway between Toronto and Hamilton), Harton has limited experience with the West Coast, or oceans in general. “My grandmother lives in Tsawwassen, but I’d only been out here a couple of times before coming to UVic, and my only other ocean experience was going to the Atlantic Ocean on the East Coast. The largest body of water for me for a long time was Lake Ontario.”

Given their Ontario roots, Harton’s own experience with solstagia is rooted in Toronto’s 21st-century urban sprawl. “When I was a kid, sections of my town were mostly farmland, with fruit stands and horse stables, but are now townhouse subdivisions with schools due to a huge development and urbanization plan,” they recall. “Now this commuter suburb has more than twice the population of Victoria.”

Well-aware of their lack of personal connection with the Pacific Ocean, Harton sees themself as more a third-party information collector who can then respond  artistically. “I’m hoping to connect with  ONC’s scientists and community partners to incorporate Indigenous oral histories of the waters around here and contemporary scientific knowledge. This is some of the data and memories that I would like to draw from.”

Community connections

Indeed, collaboration is a key component to this project. While Harton’s primary graduate research is focused on gender bias in music production, they are eager to work with ONC’s team to ensure the installation is informed by current environmental knowledge.

A project as fascinating as the sounds it will harness, Harton’s immersive intermedia project aspires to be a transformative exploration, marrying art and science to provoke reflection, connection and empathy. solastalgia [soon to be what once was] promises to be a poignant testament to the intricate relationship between humanity and the changing environment, urging us to consider our role in preserving the delicate balance of the ecosystems we inhabit.

Remembering guitarist Alexander Dunn

It is with profound sadness that we share the news that our friend and School of Music colleague, Dr. Alexander Dunn, passed away unexpectedly on the morning of May 8. “This is a loss that will be deeply felt by members of our School and the wider music community,” says School of Music director Alexis Luko. “On behalf of the School of Music, our deepest condolences go out to Alex’s to loved ones, family, friends and colleagues.”

His sudden passing at just 68 was marked in this May 11 Times Colonist article, which quoted his cousin and lifelong guitar partner Robert Ward as saying, “even in high school, [Alex] was singled out as having a really unique talent.” Ward and Dunn performed together in Boston as recently as April 20, with Ward noting he was in fine health, good spirits and played magnificently. “It was a brilliant performance,” Ward told the TC. “We had a great time playing what was a very difficult program.”

An enviable musical legacy

Beyond spending nearly 34 years at UVic building one of the strongest guitar programs in Canada, Alex also served as president and artistic director of the Victoria Guitar Society, the board of examiners for the Royal Conservatory, and worked as an instructor at the Victoria Conservatory of Music, and at the University of California, Irvine.

“This news is a great shock to the classical guitar world and leaves a chasm in the Victoria guitar scene, where Alex was instrumental in bringing us an amazing array of performers over the years,” posted the Victoria Guitar Society. “We will always remember Alex for his passion for music and his talent at passing this knowledge down to new generations. We’ve lost a friend and an artist.”

An internationally renowned guitarist, Alex was the recipient of UVic’s Sessional Lecturer Teaching Excellence Award in Fine Arts (2019/20), and he received the Provost’s Advocacy and Activism Award (2019) for his work in bringing the Orontes Guitar Quartet from Syria to UVic as visiting artists.

International respect

A virtuoso performer, acclaimed teacher, dedicated mentor and enthusiastic supporter of emerging young talent, Alex was a frequent guest performer at international guitar festivals and a popular adjudicator and competition judge across North America. He was also a protégé of internationally acclaimed flamenco guitar master Pepe Romero, with whom he toured.

“His sight reading and analytical skills are phenomenal,” Romero noted on Dunn’s website. “One need only to bring up his name in the guitar world, and you will sense immediately the respect he commands.” As the TC article notes, Dunn hosted several fundraising concerts by Romero in Victoria, and was instrumental in arranging for his former instructor and mentor to receive an honorary doctorate from UVic. Romero regards Dunn as one of the finest teachers he has encountered. “When I think of Alex, I think of a musician’s musician — a man who commands a vast knowledge of the repertoire,” Romero wrote. “He seems to know more about lute and early music than most specialists.”

Alex was also the recipient of an Institute of International Education grant and the prizewinner of the Internationaler Wettbewerb Freiburg. As a performer, he enchanted audiences across North America and worldwide in South America, Europe, Southeast Asia, China, Japan, Mexico, Cuba, South Africa and New Zealand.

With a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and a PhD in musicology from the University of California, San Diego, Alex also spent extensive summer studies at the Aspen Music Festival and the Salzburg Mozarteum.

Dunn with the Orontes Quartet in 2018

Advocacy & Activism

Alex passionately advocated so that people who come from less fortunate backgrounds could excel—a perfect example of this advocacy and activism was his effort in 2018 to bring the Orontes Guitar Quartet to UVic from war-torn Syria.

After the classical guitar ensemble were denied entry to the US in 2017 due to the ongoing Syrian travel ban, Alex spent nearly 18 months working with two US-based organizations — the Artist Protection Fund (APF), an innovative initiative of the Institute of International Education, and the non-profit organization Remember the River — to secure the Orontes a placement at UVic.

As the Canadian arm of Remember the River — a non-profit organization that brings guitars to refugee camps in the Middle East — Alex had already been helping send guitarists into impoverished communities, including on some First Nations. Building on that experience, he helped the Orontes Guitar Quartet escape war-ravaged Syria and to come to UVic to work under his mentorship. He described it at the time as “an exhilarating experience”. 

“Knowing that a group of musicians on the other side of the world — connected by common interests but separated by the chasm of human rights abuses and the outrages of war — was life-changing,” he said. “Suddenly the abstraction of religious and cultural conflict occupied my thoughts in a very real way.”

As a result, the quartet performed across Canada in numerous events supporting refugees and people from war torn countries, bringing a unique narrative of music surviving in times of violence and war. For his efforts, he was named one of just two recipients of UVic’s 2019 Advocacy & Activism Awards (below)

Alexander Dunn with UVic’s Director of Equity & Human Rights Cassbreea Dewis (left)
&  fellow award winner Sage Lacerte, plus then-VP Academic & Provost Valerie Kuehne

Submission call for Student Impact Awards!

Are you a current (or graduating) Fine Arts undergraduate student who’s been involved with a community-engaged creative project in Greater Victoria between Jan 1/23 & May 31/24? If so, you could qualify for $1,000 via our annual Fine Arts Student Community Impact Awards! Since 2021, we have awarded over $8,000 to 8 different students! (Read about our 2023 winners here.)

Arts activities may include (but are not limited to) any exhibit, performance, workshop, publication, curatorial, educational, digital, production and/or administrative role within the regional boundaries of Greater Victoria (Sidney to Sooke). This award is open to any current or graduating undergraduate student in Art History & Visual Studies, Music, Theatre, Visual Arts or Writing.

This year’s Impact Awards will be presented in Fall 2024 to 1 or more undergrads who’ve demonstrated an outstanding effort in community-engaged creative activity that went over & above their academic studies. Good news: if you’ve applied before but didn’t get an award, you can apply again (as long as the project falls into the current timeframe).

A completed submission package—including the submission form and all supporting materials—must be received by 5:00pm Friday, May 31, 2024. Full details & application criteria can be found here: https://finearts.uvic.ca/forms/award/

Questions? Contact fineartsawards@uvic.ca