Graduate research

Student composer Robert Hansler wins national competition

Recent UVic School of Music graduate Robert Hansler has been announced as the co-winner of the Canadian University Music Society’s annual Student Composer Competition for his piece “Broken Branch.”

Hansler, who received his Master’s degree in composition in June, studied with the likes of School of Music professors Christopher Butterfield, Dániel Péter Biró and John Celona, and his works have been performed in Canada, the U.S., and Italy, with upcoming performances in Germany and North America.

“It’s certainly an honour and very encouraging to be awarded this prize,” says Hansler. “I really can’t say enough good things about UVic’s program and the faculty. All three faculty members—Biró, Celona and Butterfield—are absolutely committed to teaching and raising a new generation of thoughtful and creative composers.”

Robert Hansler is far and away one of the best graduate students I have encountered in 35 years of teaching at this institution,” says Celona. “As my composition student, I found him extremely open to ideas regarding content, structure, form, narrative, orchestration, literature and more. He came in with a flute piece he wanted to develop; I helped him expand and create a larger work he pursued with wonderful discipline and ingenuity thus making our weekly lessons rewarding for both teacher and student. ”

Visiting assistant professor Suzanne Snizek performed Hansler’s “Broken Branches” at the recent CUMS conference during Congress 2013. “It’s a challenging piece, but one which is really fun to play once you develop some familiarity with it,” Snizek says of Hansler’s winning composition. “It uses lots of multiphonics—multiple sounds created by using alternative fingerings. The performer reads fingering charts that are placed above the staves, and attempts to produce the pitches intended by the composer. The flute naturally wants to produce one pitch more than another, so the challenge is to balance them and make sure they are all audible.”

Hansler feels UVic’s School of Music and Victoria in general has a disproportionate amount of relevant and exciting new music. “I was thrilled to come here and discover that the scene for new music is much bigger than I had expected for a city this size,” he says, “and I think that the faculty at UVic are a major reason for that.”