Director's Out-Takes

A Letter, a Soliloquy, two Duets, and a Sextet

Dr. Richard Kurth

Dr. Richard Kurth

As I reach the end of my ten years as Director of the School of Music on June 30, I have much to remember in gratitude. There are so many people to thank, but I ask to be forgiven for not naming names, because it’s a very long list. In myriad ways, large and small, I am grateful to everyone along the way.

Early in my directorship I had the thrill and good fortune to help steer two major renovation projects: Roy Barnett Recital Hall, a renovation made possible by a single generous and visionary donor; and the historic Old Auditorium, a project supported by numerous generous donors and substantial investment from the Faculty of Arts, the University, and the Province. These revitalized facilities both reopened in the Fall of 2010, and along with the marvelous Chan Centre for the Performing Arts (which celebrated its 20th anniversary in April 2017) these performing venues provide students and faculty in the UBC School of Music — and our audiences — with glorious and distinctive spaces in which to hone and appreciate the art of music. Many people made these projects possible, contributing their financial support, insightful design, and constructive skill. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to contribute my own energies and ideas to the revitalization of these spaces, because these collaborations were wonderfully stimulating and deeply rewarding for me. Students, faculty, and audiences engage in learning and artistic expression in these inspiring spaces every day, and I marvel every time I enter them, appreciating how they express and amplify our sense of community. I’m so grateful I was involved in improving these homes for our shared musical experience.

During these ten years I have been wistful at the retirements or resignations of twelve faculty colleagues, friends I admire and who mentored me with their advice and inspired me through their scholarship or artistic activity. And during these years several professori emeriti have passed away. It is impossible to quantify the enormous contributions all these individuals have made to the School, each one sharing their intellect, artistry, and distinctive character in countless unique ways. We are fortunate indeed that the School has long been a community of such dynamic and distinctive individuals, and that each one has made it a better place through many contributions only they could make. I am always mindful of the history of the School not only as a chronicle of the past, but as a living story that reverberates into the future through our deeds today. Our collective creativity in the present always blossoms as an expression of opportunities opened by the deeds of earlier peers who created this community; and our own actions likewise generate a basis on which our future peers will articulate new insights or create beautiful and inspiring music.

It has been enormously gratifying over these years to guide — along with my colleagues — the recruitment of twelve new faculty members who bring new knowledge, talent, and energy to the School. They will contribute significantly to its future shape and sound. There is enormous vitality and ability in this fresh generation, and they will push and pull the School in various directions, and keep it moving dynamically. Each new faculty member recharges everyone in the entire group incrementally, and our collective energy is continuously evolving. Musical culture has always been in constant flux, and this period is no exception. This historical moment must be embraced as a flux of opportunity. It calls for the versatility and readiness to evolve that all of us — the fresh along with the seasoned — can achieve through our collective polyphony.

In short, I’m immensely grateful for the enormously vital energies of all my colleagues, older and younger, and the countless things I have learned or discovered through each of them.

It has been a daily delight to work with the staff in the School, including wonderful additional new staff members recruited along the way. They are like a family, for me, and also for each other. There is real affection throughout this family, and I know perhaps better than anyone that their contributions to the School are an essential reason for our success. I’m grateful to each of them for their assistance and kindness, and their gentle way with my dogged character.

I’m amazed to realize that I have had the good fortune to work in the service of three Presidents and two Acting Presidents, three Provosts and an Acting Provost, two Deans and two Acting Deans, with more than a dozen Associate and Assistant Deans, and in the collegiality of over three dozen other Heads and Directors in the Faculty of Arts, and two wonderful (and resourceful) Music Librarians. I have gained insights from every one of them. And above all I am grateful to all of them for the many different ways in which they supported the work of the School of Music, and have mentored me in all manner of ways in my efforts as Director of the School.

The most rewarding experiences during my directorship include countless gifts of inspiring generosity from hundreds of individuals, across the community, who in diverse ways have supported the accomplishments of students and their faculty mentors. These wonderful gifts have funded scholarships to support students, masterclasses to inspire them artistically, and competitions and prizes to motivate their best efforts. They have included donations of many fine musical instruments that enable students to achieve refined nuances and instill their pursuit of the highest artistic standards. And visionary donors have created or revitalized our beautiful performance venues, in which we hone our musical energies in rehearsal, and share them with our audiences in performance. For me, every one of these gifts, whether large or small, has been a meaningful expression of a shared belief in our mission and efforts. A ticket to attend one of our performances, or a major gift to transform a performance venue, or every form of support for our students: these gestures all share an understanding of the importance of music, and the spirit to nurture it. I am sincerely grateful to all our supporters for their gifts that celebrate our shared belief that making music helps make a better world. You have inspired and motivated me in lasting ways.

In the end — and in the beginning and the middle — we are here because of the students. We try to challenge them, and to demonstrate for them different examples of life lived in music, so that they can find their own unique way forward. For ten years I’ve had the simple but meaningful honour of reading the names of almost one thousand graduating music students at their graduation ceremonies. On those days, I’m especially aware of the unique aspirations and sincere hopes of every student; of the excitement and love felt by their families and friends; and that we are a community of individual musical voices magically woven together by music. Each name has a unique sound, each person a unique musicality, each family a unique expression of harmony. The music made in the School arises from and resonates with all these energies. And it feeds us with these same energies.

I look forward now to resuming my work as a faculty member in the School, and especially to the joys and rewards of teaching!

As a polyphonic valediction including the voices of UBC Music students, both fresh and seasoned, I invite you to watch the videos below, which preserve moments that are memorable for me, all in Roy Barnett Recital Hall: my last remarks to graduating music students a few weeks ago on May 23, 2018; an engaging conversation with alumnus Sharman King, Bachelor of Music Class of 1970 during that same assembly; a delightful conversation with alumna June Goldsmith, Bachelor of Arts Class of 1955 in May 2017; and insightful short presentations by five wonderful music students, who took the stage to share with their peers moments of deep personal musical inspiration. Let the students have the last word!

With many happy memories and warm wishes,

Richard Kurth
June 30, 2018

Dr. Richard Kurth, Director, UBC School of Music (2007-2018) Remarks to graduating music students. May 23, 2018.
Dr. Richard Kurth, Director, UBC School of Music. Conversation with alumnus Sharman King, B.Mus. 1970. May 23, 2018.
Dr. Richard Kurth, Director, UBC School of Music. Conversation with alumna June Goldsmith, B.A. 1955. May 24, 2017.
Dr. Richard Kurth, Director, UBC School of Music. Presentations by students Jaelem Bhate, Marina Gallagher, Kristen Cooke, Charlotte Beglinger, and Billie Smith. September 16, 2016.