High Notes | Fall 2017 Edition


Welcome to the Fall 2017 edition of High Notes

In this issue, we talk to conductor and composer Hussein Janmohamed about using choral music to reframe the conversation about race in Canada; catch up with Professor Emeritus Robert Silverman as he reflects on a lifetime performing Beethoven’s “Emperor Concerto”; highlight a new scholarship from the Royal Over-Seas League UK; and introduce On That Note the new School of Music podcast that asks, How does music work? 

Also in the issue:

  • Singer/songwriter Nat Jay on music licensing, grant-writing, and getting her first big break in television 

  • Pianist Lucas Wong on Mostly Debussy and finding new ways to inspire audiences and students

  • Fall ConcertsUBC Symphony Orchestra, Bands, Choirs, and Turning Point Ensemble on Livestream

  • Alumni Making WavesAn outstanding new book, a (very) modern adaptation of Handel, orchestra news, and more 

  • Research & Publications: The American Ballad in Popular Music, the female "citoyenne" in 18th century French opera, rhythm and cognition, and more

  • Beyond the Gates"Northern Star" by Dr. Dorothy Chang, an award for Standing Wave, and many faculty performances and juries

  • Catching Up with Our Students: Awards, publications, and a Metropolitan Opera competition

  • "On Texture" a playlist by Colleen O'Connor

  • Thank you! A piano donation from a graduating student and artwork in remembrance of former faculty member Mary Tickner 

As always, we want to hear from you! Send us your comments and story ideas.


Composer and conductor Hussein Janmohamed on choral singing, identity, and fostering cultural understanding

As a composer, conductor, and teacher, Hussein Janmohamed (BMus'96, MMus'98, MMus'14) has built a career using choral music to challenge cultural stereotypes and reframe the conversation about race in Canada.

Growing up as an Ismaili Muslim in rural Alberta taught him that discrimination was an unfortunate fact of life, even in a country celebrated for its multiculturalism. And for Muslims and many other groups, he says, the issue is as pressing now as ever.

“[W]e are in a society in which there are a lot of negative representations of Islam, not only from the media but from small minorities within the faith,” he says.

For Janmohamed, challenging these stereotypes starts with combating self-stigma. After graduating from UBC with the first of two Master’s degrees, he founded the Vancouver Ismaili Youth Choir to help Muslim youth understand their dual and often plural identities.

Read the full story


Photo: Sian Richards

Photo: Sian Richards

“Decades later, you see the whole landscape”: Robert Silverman on performing Beethoven and finding your way as a young musician

On Nov. 10th, renowned pianist and Professor Emeritus Robert Silverman performed Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 73 with the UBC Symphony Orchestra to a packed house at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts.

Silverman, who first studied the Beethoven concerto as a student nearly 50 years ago, brought a lifetime of knowledge and accomplishment — and a continued sense of wonder — to the legendary work. And it showed.

“I can’t tell you how different the piece is [to me] now,” he says. “Some people who’ve been around for a while, every time they get asked to do something, they just take the music off the shelf, blow the dust off, and play it. Telephone in their last performance. I just can’t do that. I never have. This [concert] gave me the opportunity to relook at this great piece.”

For Silverman, the “Emperor” — as the concerto is popularly known — has lost none of its freshness and excitement. If anything, his appreciation of the concerto has deepened over years of studying, teaching, and performing.

Read the full story

Watch Robert Silverman perform "The Emperor" with UBC Symphony Orchestra




Oboist and DMA student Kristen Cooke experiences UK music life thanks to new scholarship

Over the summer, Doctor of Musical Arts student Kristen Cooke received an opportunity of a lifetime. 

As the first winner of the Royal Over-Seas League UK Scholarship for a BC Emerging Musician, the UBC oboist got a taste of professional music life in the UK, working with British and Commonwealth musicians, and performing at London's Church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and British Isles Music Festival.

The Royal Over-Seas League (ROSL) has had a long history of supporting and nurturing talent from Commonwealth countries. Along with existing scholarships for aspiring professional musicians from Australia and New Zealand, ROSL has now offered their first musical scholarship in Canada. Each scholarship package includes an incredible itinerary of performing concerts at iconic venues and attending coaching sessions with prominent musicians in London. To top it off, recipients enjoy an all-expenses-paid trip with time to explore.

“We are thrilled and grateful that the Royal Over-Seas League has generously offered this opportunity to a UBC student,” said Richard Kurth, director of the UBC School of Music. 

Read the full story


Dina MacDougall/UBC School of Music

Dina MacDougall/UBC School of Music

Introducing On That Note, the new School of Music podcast

How does music work? Why do we respond to a particular piece of music in a particular way? What can music tell us about ourselves and the world?

These are some of the big questions that the new School of Music podcast grapples with. Now available on iTunes, On That Note is a monthly deep-dive into the music you love — and music you may have never heard of. Join host Graham MacDonald and musicians and scholars from the UBC School of Music as they investigate everything from Beyoncé to Bach to Balinese Gamelan.

In the debut episode, Graham talks to Prof. David Metzer about his new book, The Ballad in American Popular Music: From Elvis to Beyoncé. They discuss how we define ballads, how they change with the times, and why they continue to grab us. Listen to the interview:

Watch Nat Jay perform "What I'm Made Of."


Singer-songwriter Nat Jay on music licensing, grant-writing, and getting her first big break on TV

While the rise of Spotify and other music streaming services has been a boon for major artists like Taylor Swift or Drake, this new economic model has arguably made it harder for independent and emerging artists to make a living by selling their music. The alternative, says singer-songwriter Nat Jay (Minor’04) is to diversify.

Jay has won national awards for her lyrical pop-folk songs and shared the stage with top Canadian artists like Juno-winner Dan Mangan. But instead of signing with a record label, Jay followed a less traditional path to musical success. She has built a thriving career by licensing the rights to her songs for use in TV and movie productions.

Her songs have been heard on popular shows and movies across North America, including Heartland on the CBC and Awkward on MTV. And while she performs mostly in local festivals— like Vancouver’s Folk Fest and Spirit of the Sea Fest— she has amassed a following that stretches a lot further because of the exposure from these placements.

“My sync placements made me realize it was actually possible to have a career and generate an income in the music industry,” Jay says. 

Read the full story


Lucas Wong - 2.jpg

Pianist Lucas Wong on Mostly Debussy and finding new ways to inspire audiences and students

It is difficult to give Lucas Wong (BMus’04) a specific label or title.

The UBC School of Music alumnus is a concert pianist and recording artist, but his career goals extend far beyond performance. He is also a university professor, a collaborator in a computer software project for piano students, a textbook writer, and the founder of the lecture-recital series, Mostly Debussy.

“I always enjoyed talking about music as much as I enjoy playing music,” Wong says. “As pianists, we have to look for new ways to engage the audience in our programs. One of the ways is by interacting with the audience and introducing pieces to them.”

 Mostly Debussy was featured at the Roy Barnett Recital Hall in September, a concert in which Wong performed Debussy’s Pagodes from Estampes, as well as several selections from his collection of Préludes and Etudes. As part of the concert he also explained how the pieces work and what makes them so compelling.

Read the full story


Fall concerts available on Livestream


The School of Music’s large and small ensembles staged ambitious concerts and events this autumn. You can watch some of them on Livestream:

Estacio, Respighi, BrahmsUBC Symphony Orchestra with Student Concerto Competition winner Benjamin Hopkins.

anyMOMENTnow: UBC Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Concert Winds perform music inspired by Gabrieli, Sweelinck, Bach, Karrick, Nelson and more.

World premiere of Ana Sokolović’s “Evta”: Turning Point Ensemble and Ensemble Contemporain de Montreal (ECM+) perform the composer’s new violin concerto, along with works by Bauck, Torio, and Pieniek. Featuring UBC faculty and alumni.

We Can Mend the Sky: Canadian premiere! UBC Choirs perform Jake Runestad’s powerful musical depiction of an immigrant’s journey, inspired by the poetry of 14-year-old Warda Mohamed. With a 400+ voice finale!

MOMENTmakers: UBC Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Concert Winds perform Boysen, Lauridsen, Camphouse, Chance, George, Hailstork, Blackshaw, and Grainger. 

For upcoming School of Music performances, check out our concert calendar.


New research and publications


Dr. Hedy Law’s essay on the female “citoyenne” in 18th-century French opera — including Sapho (1795) by librettist Constance-Marie de Salm and composer Jean-Paul-Gilles Martini — was published this spring in The Opera Quarterly.

This November, Dr. Ève Poudrier presented a talk entitled “The influence of grouping and tempo on subjective metricization” at the Auditory Perception, Cognition, and Action Meeting (APCAM) in Vancouver, British Columbia. The presentation slides are available here.

Dr. Nathan Hesselink gave three talks in the past year: "The Backbeat as Expressive Device in Popular Music," presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Music Theory in Vancouver; "Korean Drumming and Cosmology: Music Reflecting and Shaping Local Culture," presented at Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Oregon; and "Radiohead’s OK Computer," presented as part of Rain City Chronicles “The Record Club” Series, Macmillan Space Centre, Vancouver. The Korean translation of his first book on Korean folk drumming, P’ungmul: South Korean Drumming and Dance (University of Chicago), was published by the Academy of Korean Studies.

Dr. David Metzer’s new book, The Ballad in American Popular Music: From Elvis to Beyoncé, was published by Cambridge University Press.  It is the first history of the ballad in recent popular music.

Continue reading research and publications news


Wreck Beach - Playlist photo by Colleen OConnor.jpg

On Texture: a playlist by Colleen O'Connor

Our semi-monthly Playlist column features music curated by our faculty, students, and staff around an interesting idea or theme. To celebrate the release of her excellent début, 17 Hoops, we asked singer/songwriter/pianist (and School of Music Communications Assistant) Colleen O'Connor to talk about music and "texture." 

Read the column or load the playlist in Spotify (login required)


Pictured (left to right): Julie Chien, Debi Wong, and Rose-Ellen Nichols

Pictured (left to right): Julie Chien, Debi Wong, and Rose-Ellen Nichols


Alumni Making Waves: An outstanding new book, a (very) modern adaptation of Handel, orchestra news, and more  

This November, Rose-Ellen Nichols (BMus ’05, MMus ’08) performed the role of the Native Mother in Missing, the new Pacific Opera Victoria/City Opera Vancouver co-production that “gives voice to the story of Canada's missing and murdered Indigenous women.” 

This fall, Julia Chien (BMus ’14) won the Principal Percussion position with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra and the Principal Timpani position with the Kamloops Symphony, while Stephanie Bell (BMus ’14) is the new Second Flute with the Victoria Symphony. Catch Julia at Barnett Hall on Feb. 14th, 2018.

Music theorists and editors Laurel Parsons (MA ’91, Ph.D ’03) and Brenda Ravenscroft (Ph.D ’93) won the Society for Music Theory’s 2018 award for the Outstanding Multi-Authored Publication for Analytical Essays on Music by Women Composers: Concert Music, 1960-2000 (Oxford University Press, 2016). It is the first of a four-volume series. 

Debi Wong (BMus ’08) debuted Acis & Galatea: A Gender Liberation Opera, her adaption of the Handel opera, in Vancouver this fall. The production also featured performances by UBC alumni Rachel Fenlon (BMus '10, MMus '12) and Peter Monaghan (BMus '14, MMus '15), with Alan Corbishley (BMus ’98) directing. Debi performs in Barnett Hall on March 7th, 2018 as part of the Wednesday Noon Hour series. 

Continue reading alumni news


Dr. Robert Taylor

Dr. Robert Taylor


Beyond the Gates

"Northern Star,” a new composition by Dr. Dorothy Chang, débuted at the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra in October. Dr. Chang composed the piece as part of a large-scale work for orchestra and dancers, in collaboration with four other composers, Vince Ho, Dinuk Wijeratne, Maxime McKinley, and Derek Charke, along with choreographer Yukichi Hattori. The performance is available online, along with a documentary that includes interviews with the composers.

Standing Wave won the 2017 Western Canadian Music Award for Classical Artist/Ensemble of the Year at BreakOut West for their album New Wave. The ensemble includes UBC Music faculty members Vern Griffiths and Christie Reside, as well as alumni Allen Stiles (BMus ’84, MMus ’86) and A.K. Coope (BMus ’90). The recording includes contributions from composer Michael Oesterle (BMus ’92) and producer Will Howie (BMus ’04).

Dr. Robert Taylor recently completed a one-week residency at the Singapore American School, where he worked with band students in grades 6-12, provided professional development sessions for music faculty, and guest conducted a program of 13 works with five different ensembles. 

Continue reading faculty news


Azura Quartet's Mo Miao, Mia Gazeley, and Haley Heinricks.

Azura Quartet's Mo Miao, Mia Gazeley, and Haley Heinricks.


Catching up with our students

The Azura Quartet, featuring School of Music students and alumni Mia Gazeley (BMus student), Mo Miao (BMus student), Chinley Hinacay (BMus ’17), and Haley Heinricks (BMus’17), won first prize and $1,500 in the Chamber category at the 2017 National Music Festival in Ottawa, Ontario. Alumnus Ryan Hofman (MMus ’17) won second place and $1,000 in the Voice category. Congratulations to all! 

UBC Opera students and alumni made a sweep of the 2017 Metropolitan Opera National Council Western Canada District Auditions, which took place on Nov. 12, 2017 in the Old Auditorium. The winners were BMus student Shane Hanson and alumna Francesca Corrado (BMus ’12, MMus ’14). Honourable mentions went to Marie Civitarese (MMus ’17) and BMus students Yeeun (Yenny) Lee and Ian McCloy. Francesca and Shane move on to the regional auditions in Seattle. Best of luck!

Musicology PhD student Christina Hutten recently began a one-year residency at the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel, Germany, for her dissertation research. She is the recipient of a fellowship from the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (German Academic Exchange Service).

Continue reading student news


Thank you!

Recent graduate Lorna Yeates (BMus’17) has generously donated a new hydraulic piano bench for use in Roy Barnett Recital Hall.

Artist Pnina Granirer has donated a work of mixed media on paper, entitled "Solo (1977)", in memory of piano faculty member Mary Tickner, who dedicated her life to music and her students. It graces the chamber music rehearsal room, located on the 4th floor of the music building. There are two other works created by Ms. Granirer that may be seen in the foyer of the Old Auditorium as well.

Do you have a story? Let us know!

If you're a UBC Music alumnus and you have news to share, please send a note to tyler.stiem@ubc.ca. We're always looking for stories for upcoming editions of High Notes and our other networks.