A Director of note – Paul Dornian

Twenty years ago, Paul Dornian was named director of the Mount Royal Conservatory. In this article, faculty members and staff reflect on the leader they have known and his achievements over the past two decades.

“Paul is immensely supportive of our activities, and he has a great understanding and empathy for the needs and idiosyncrasies of our area. I am particularly thankful for the independence his leadership style allows me, and equally grateful for his words of wisdom when I ask for guidance.” Neil Cockburn, Director of Organ Studies

Faculty and staff reflect on their director

Faculty members, coordinators and administrators were asked for comments about Paul’s leadership style, his work at the Conservatory, and his successes and challenges to date. With remarkable consistency regarding his role as leader, the following notes came through:

  1. Independence: Paul allows his colleagues to do their work, trusting that positive results will ensue. Employees feel like “collaborators” and take pride in the involvement they have in each project.
  2. Paul Dornian lgeDedication to the Conservatory: Not only has Paul has worked longer than anyone at his position, many talked about his deep care and passion for the Conservatory and all of its programs.“We both derive a great deal of satisfaction and likely find our motivation every day in knowing that the Mount Royal Conservatory is able to deliver one of the highest quality instructional and performance environments for a variety of levels of students (and other clients) compared to almost anywhere.”Ab O’Neil, Manager of Conservatory Support

  3. Visionary leadership:
    “Paul has been responsible for implementing and seeing through many pioneering ideas that have taken the Conservatory to where it is today.”Kathy Dornian, piano instructor, accompanist and Academy recital coordinatorThese projects include the expansion of the Academy for Gifted Youth, the Feast of Sound & Song, the Morningside Music Bridge summer exchange, and, of course, the Bella Concert Hall and new Conservatory building, a project already 12 years in the making.
  4. Community involvement: Paul is a true ambassador for the Conservatory. Whether interacting with Mount Royal University senior leadership, major international private and corporate donors, local arts organizations, students, parents or others, he is generous with his time and resources. Paul seeks to strengthen the Conservatory name wherever he goes.
  5. Honesty and integrity: Many of his colleagues commented on Paul’s ethical nature and fairness when addressing workplace challenges. The trust established between colleagues shows in the lengthy years of service both faculty and staff have committed to the Conservatory under his direction.

Remember the time when…

“Paul became interested in learning through the arts educational philosophies. He invited me to become involved in researching and, eventually, helping to implement a Calgary initiative. Groundbreaking work was being done in Chicago and San Francisco. We went to Chicago together in the mid-90s to work with an organization called Chicago Arts Partners in Education (CAPE). We talked to experts—organizers and educators—and visited CAPE schools. (And even survived a taxi crash on Michigan Avenue.) We reported back to our colleagues in Calgary and within a relatively short time the Calgary Arts Partners in Education Society (CAPES) was formed.”  — Sheldon Nadler, Manager of Orchestras and General Programs

Humorous anecdotes surfaced as well:

“On one of his earlier trips to China for auditions, Paul was wondering the entire morning why he was receiving many unusual looks and stared—maybe as a Caucasian in China? He couldn’t figure it out until during lunch break he happened to glance down and noticed he was wearing a different shoe on each foot! ‘At least the colour matched, he quipped.’”
Maimie DeSilva, Morningside Music Bridge Coordinator

Or, as cello instructor and Morningside Music Bridge co-artistic coordinator and long-time friend John Kadz chuckled and puts it: “Anecdotes? There are millions of them.”

A leader in the making

After completing two degrees in Clarinet Performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music, Paul returned to Calgary and began working with Frank Simpson, organizing Calgary Youth Orchestra tours. Paul went on to teach clarinet at the Mount Royal Conservatory and eventually became manager of general programs under Norman Burgess. When Burgess left to run the Royal Conservatory in Toronto, the position of director went to Paul.

After several successful years at the helm of Western Canada’s largest arts musical education institution, Paul returned to university to complete his Master of Business Administration degree. Sheldon Nadler says that, since completing his MBA, Paul’s skills and results in fundraising have come to the fore, affording the Conservatory continued financial stability at a time when many arts organizations have struggled.

Behind the scenes

What many may not realize are the delicate relationships that Paul is especially adept at maintaining within the institution and the broader arts community. Paul is a well-respected arts leader and has served on the boards of many local institutions, including the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and Calgary Arts Development Authority and within Mount Royal University. These distinctions do not come easily and show that we have not only a capable leader, but an inspiring one, at the helm of our organization.

To Paul, from all of us — to the next 20!

— Stephania Romaniuk, Feb. 2013

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *