Painting Postcards

CONS_blog_insiders_button_250x125-rev2Akiko Tominaga is an artistic tour guide.  The worldly pianist, featured in the Spotlight Series from 2-3pm on Sunday, April 24th in the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts’ TransAlta Pavilion, called the program “Postcards from Afar” to take the audience on a musical journey. The best part is, they don’t even have to leave their seats.

Tominaga herself has experienced many cultures and their sounds.  Born in Japan, she grew up moving to the varied musical landscapes of Singapore and the United States, she’s traveled to Europe and Asia and makes her home here in Canada.  Along the way, she’s picked up sonic souvenirs that she’ll present to her audience. “Postcards from Afar” is based on pieces inspired from these different cultures,” she notes, citing specific references to Asian, Spanish and French influences. “Through the music, people can experience different cultures.”

Akiko Tominaga

Much like travel, the program selections are a feast for all senses. “You can blend and paint with sound,” she states. Highlighting works by French master Debussy, Spanish rhythmist Albeniz and Japanese minimalist Takemitsu, she couldn’t select a wider variety of cultural palates to paint with. “Music goes into the visual arts (in one’s mind)” she nods. “We experience it through audio, but we can feel the temperature, texture and tonality.”

Each culture has evolved in its own musical influences. The listening ear can place the hint of an Asian-influenced scale compared to a more western aesthetic.   Tominaga suggests that accessing it starts on the page. “It all comes from the score.” She attests, noting composers’ own interpretive descriptions like ‘celestial light’ and ‘joyously’ on the printed page.  “I analyze and study the score, then reflect on what the composer wrote.  I see the images.  I hear it. I see shimmering gold. By envisioning it, I can play it.”

This particular program has, itself, traveled.  Tominaga played it in recital as a part of Roland Graham’s Master Piano Recital Series in Ottawa last month. As it travels, it evolves. “It’s never the same,” she expresses, “The whole dynamic performance experience is exciting.  It can only be created in that moment. That unique experience is what attracts me to live music.”

Take the trip with Akiko Tominaga.  All travel yields memorable experiences.  But, unlike most jaunts abroad, this Spotlight Series show is by donation only and includes one thing you won’t find at any airport… free parking.

Please RSVP if you’re attending the concert on Sunday, April 24.

-by JLove

The Stage is Set for Bella Concert Hall Opening Festival

Take your seat in history

The building of the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts is now complete and the doors are open. All that is missing is you!

Join the Mount Royal Conservatory for the Opening Festival for the stunning new Bella Concert Hall from September 19 to October 3. Four gala concerts will launch the Bella as Calgary’s newest performing space, which will truly come alive when audiences are there to appreciate the incredible acoustics.

The Opening Festival performances are:

  • Sept 19; 8 pm – Bella Voce Opera Gala featuring the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus with Sally Dibblee, Andrea Hill, Gordon Gietz and Brett Polegato
  • Sept 27; 3 pm – Luminous Night, a 250-voice choral extravaganza with Mount Royal’s Artio and Kantorei choirs as well as Calgary’s best choral ensembles
  • Sept 30; 7:30 pm – Yuja Wang, internationally acclaimed as the most important pianist of her generation and graduate of Mount Royal Conservatory’s Academy for Gifted Youth; playing the exceptional Hamburg Steinway she helped to select especially for the new concert ahll
  • Oct 3; 8 pm – Yuja Wang & Friends, including renowned artists Ning Feng, violin, Teng Li, viola, and Tao Li, cello, in a concert of Brahms chamber music masterworks.

The Opening Festival sponsor is United Active Living. Tickets start at $60 and are available through MRU Tickets. Students, seniors and members of the MRU community are entitled to a discount.

Wednesday, August 26 marked the official VIP opening of MRU’s new Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts, with the dazzling Bella Concert Hall at its heart. Sixteen years in the making, under the leadership of former Conservatory Director Paul Dornian, this new facility is now the home of the Conservatory, which welcomes over 4000 students annually to learn music, speech arts and more.

Paul Dornian is now President and CEO of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, and will be on hand for the opening festivities to see his dreams become reality.

“The Conservatory nurtures and optimizes artistic potential within each student,” says Program Director Elaine Danelesko. “We empower individuals to creatively express themselves through music and speech arts by offering instruction to every person, every age and every level of development. We support students to achieve their dreams, from recreational enrichment to pre-professional training.”

The spaces in the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts — comprising the TransAlta Pavilion, 43 soundproof studio rooms and several meeting/ensemble spaces — are also available for rent to the Calgary community and beyond for events and performances.

The Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts is named for the philanthropic Taylor family, who donated $21 million dollars for the building, The Bella Concert Hall is named in honour of the beloved matriarch of the Taylor family.


World-Class Musicians to Inaugurate New Bella Concert Hall

Director Paul Dornian announces stellar line-ups for Opening Festival and Wyatt Series
Conservatory Director Paul Dornian announces stellar line-ups for Opening Festival and Wyatt Series

Two marquee series, comprising seven events in 2015-16,  will showcase the breathtaking acoustics and intimate ambiance of Calgary’s newest concert venue, the Bella Concert Hall at Mount Royal University.

The announcement was made by Conservatory Director Paul Dornian at a launch party for Conservatory sponsors, supporters and media on May 1.

The Opening Festival for the Bella Concert Hall features four outstanding concerts between September 19 and October 3, 2015.

The 2015-16 Wyatt Concert Series line-up was also revealed. The Wyatt season will feature four concerts by young, edgy superstars. The September 30 concert by superstar pianist Yuja Wang is a crossover event for both series.

Former Academy student Natalie Wiebe
Academy alumna Natalie Wiebe

The launch party featured a presentation by Academy for Gifted Youth alumna Natalie Wiebe, violin. Natalie told of being inspired by the Academy’s abundant performing opportunities and access to international faculty. She welcomes the Bella Concert Hall as an impressive new platform for future musicians, facilitating even greater collaboration possibilities between students and visiting artists.

“Young guest artists help students realize their dreams and build an invaluable rapport with young musicians.” Natalie said.


Karen Drummond of United Active Living
Karen Drummond of United Active Living

Opening Festival sponsor Karen Drummond of United Active Living spoke about the importance of the arts to the health and happiness of the residents of this leading-edge seniors’ facility. The partnership between United Active Living and Mount Royal includes guest lecturers, nursing practicums and music appreciation. The residents will enjoy attending events in the new venue.

“Our residents enjoy regular music programming at Mount Royal,” Karen said.




Passion Palette Trio
Passion Palette Trio

The Passion Palette Trio — Isabella Perron, violin, Mari Coetzee, cello, and Anastasia Kulikova, piano, current students of the Academy for Gifted Youth — gave a stirring performance of Antonin Dvorak’s Piano Trio No. 4 in E minor to crown the event.

Opening Festival

“Bella Voce” Opera Gala – Sat., Sept. 19, 8 p.m. 
With the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Robert Mincuk
Presented with Calgary Opera and Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra
Featuring international stars Sally Dibblee, Andrea Hill and Gordon Gietz

“Luminous Night” Choral Showcase – Sun., Sept. 27, 3 p.m.
A 250+-voice choral extravaganza with massed choirs led by Jean-Louis Bleau

Yuja Wang, piano – Wed., Sept. 30 , 7:30 p.m. 
This stylish and charismatic pianist has been called the most important pianist of her generation. She is an alumna of the Conservatory

Yuja & Friends – Sat., Oct. 3, 8 p.m.
An all-Brahms concert with pianist Yuja Wang and Ning Feng, violin, Teng Li, viola, and Tao Ni, cello

Presenting sponsor: United Active Living Community.

Complete information at

 Wyatt Concert Series

Super Stars – Sat., Jul. 18, 7 p.m.
Noah Bendix-Balgley, one of the world’s great violinists, with guest artists Shanshan Yao, Wei Yu, Teng Li and Franklin Cohen
Co-presented with Morningside Music Bridge

Yuja Wang, – Piano – Wed., Sept. 30, 7:30 p.m.
(also part of the Opening Gala – see description above)

Igudesman & Joo – Sat., Feb. 27, 7:30 p.m. 
Comedy duo from New York make classical music accessible

James Ehnes, Violin – Fri., May 13, 7:30 p.m.
Canadian violinist with a stellar international career

Hal Wyatt with Dean Charles Webber
Hal Wyatt with Dean Charles Webber

The Wyatt Artist in Residence Program and Concert Series honours Hal Wyatt and his late wife, Marnie, who are long-time friends and supporters of the Mount Royal University Conservatory. Dean Webber expressed appreciation for the Wyatts’ long-term support.



Concert tickets for the two series start at $60 and are available through (as of May 12) or 403.440.7770 now.

 by Karen McCarthy
– photos by Mitsue Kudo





Meet Bella

bella concert hall, mount royal university conservatory, mount royal conservatory

Curious about the beauty behind Mount Royal Conservatory’s new concert hall?

The concert hall is named in honour of Mary Belle (Sherwood) Taylor, the matriarch of Calgary’s Taylor family who generously donated to make the project a reality.

Loved ones called her Bella – Italian for beautiful and a commonly used musical term – so it’s a perfect fit.

Want to learn more about Bella?

The Bella Concert Hall at Mount Royal University Conservatory: opening in August!
The Bella Concert Hall at Mount Royal University Conservatory: opening in August!

With a goal of making life better for everyone around her, Bella succeeded at every turn.

Whether it was scratching out a new life on a southern Alberta farm as a young bride, supplementing tough times by supporting her family or rallying for a much-needed community school, Mary Belle orchestrated success.

“She was a great Alberta pioneering woman, in every sense,” said son Don Taylor.

The  Bella Concert Hall — at the heart of the new Conservatory  — is named in honour of the Taylor family matriarch Mary Belle (Sherwood) Taylor (1891-1972), known simply as Bella to loved ones.

Slated to open next fall, the city’s much needed mid-sized professional concert hall would not have been possible without a generous $21-million contribution provided by the Taylor family.It’s the largest private donation in Mount Royal University’s history.

The concert hall will serve music students and audiences, as well as providing a hub for a broad range of performing arts activities for the community.

The story of Bella is the story of true pioneering spirit. In the spring of 1912, the 21-year-old bride boarded a train in Kingston, Ontario, bravely heading west to start a life farming with her husband on the Prairies. After the family lost the farm in Barons, Alberta during The Depression, Bella moved to Calgary where she began ran a boarding house for 12 years to help support her family.

“She was an incredibly great lady and very hard-working,” said Taylor.

Bella was an enthusiastic supporter of education and was instrumental in bringing an elementary to Grade 12 schoolhouse to serve Barons, a rural village located 170 kilometres south of Calgary. The school was featured as a filming location in a scene of the 1978 film Superman.

“It was such a small community, it couldn’t be justified. But she campaigned with the local and provincial governments. And it happened solely because of her efforts.”

Much like Bella’s efforts to further education, the Taylor family’s philanthropy will benefit music lovers and theatre goers for generations to come.

“If my mother was here I’m sure she would be justly proud,” said Taylor.

Learn more about the new Conservatory and Bella Concert Hall here:

Sherri Zickefoose, Jan. 23, 2015

Conservatory construction nearing completion, community open house Jan. 24, 2015


Mount Royal University Conservatory, Bella Concert Hall, Mount Royal Conservatory construction
Construction on Mount Royal’s new Conservatory and Bella Concert Hall is nearing completion. Our Community Open House is Jan. 24, 2015 from 1-4 p.m. Bring the family for a tour of the beautiful new music school and concert hall.

It’s been going up before our eyes for the past three years, and now we’re in the home stretch.

Mount Royal’s new Conservatory and Bella Concert Hall are nearing completion as Calgary’s newest performing arts centre.

On Jan. 24, 2015, everyone is invited to sneak a peek inside the state-of-the-art $90 million construction project. Our Community Open House will give the public, our faculty, and students a first look inside our new home.

Inside, you’ll find a glamorous two-storey lobby, six ensemble rehearsal halls, 43 private teaching studios, masterclass rooms, an early childhood education suite with parents’ lounge and stroller parking, and practice rooms.

“Architectually, it’s a stunning space. It’s a signature piece. When people walk in, their jaws will drop,” says Conservatory Director Paul Dornian.

In September 2015, our grand opening festival will be launching the new Conservatory and Bella with a star-studded array of local and internationally-renowned musicians for a spectacular performing arts celebration.

Until then, consider joining the Conservatory by claiming your seat in history: only 500 seats in the Bella Concert Hall are available for naming by donation. It’s a wonderful way to create a family legacy.

Stay tuned for more details about Community Open House and our September Opening Festival.

We’ve gone from this:

bella concert hall, mount royal university conservatory, mount royal conservatory

To this:


See more photos on our webpage.

Sherri Zickefoose, Nov. 7, 2014