Conservatory faculty and guest artists offering star power

Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra bassoonist Michael Hope is teaching Conservatory Academy students Monday night.
Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra bassoonist Michael Hope is teaching Conservatory Academy students Monday night.

What makes Mount Royal Conservatory the ultimate choice for music education?

Our stellar faculty and guest artists. No other music school offers students as many master classes and clinics with top-notch performers.

This week is no exception. Tonight’s woodwind/brass technique classes for our Academy are featuring our own faculty and adding Michael Hope to the roster. Hope, assistant principal bassoonist with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, has performed with nearly every Canadian orchestra and appeared with many symphonies in the United States. He’s also a noted vocalist: Hope’s new CD, “Hallelujah,” is nominated for Inspirational Album of The Year for the Gospel Music Association of Canada 2014 Covenant Awards.

Joining Hope for the student classes are our Academy woodwind coordinator Lauren Eselson (flute), clarinetist Jocelyn Colquhoun, who is also our chamber music coach, and French horn instructor Laurie Matiation.

Sherri Zickefoose, Sept. 29, 2014

Conservatory powerhouses performing at CPO’s Polish Week

The Conservatory is feeling full of Polish pride as two of our own are taking to the stage this week.

Polish concert pianist Krzysztof Jablonski is performing with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra Friday and Saturday. And our own Edmond Agopian – music director of our Calgary Youth Orchestra — is conducting the concerts.

The CPO’s Polish Week features Jablonski performing two of Chopin’s piano concertos.

Pairing Jablonski and Agopian is a significant event for both our Conservatory faculty members.

Says Jablonski: “So far it feels so good, natural.  have a feeling that we’ll have no trouble finding common music language, to express through music in ways that will give us both big satisfaction. I very much liked his own interpretation of Chopin’s concertos, where he is finding space to create his own music his own way, enriching it in a sensitive way and still managing to make it work together.”

Violinst and conductor Agopian, who hails from Romania, has been on the Conservatory faculty since 1991. He studied at the Julliard School, University of Toronto and in Switzerland. His violin students are national and international award-winners and perform as soloists with professional orchestras.

We caught up with Edmond Agopian and asked him to share some thoughts about this week’s concerts.

Question: Tell us what it’s like working with Kryzsztof Jablonski.

Edmond Agopian: Working with Krzysztof is a real treat. He is the consummate artist. He has dazzling technique but his virtuosity in the Chopin concertos is unobtrusive; instead, it is poetic and lyrical, which makes the music sound sublime and entrancing. He is a gripping soloist who will enthrall and captivate the audience from the beginning to the end.

Question:  Besides Chopin, what can you tell us about the program you’re conducting?

Edmond Agopian: The program will also include orchestral works by other major Polish composers, composers who are rarely heard in Calgary: Gorecki, Szymanowski and Noskowski. These are exciting works that cover a broad range of styles and expression, and I am really looking forward to introducing these works to the CPO and to the Calgary audiences.

In 2005, Agopian was awarded the Alberta Centennial Medal in recognition of outstanding achievements and service to the people and province of Alberta. The University of Calgary awarded him with the J. P. L. Roberts Distinguished Professorship in Fine Arts.

Sherri Zickefoose, Sept. 24, 2014

Conservatory now offering the best of band camp

The Conservatory's John Roggensack is coordinating our new custom clinics and workshops service.
The Conservatory’s John Roggensack is coordinating our new custom clinics and workshops service.

For Calgary saxophonist and music teacher John Roggensack, band camp holds special memories. It’s where he honed his chops as a teen and even where he met his future bride.

So it’s no surprise that Roggensack has joined Mount Royal Conservatory as our custom clinics and workshops coordinator.

This is exciting new territory for the Conservatory, he says.

“I want this to become the hub for extracurricular music, it needs a home and the Conservatory offers it all in one place,” said Roggensack. “This is a great way to mesh and compliment what already exists here.”

The idea to offer junior and senior high schools custom concert band, jazz and choral workshops at Mount Royal Conservatory means students and teachers get the best of band camp without leaving the city limits.

“Teachers like the out-of-town experience but there are limitations,” said Roggensack. “They can be hard to book and expensive. If you can do it within your budget and with high-quality instructors in a place like this, it will be a completely different experience for them.”

Teachers recognize the benefits of having professional musicians from the Conservatory’s faculty and visiting guest artists. Pair that with the amenities offered by Mount Royal University’s campus – professionally-run theatres, a food court, and recreational facilities including an aquatics centre, gymnasium and climbing wall – planning a customized school band workshop has never been easier.

Roggensack knows the value of music education: as sax player for the Calgary band The Real Deal (with bassist Jeremy Coates, Derek Stoll,  Mike Peters, Allan Beckett, John Lacey, Bryan Vance, and Dana Crawford), he says he is always collaborating and learning.

Sherri Zickefoose, Sept. 23, 2014

Calgary Boys’ Choir sharing stage with Boychoir at CIFF

The Calgary International Film Festival is showing Boychoir, and is inviting the Conservatory's Calgary Boys' Choir to perform. Image: CIFF
The Calgary International Film Festival is showing Boychoir, and is inviting the Conservatory’s Calgary Boys’ Choir to perform. Image: CIFF

The Calgary International Film Festival is adding a real bonus feature: a pop-up performance from the Calgary Boys’ Choir.

Calgary Boys' Choir at Carnaby Street on tour.
Calgary Boys’ Choir at Carnaby Street on tour.

Performing live at the Wednesday, Sept. 24  screening of Boychoir (starring Dustin Hoffman and Kathy Bates) audiences will enjoy a live concert from the Conservatory’s senior Calgary Boys’ Choir at Eau Claire Market and again just before the movie begins.

The added bonus of the live performance is all about bringing extras to the festival audience.

“Watching an incredible film like Boychoir would be a memorable experience on its own, but when it’s paired with the magic of the Calgary Boys’ Choir, performing live, it becomes truly unforgettable,” said Mark Hopkins, CIFF’s experiential programming co-ordinator.

“Involving the Calgary Boys’ Choir was one instance where everything came together wonderfully. With a film called Boychoir, it seemed only natural to get the boys’ choir involved,” he said.

The choir will perform twice before the 6:45 p.m. showing of the film —  first, a pop-up concert in Eau Claire Market, then a brief performance in the theatre before the film starts.

The film will help share what the Conservatory and singers already know: choirs are a rewarding and worthwhile activity for everyone.

“The Calgary Boys’ Choir is excited to be associated with this wonderful new movie about singing boys,” said Calgary Boys’ Choir artistic director Paul Grindlay. “We love to sing and share our music with others, and it’s affirming to see Hollywood choose this story to make a film.”

Boychoir is a story about an orphaned 11-year-old boy sent to the American Boychoir boarding school. Angry and acting out, the boy catches the attention of choirmaster (Dustin Hoffman) who sees the boy’s (Garrett Waering) immense talent and potential and encourages him. The film’s director, Francoise Girard, who also directed The Red Violin, tackles the theme of music as a social force in a new setting.

“Having an amazing actor like Dustin Hoffman involved will undoubtedly enhance the film’s appeal and effect,” said Grindlay. “Of course, I hope that this movie introduces the unique beauty of boys’ voices to many and increases popular awareness and interest in what we do, because we think it’s valuable and important. For those of us involved in choirs and orchestras, music provides the soundtrack to our lives. It’s a rewarding discipline that challenges us constantly, a path we travel with our closest friends which takes us abroad and brings us home again. It is a divine creation which is essentially simple and yet fascinatingly complex. It stirs and inspires, calms and comforts, helps us to define ourselves and allows us to tell our stories.”

Sherri Zickefoose, Sept. 22, 2014

Calgary Boys’ Choir featured in Nuit Blanche Calgary

Berlin-based artist Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay included members of the Calgary Boys' Choir (of which he is a former member) in his Nuit Blanche Calgary sound installation.
Berlin-based artist Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay included members of the Calgary Boys’ Choir (of which he is a former member) in his Nuit Blanche Calgary sound installation.

Members of the Calgary Boys’ Choir are playing a starring role in Nuit Blanche Calgary this Saturday night.

And they have artist Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay to thank for it.

Nemerofsky is a former Calgary Boys’ Choir member (1984-87) and his sound installation, The Lovers, features the recorded voices of three local choir singers.

Nemerofsky says his experience singing with the Calgary Boys Choir stuck with him.

“The choir played a major role in my development as a creative and musical person,” said Nemerofsky.

“My artistic work often involves singing, so when I was invited to produce a new work for Nuit Blanche Calgary I immediately thought about including the Calgary Boys’ Choir in my project.”

Nuit Blanche is the sunset-to-late night contemporary arts festival featuring 10 free performance art events from 7-10 p.m. downtown’s Olympic Plaza and Civic Plaza Parkade Park Saturday, Sept. 20.

Nemerofsky’s The Lovers is a spatialized sound installation broadcast through a series of speakers throughout the park. It involves singers mimicking the sounds of bells, transmitting a message word by word that the audience can slowly decode.

It’s not the first time Nemerofsky has used voices to mimic sounds: he used a Vienna Boys’ Choir singer to stand in for an air raid siren in a past performance here.

Calgary Boys’ Choir director Paul Grindlay says working with Nemerofsky was a great experience.

“Benny had been seeing details about the Calgary Boys’ Choir’s 40th anniversary a couple of seasons ago, and it seems that we were in his mind when he found out about being able to do this project for Nuit Blanche in Calgary,” said Grindlay.

The project provided a unique learning experience for the choristers.

“It was an interesting assignment for the boys,” said Grindlay. “In some ways very simple, yet repetitive and exacting as they had to sing the same syllable many times with the ring and cadence of a bell chime. In a sense they were providing Benny with the audio-building-blocks that he will use to assemble the larger composition. It seems that the drawn out delivery of the text is designed to encourage listeners to slow down, linger and listen, to slip into a different realm of time.”

Sherri Zickefoose, Sept. 25, 2014

High River classical concert boasts Conservatory connections


Here’s an amazing concert you won’t want to miss:  two extraordinary Mount Royal Conservatory students — young pianist Kevin Chen, 9, and violinist Isabella Perron, 14, — are set to dazzle in High River Saturday, Sept. 20.

The Conservatory prodigies are opening the southern Alberta town’s annual High River Gift of Music concert series.

If you haven’t witnessed these gifted performers in concert, this is a great opportunity.

Conservatory alumnus Kevin will be performing the world premiere of his commissioned composition about the devastating 2013 southern Alberta flood, River Rhapsody. The full-scale, nine-minute piano piece reflects the flooding’s turmoil but also the resilience of the High River community.

Kevin, a former Conservatory student of Colleen Athparia, has passed Canada’s ARCT piano teacher diploma exam and is currently studying at the Royal Conservatory of Music. Despite being nine years old, Kevin has composed many pieces (the Abbotsford Youth Orchestra played his Symphony No. 1 last year). He has said he hears music in his head, and enters it directly into his computer.

“Kevin is the most talented all-round musician I’ve ever seen and I’ve taught many so-called prodigies before,” said Athparia. “He comprehends music at such a high level, that I really need only to guide him like a bird taking off in flight.”

Isabella is a gifted and award-winning violinist, singer, and pianist who competes nationally.johanne_concertPic-copy-195x300

Described as a complete musician, Isabella is highly regarded for her stage presence, spark and musical spirit. Isabella comes by these talents naturally: her mother, noted Montreal concert cellist Johanne Perron, teaches master classes and lessons at Mount Royal Conservatory. 

Sherri Zickefoose, Sept. 15, 2014


Tribute concert honours Calgary composer

Composer, teacher and music publisher Roberta Stephen is being honoured by Conservatory musicians and others at a tribute concert organized by the Canadian Music Centre Sept. 21 at Scarboro Church.

The name Roberta Stephen is music to ears of Calgary musicians.

The composer, teacher, publisher, and singer has been the mainstay of Alberta Keys Music Publishing Co. Ltd., publishing dozens of works by her fellow Canadian composers.

Conservatory faculty member Colleen Athparia performs at a concert honouring Roberta Stephen

“Roberta Stephen has done so much to encourage young composers and to promote Canadian music in Calgary,” says Conservatory Academy for Gifted Youth faculty piano instructor Colleen Athparia. “She has made a great contribution to Calgary composers by publishing their works.”

Athparia, who is hailed as one of the top four Canadian pianists of contemporary music today, is one of many performers honouring Stephen in an upcoming concert: A Tribute to Roberta Stephen — A Life in Music — Composer, Teacher, Music Publisher on Sunday, Sept. 21 at 3 p.m. at Calgary’s Scarboro United Church (134 Scarboro Ave. S.W.)

“I’m performing in this concert as a way of thanking her for her inspiration,” said Athparia, who has recorded Danse Sauvage by Calgary composer Allan Bell, which Stephen published.

The piano piece was the required Canadian composition in the inaugural Honens piano competition. 

The concert honouring Stephen and her music is showcasing a wonderful lineup of professional and student performers with ties to Mount Royal Conservatory. The free concert, organized by the Canadian Music Centre, pays tribute to her lifetime musical legacy through her compositions.

Performers honouring the octogenarian include Conservatory faculty, students and alumni, as well as other notable musicians:

  • Michelle Todd, voice
  • Stan Climie, clarinet
  • Colleen Athparia, piano
  • Kevin Chen, piano/composition
  • Lucie Jones and members of the Mount Royal Chamber Flutes
  • Lily String Quartet, featuring Diane Lane, Andrea Case, Elisa Milner and Patricia Higgins
  • Holly Kletke, voice
  • Cantare Children’s Choir

The work of award-winning Calgary composer Allan Bell, published by Stephen’s Alberta Keys Music Publishing Company, will be featured.

Stephen was born April 17, 1931, earned her Master’s degree from the University of North Texas and works as a teacher of singing, vocal pedagogy, composition, and advanced theoretical subjects. The award-winning teacher has been active in the community as a board member for New Works Calgary and the Canadian Music Centre.

For more information, click here.

Sherri Zickefoose, Sept. 8, 2014

Conservatory harpist sharing gift of music

Conservatory harp instructor Gianetta Baril will soon be in Brazil teaching music for children living in the urban slums of Rio.
Conservatory harp instructor Gianetta Baril will soon be in Brazil teaching chidlren living in the urban slums of Rio.
Gianetta Baril has been teaching harp at the Conservatory since 2003.

Mount Royal Conservatory’s Gianetta Baril is off on an amazing year-long adventure: the award-winning harpist — who has taught private harp lessons at Mount Royal since 2003 — is heading to Brazil teaching music to children in Rio’s urban slums.

But first, Gianetta is exploring Fiji and volunteering in Nepal. (See her interview on CTV)

The Juno Award-winning harpist has worked hard fundraising to purchase harps for children through Brazil’s Social Action through Music project. She begins teaching there in January. The SAM project teaches children to play instruments and join an orchestra. Since it began in the 1980s, graduates are now playing as professional musicians in orchestras in Brazil and abroad. The program loans out 220 violins and 24 cellos, but only had one harp. Baril aims to change that.

“I’ll have three months to establish two brand new programs – one in the slums in Rio and the other in six churches in the same city,” says Gianetta.”My intention is to have enough of a foundation in place in both projects that the students will be able to thrive once I leave.”

You can follow Gianetta’s sabbatical adventures on her blog.

Gianetta’s vision and hard work is another fine example of Conservatory faculty who help make us a special place.

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Sherri Zickefoose, Sept. 5, 2014


Exciting times this fall at Mount Royal Conservatory

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September signals back to school at Mount Royal Conservatory for students, music educators, and new events for concert goers. Our Academy for Gifted Youth is gearing up with fresh faces, auditions are underway for our family of youth and adult choirs, and our ensembles, Calgary Youth Orchestra, early childhood programs and speech arts will soon be in full swing.

But fall classes and activities aren’t just for children.

Research shows that group classes and private lessons for adults enrich lives. Life-long learning benefits everyone, whether learning to play an instrument or singing as a hobby, or private speech arts lessons for boosting your career in the boardroom.

Curious? See what the Conservatory is offering and join us.


Calgary Boys’ Choir6978_lg
“Approachable” Fall Family Concert
Oct. 19, 2014
3 p.m. Leacock Theatre
A free early season family concert aimed at recruitment, featuring the Senior Choir and a variety of child-friendly post-concert activities.

Calgary Organ Festival and SymposiumMRU carthy closeup
Oct. 26-Nov. 2
Internationally-acclaimed performers and a Halloween silent film screening  set to live music are in store for audiences of the fifth annual Calgary Organ Festival. This year’s 10-day festival lineup of recitals and concerts includes performances by Luc Beauséjour (Montreal), and David Baskeyfield (UK/USA). The Great Halloween Organ SpookTacular is featuring a screening of the 1925 silent movie Phantom of the Opera with live pipe organ accompaniment at Knox United Church.  Free recitals at MRU include a live carillon concert outdoors. See complete listings at

Wyatt Artist in Residence Concert Series
Assad Brothers Guitar DuoAssad Bros Mount Royal Conservatory
Nov. 9, 2014
7:30 p.m., Leacock Theatre
Brazilian-born brothers Sergio and Odair Assad have set the benchmark for all other guitarists by creating a new standard of guitar innovation, ingenuity and expression. “Call it one of the most engaging musical presentations of the season. Better yet, call it a stunning display of the music of the Western Hemisphere:” The Los Angeles Times

Christmas in Songcons_img_header_cis
Nov. 29, 2014
7 p.m. Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium
A family holiday tradition and a celebration the season with the joyful sounds of Mount Royal Conservatory. Christmas in Song has been a treasured part of Calgary’s holiday festivities for nearly three decades. This, our 26th annual concert, will feature Mount Royal’s Arietta, Arioso, Artio and Kantorei choirs, the outstanding Calgary Youth Orchestra, and a surprise line-up of special guest artists.

“Winter Wonderland” Concert by Calgary Boys’ Choir
Dec. 7, 2014
Leacock Theatre  7 p.m.
This will be a full-length, ticketed concert event featuring both levels of the Calgary Boys’ Choir in music celebrating the glories of winter, wildlife and scenery.

Sherri Zickefoose, Sept. 2, 2014