The Horn Capital of Canada


Hornfest returns


For the 8th time, Hornfest returns to MRU Conservatory.

Laurie Matiation, instructor with MRU and Horn player with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, is ready. She announces, “Our guest artist is Dr. Ashley Cumming who’s originally from this area (Alberta). She studied with Jeff Nelson.”

Nelsen, who’s also hails from Alberta, is the horn player in the Canadian Brass.

At the risk of seeming like we’re blowing our own horn, it seems like Alberta’s got talent when it comes to this instrument.

Cumming, who studied at Indiana State and now works at Murray State University, contacted Matiation to see if there was an opportunity to work with the students of the MRU Conservatory Academy for Gifted Youth. Matiation saw an opportunity, “I had hired her for the Academy Program, and it was right around Hornfest, so we put it together.”

Hornfest, which runs the weekend of March 4-5, 2017, is a celebration of horn playing with a particular emphasis on playing together.

“We’re going to be working on a lot of ensemble stuff,” Matiation explains, “Every person who comes is going to be put in a small ensemble… a duo, trio, quartet or sextet.”

Clinicians and coaches are established horn players like Matiation, Heather Wootton, Douglas Umana and Jennifer Frank-Umana all of whom occupy seats in the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.

For those contemplating joining, you’re more than welcome.

“It’s open to anyone from beginners to adult horn players in the community.” Matiation explains, “It’ll be a nice community weekend of horn playing.”

Along with repertoire that includes some movie music, “like some John Williams or (the theme to) Rocky,” Matiation alludes to a special commission that a lucky octet could play, “We have a new piece we might feature this year. It was used at Joan Watson’s memorial service.” Watson was the Principal horn player of the Canadian Opera Company who passed a couple years ago.

Matiation is hoping this new work will pay tribute to an inspiring player and teacher who had worked as a clinician at MRU Conservatory.

Hornfest continues to enrich the education of local brass players by bringing them together with great instructors and guest artists. Matiation notes the support of the Margaret Stephens Memorial Fund, a fund established after a passionate adult horn player who played in the Westwinds Society Band in Calgary, which allows Hornfest to invite guest artists to come to MRU.

As highlights go, whether it’s the master classes, guest artists or mass horn choir finale, Matiation says, “It’s hard to pinpoint one particular thing.” But she knows her favourite part of the gig, “It’s watching the students have that ‘lightbulb’ experience. You know, I can do this! I’m a part of that sound.”

It’s this excitement and inspiration that ensures Hornfest will continue to produce and support the upper brass of Canadian horn playing for decades to come.

– JLove

Healing Dance

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“I was taught that the hoop dance originated with the Navajo people. It was a healing dance, part of a ceremony that is still around today,” says Jessica McMann, Indigenous Dance instructor at MRU Conservatory. “Later on, and more recently as well, there are hoop dance origins in Anishnaabe (the story of Pukwis) and Lakota traditions as well. The same significance of healing, storytelling and thankfulness are part of these stories as well.”

“This course is open to everyone who would like to learn more about Powwow Dance and Hoop Dance,” she says.

The course is truly for everyone.

“In the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation, non-indigenous people are welcome to attend,” says McMann, “Indigenous participants are also welcome to attend, and to reconnect with their culture in a new way.”

McMann started hoop dancing fifteen years ago. She credits her pursuit to great instruction,“I had a really awesome teacher that pushed me to work really hard, and it was an additional creative outlet to music (she also earned a music degree from UCalgary).” Undoubtedly, her instruction mirrors that inspiration in her students.

The perks of being trained in both forms of performance are many, “I am so lucky that this dance has allowed me to travel around the world, and perform in many different contexts,” she circles back, “The healing and storytelling aspects are what I hope to bring to people when I teach and perform.”

The course is built around 5 hoops, each week, each participant learns physical skills, different formations, and also learn local indigenous history as well as from my own people.” In addition, for those looking to bolster their physical fitness regime, it’s apparently quite the workout.

Musically, McMann chooses the playlist, “I use indigenous music only, for the fitness and dance aspects, as well as powwow music. Participants will also be experiencing the talented and diverse music that Indigenous people are creating today.”

In offering this course, McMann hopes to build awareness between cultures and bring people of all backgrounds together.

“Hoop dance is unique in the way that it honours the circle of life, and can hold many teachings from different Indigenous peoples. Healing the relationship between Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous people is very important.”

This is one initiative that is well-aligned with MRU’s campus-wide Indiginization process.

“With a strong history of upholding Classical arts, offering Indigenous music and dance only makes the capability of the Conservatory’s legacy to be stronger.” McMann exclaims. “There is room for growth, and the contributions of Indigenous fine arts are invaluable to this process.”

This is just one of many new initiatives that the MRU Conservatory is offering to broaden the training offered to a more multi-cultural Canadian community. Dr. Brad Mahon, the new Director of the Conservatory agrees, “The desire is to foster courses like Indigenous Dance, Taiko Drumming and Chinese Classical Music. Our program offerings should be a reflection of the cultural and artistic diversity in our community.”

With an expanding list of diverse artistic pursuits, the Conservatory promises to be as invaluable an arts education centre in it’s second century of operation.

McMann is a proud addition,“I am very happy to see the Conservatory being the first institution in Calgary to follow this important and significant national movement.”


– by JLove



When Calgary Meets Carnegie



Carnegie Hall is booking quite a few Calgarians these days.

The Music To Your Ears concert season at MRU Conservatory seems to have a few of the same accomplished names listed on the roster. Soundscape Series pianist Jan Lisiecki debuted there in 2016. Now, pianist Colleen Athparia will be playing the famed stage on January 26th, 2017 with her chamber group, Ensemble Resonance.

What’s harmonious about this duet is that Colleen was Jan’s very first piano teacher.

“I remember him playing a Minuet in 4/4 time when he was 5 (years old),” Athparia recalls. A consummate teacher, she adds, “Fortunately, his rhythm has improved since then.”

At 21, Jan is still considered young to have a Juno Award for anything, let alone Classical Album of the Year (2013), which he received in his late teens. He has been a recording artist with Deutsche Grammophon since 2010 with works including Mozart and Chopin. Most recently, he released a compilation of works by Schumann.

The New York Times described Lisiecki as, “A pianist who makes every note count.” He certainly seems to be doing so with a hometown concert at the Bella Concert Hall on January 20th, 2017.

Athparia, who has been teaching piano at MRU Conservatory since 1981, can clearly site the moment she knew that Jan had what it takes to make it in the industry. “I remember him playing a Grade 7 Study when he was about 7 or 8,” she says, “and I’d never heard a study played so musically and effortlessly.”

On the challenging side, “When he was very young, he was often distracted by the squirrels running by the studio window than on his lesson,” she laughs.

A confident soul, Lisiecki was always an innovator. Athparia notes, “Jan was very original when it came to fingering, and he often had strong ideas about his unique fingering, so we had to work things out mutually.”

Whatever the compromise was, it seems to have worked, for Jan Lisiecki has left YYC and seldom looks back.

As for Athparia, she has teamed up with Stan Climie (Bass Clarinet), Steve Lubiarz (Violin) and Michelle Todd (Soprano) to form Ensemble Resonance who, before taking their program to Carnegie Hall, will play as a part of the Salon Series in the TransAlta Pavilion this Saturday, January 14th, 2017. The program is in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday and features works from some of Canada’s leading composers including Harry Somers, Robert Rosen and Juno Award-winner Allan Bell.

But before she gets on the plane to New York, Athparia is planning on being in the audience for Jan’s homecoming performance at the Bella Concert Hall, “I’d love to hear how he’s matured.” Though in her opinion, “He’s always had a natural affinity with Chopin and Mozart,” she says, “I hope he’ll play a surprise- something no-one has heard him play before.”

Time will tell.

If Liseicki is looking for some last minute advice from his very first piano teacher, she says, “I’d tell him the same as if he stepped onto any stage in the world…just enjoy the music.”

– JLove


Young Lisiecki with Athparia
Ensemble Resonance

Best Kept Pop Star


“Even when I was living in London in the back of my mind I knew I wanted to be in Calgary in the long run,” says performing artist Raghav Mathur, known commercially as Raghav, one of the acclaimed international artists playing the Bella Concert Hall this fall.

Currently recording in Toronto, then touring overseas for the remainder of the summer, his biography is as impressive as his itinerary, “I’ve been very lucky that my career has seen hits in many different markets.”

As a pop star who is as comfortable performing in Hindi as he is in English, he’s accustomed to thinking globally. “My hits in the UK never really saw their way to Canada and my hits in Canada are relatively unknown in the UK and India where I’ve sold the most records.”

His departure from Canada gave him his global launch pad.  With his debut album Storyteller (2004), his UK hits “So Confused” and “Angel Eyes” literally put him on the musical map. While rarely able to move about the UK without a paparazzi trail, back in his home and native land, Canadians didn’t catch the Raghav fever until 2011. Hearing just one chorus of the hooky single “Fire”, which charted on Canadian Billboard Hot 100, it’s clear why it won “Best Song” for the Canadian Radio Music Awards 2012 and became his most successful North American single to date.

Collaboration is a big part of his creative process and the growing list of artists and producers he has worked with is a testament to his global vision. Oscar-winning composer A R Rahman, who’s most recognizable for the score to Slumdog Millionaire (which won Best Picture in 2008), produced the song “Ishq Shava” from the 2012 Indian film Jab Tak Hai Jaan. Reggae legends Sly & Robbie produced half his debut album while artists like Redman, Kardinal Offishall and Nelly are just a few of the notable talents you’ll hear on Raghav’s three commercial releases Storyteller (2004), Identity (2009) and The Phoenix (2012).

Finding his sound has been a global journey. “Leaving to study in Liverpool was a huge moment for me.” Having a musical dual-citizenship was seemingly advantageous. With his Indian heritage and western upbringing he experimented with crossing borders. “In England, I realized how intertwined both British culture and Indian culture were,” he recalls, “I knew that musically that was my home because I was a hybrid of both Western and Eastern musical references.”

2015’s release “Until the Sun Comes Up” is a perfect example of that blend. Working with Indian screen star Abhishek Bachchan and American rapper Nelly, Raghav released the song with a video showcasing the trio’s work with Solar Aid to bring solar lights to developing communities in Tanzania. This project perhaps best represents the combination of his unique sound with a clear sense of purpose and heart, which is part of the reason this homecoming show is taking place. “I feel a deep responsibility to make the arts and music scene here more vibrant.” He adds, “I hope I can take my experiences and bring them back home to help create a long-term impact so that, unlike myself, kids don’t feel like they have to leave to make it.”

As for what to expect onstage, it’s going to be a unique homecoming. ”I’ve never had the opportunity to do a full live show that shows the true diversity of my career. To showcase both the pop aspects people in Canada may be aware of, but also the world and Bollywood sessions.”

In a live performance, as with a global trip, there’s a phrase musicians use to encapsulate the journey, “Bring it home.” That’s the plan for Raghav. He admits that a homecoming show at the Bella Concert Hall is, indeed, a happy landing.

To some fans, this will be a reflective engagement, but to others, this event will be an introduction to Raghav’s world. “It’s a chance to see all of me as an artist and songwriter, in both Hindi and English, to experience the journey of the last decade.”

Raghav will be playing the Bella Concert Hall on Wednesday, January 18, 2017 as a part of MRU Conservatory’s Music To Your Ears Concert Season.

Tix & Info:    Phone: 403-440-7770    Email:

Watch & Listen:

the Sun Comes Up


  • by JLove