Like many on staff at MRU Conservatory, Jaijai Li is both a gifted teacher as well as an accomplished performer.
She grew up playing both Chinese and Western classical flute, which has significantly shaped her playing. With the help of Program Administrator Jean-Louis Bleau, she is part of the new Chinese Classical Music program, teaching an instrument called the Dizi, a Chinese flute. Li says, “I’m excited and grateful that the conservatory is promoting Chinese music and it is just the beginning of this exciting program.”
In addition to the Dizi, students of Chinese Classical music can study the Erhu, Guzheng and voice. Jaijai grew up studying with dizi masters Dai Ya and Hou Chang-qing, but “Nowadays,” she notes, “besides classical music, I play lots of contemporary and experimental music which requires exploring new ways and techniques to play the flute.” Some of that innovation takes place with her colleagues in the Timepoint Ensemble, who are appearing at the TransAlta Pavilion in the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts on Saturday, September 24th.
The Timepoint Ensemble is, “a New Music ensemble and we are also new. So we should be a new new music ensemble.” She jests. But the diversity of music they perform is no joke. “A whole lot of different styles: Minimalism, post-genre, fusion, and music for experimental cartoons. You’ll hear different sounds coming from a grand piano, watch a video game, and discover the players interacting with each other and improvising on stage.”
The show is called, Bridging Divides: Cascades, Layers, and Nightmares. Their program is as eclectic as their line-up featuring contemporary works by Marcus Fjellstrom, Ted Hearne, Bethany Younge and Terry Riley.
These are not household names by any stretch, but Li and her Timepoint counterparts are here to push the boundaries. “I think the society doesn’t fully recognize the value of musicians and artists when compared to some other places like Europe.” Having lived in Germany for three years prior to landing in Calgary, and also calling cities like Toronto and Bejing home, she has a worldly view on culture, “Every show is a another story, a unique experience, and a different angle to the society, to the art and music.
In another effort to bring the music to ‘the people,’ Timepoint is rarely confined to a concert hall setting. With venues ranging from coffee shops like Café Koi to the ContainR Art Park by Sunnyside, they’re bound to open some eyes and ears of new new music audiences.
Li likes the challenge of the new frontier and challenges audiences to see this ensemble live, “Timepoint will inevitably do something different from any possible expectations. But that’s part of the game – come to experience something new!”
Experience the Timepoint Ensemble, the first of the MRU Conservatory’s Salon Series at the TransAlta Pavilion at 8pm Saturday, September 24th. You might be the new new audience they’ve been looking for.
– by JLove
At a time when we’re celebrating our country’s athletic achievements on the podium in Rio, there’s some gold medal achievements worthy of celebration here on home turf. Eric Auerbach is the Canadian National Strings Champion.
Auerbach, who is 26 year old violinist, competed in the Calgary Performing Arts Festival at MRU in the spring, then went on to win at the Provincial level in Edmonton and just capped the triple-crown winning at the National level, also in Edmonton, this August.
“I played the Bach Partita no 2 in D minor, and the Sibelius Violin Concerto,” said the MRU Academy student. With a one-hour time limit on his performance, he describes his performace as, “very exhausting, both mentally and physically. My program was timed at a little under an hour, so I couldn’t take many breaks in between movements or pieces.”
As one of Bill van der Sloot’s string students, Auerback senses some thrilling progress in his playing, “The first time I played the program at the Calgary festival I thought my arms were going to fall off by the time I was done. By the time I reached Nationals, I was able to play the program without getting physically tired, which I am very happy about!”
Not just a solo artist, in the national chamber class, he was joined by Jenny Crane (cello) and Minja Mckenna (viola). Having been on a two-month hiatus before the competition meant that the trio had to make up for lost time. “We were only able to meet a week before Nationals. During that week we met every day, sometimes twice a day, to get our pieces back into shape.”
The hard work paid off as the trio, coached by John Thomson who was in the audience in Edmonton for support, was also awarded with first prize in the chamber music division.
As a gracious victor, Auerbach sites the work of van der Sloot and Thomson, along with previous instructors Ian Swensen and Kevork Mardirossian as the reasons he made the podium, “I would not be where I am without any of these teachers.”
Winning nationals earns the violinist a scholarship which Auerbach plans to use towards his studies. “ I am supporting myself to study here, and the winnings I have received will allow me to continue to do this.”
When asked what the key to his gold-medal success has been, he answers, “I would say having the curiosity to be constantly searching for what you want. I get pretty fascinated and obsessive over the music I am playing, and nurturing this trait lets me take the time and space I need to grow.”
– by JLove
Sophie Serafino is a proud Academy graduate whose continued success onstage mirrors the education she received from instructors like Bill van der Sloot at MRU Conservatory. These formative musical memories are powerful motivators to propel careers, strive for excellence and, in many cases, to give back.
With the help of the Rotary Club of Calgary Downtown, she is creating a partnership to pay it forward. This last month, the TransAlta Pavilion at the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts in MRU Conservatory was filled with world-class talent and world-class Rotarians. Serafino sings their prasies, “The Rotary Club of Calgary downtown, is a huge provider of scholarships. They strongly support education right from basic literacy to adult education.”
This particular event, however, has a philanthropic twist. The funds, to the tune of $7000 in its inaugural presentation, are to go towards the students’ tuition costs at the renowned post-secondary music institutions they’re destined to study at.
“On a practical level,” Serafino explains, “giving a student the freedom from financial concerns to concentrate on the study of their instrument can make all the difference in a busy year of study.” The levels of need are varying, but the cost of Julliard is ever increasing. Serafino recognizes that, “If a very promising student cannot access the tuition they require, it might prevent that player from continuing their study at all.”
And she would know. Since her time in the Academy, she has successfully transitioned her violin studies into a thriving career. She has recorded several critically acclaimed albums and appeared with artists including Josh Groban, Amy Sky, Pavlo and one of MRU Conservatory’s Music To Your Ears 2016-17 Season stars, Chantal Kreviazuk. The passion with which she plays onstage is echoed in the passion she has to give another generation of performers a leg-up. “Supporting music education, and those talented students who may go on to professional careers with assistance is extremely important, not only for those students, but for our city, for the future art and culture in our city.”
The doors opened into the enchanting TransAlta Pavilion and each eligible student played to a rapt Rotarian audience and to a panel of esteemed adjudicators from the Calgary community. Joining Bill van der Sloot on the panel were Paul Dornian, President of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, John Kadz, Artistic Advisor and Coordinator for the Academy Program and Rolf Bertsch, conductor of the Calgary Civic Symphony.
With the array of talent taking the stage, their work was definitely cut out for them.
In Serafino’s words, “The standard of performance was absolutely fabulous. Very competitive, and impressive.” In the end, the adjudicators agreed that the inaugural scholarship funds were to be given to pianist Kevin Chen (12 and under), violinist Isabella Perron (13-16 years) and violinist Angela Ryu (17 and over).
MRU Conservatory is grateful to forge this insightful partnership and Serafino and her fellow Rotarians couldn’t be happier. “I am grateful that it came together, and that the funds went towards tuition of an amazing group of students. I would love to add a few 0s to the scholarship amount! I will work towards this scholarship increasing in the amount to a point where we could potentially send students to study at world-renowned institutions around the globe, and I want to help make that happen.
- by JLove
The excitement is electric.
The sound-check’s done and… we’re about to take centre stage.
In 2015, we completed construction and opened the Award-winning Bella Concert Hall and the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts. While it still has that ‘new theatre smell’ we’d like to amplify its acoustics by showcasing the finest local, national and international talent to play it.
We would like to announce the debut of SEVEN CONCERT SERIES taking place at the versatile venues in the Mount Royal University Conservatory’s Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts in 2016-17. These concert events will showcase some of the most innovative contemporary artists to bring music to your ears. We want our MRU Insiders to be the first to know what’s up.
Join us on May 13th, 2016 as we announce the line-up.
This will take place at the James Ehnes concert, our final Wyatt Series event for this season.
Our follow us online for up-to-the-moment social media releases. (Follow @MRUConservatory or mtroyal.ca/enjoy)
The Bella Concert Hall was built on sound.
The Soundscape Series showcases the amplification of these artistic vibrations in their acoustic glory.
* 5 concerts from local, national and international influential artists and ensembles.
Importing world-class musicians from around the globe. Let’s give them a true Calgarian white-hatted welcome.
* 5 concerts will take audiences on musical adventures in many musical genres.
Northern Lights Series
2016 is the Year of Music in Calgary. 2017 is Canada’s 150th Birthday.
What better way to celebrate our home and native land than to feature some of its finest artists.
*5 concerts will define our country’s energy, diversity and talent.
Our celebrated Wyatt Series continues to feature contemporary masters of classical works in performance and mentorship of our music students. This series honours the late Hal and Marnie Wyatt, longtime supporters of the Mount Royal University Conservatory.
* 3 concerts from modern masters.
Family Portrait Series
Music, Speech Arts and Theatre are for all-ages. To ensure that the younger family members, and those who are young at heart, get to experience amazing music and storytelling, we have the Family Portrait Series.
* 2 narrative shows that will inspire imaginations, whether it’s your first or ‘bazillionth’ time at a performance.
The Spotlight Series showcases our diverse and talented instructors in performance. We’re so proud of our instructors, we want to bring their talents to centre stage. This monthly feature is as varied and exciting as the programs we offer.
Historically, the Salon was a favourite meeting place for musicians of all styles to play, listen and collaborate. We’re bringing it back. Throughout the season, we’ll be offering these opportunities for folks to mix, mingle and enjoy a variety of musical entertainment.
Of course, we’ll still be presenting concert events featuring all of our incredible performance ensembles and programs, including festive favourites Winter Fantasia and Sounds of the Season.
Connect with us on social media for your chance to win tickets to each of the series, or the grand prize, seasons tickets to ALL concert events in our 2016-17 Season!
Like, follow and spread the message to your friends and family. It’s going to be an inspiring season of sound at the Mount Royal University Conservatory!
– by JLove
This past week, the Bella Concert Hall was examined by some lifelong masters of assessment… retired teachers.
Forty-five former teachers met with MRU Conservatory Director Elaine Danelesko for a private tour of the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts, with a special focus on the Bella herself. By all accounts, she passed with flying colours.
The Calgary Board of Education Retired Employees Association (CBEREA) provides members with various experiences and activities. Regular bowling and golf tournaments, bridge groups and luncheons are among the featured offerings. There is also a walkers and hikers division of the group who chose to end their trek in the lobby of the Bella.
Elaine Danelesko, who radiates with pride as she introduces all guests to the MRU Conservatory facilities, effortlessly spoke about the programs offered, the private studios’ acoustic treatment and the merits of the state-of-the-art practice rooms capable of accommodating worldwide private lessons through Skype to a responsive audience.
The reactions to the facilities, the programming and the design all made the grade.
Having just opened in the fall, it was a new experience for most, “Today I realized that there is a wonderful opportunity not far from home that has not been on my radar.”says Sharon Terray, retired Social Studies teacher who last taught at Lord Beaverbrook High School. Terray, who helped arrange the tour for the group, continues, “Because of what I saw today, I hope to be aware of programming and upcoming events, and thanks to free Sunday parking, take advantage of what the Conservatory has to offer the public.”
Seeing how it might directly affect the group’s demographic, Terray’s friend and co-walker Barbara Hongisto chimes in, “The facilities provide super opportunities for parents and grandparents to offer musical programs to young ones!”
Terray assess the Bella. “All the attention to detail both from an aesthetic and an acoustic point of view means that there is always more to take in; you have to sit there for a while to really appreciate it all.”
Sharon’s husband Dr. John Terray, who is the retired chairman of Mathematics, Physics, and Engineering, MRU, has an eye for quality, “I was very impressed with the architecture and design of the building. “ Of the Bella herself, he claims, “The concert hall conveyed a sense of quality with warmth.”
The offering that seemed to achieve bonus marks from this gathering is the outreach that MRU Conservatory is building within the education community in our Calgary school boards.
In discussion at the back of the class while the group hiked through the Music with Your Baby area and the Atelier Room, Dr. Terray sums up, “The tour informed me of the many opportunities the MRU Conservatory provides to the citizens of Calgary.”
Congrats to the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts on an inspiring spring report card.
- by JLove
In fact, I know one. Ralph Maier… and if I knew many more, he’d likely still be my favourite vihuela player. The instrument, he explains to me, “is the Spanish equivalent of a lute…except it’s shaped like a guitar.” A gifted guitarist, he touts, “Over the last ten years, I’ve gotten into doing things on period instruments.”
Maier is not only an expert to those who have the privilege of hearing him, he’s backed it up with the academic research, he finished a Musicology PhD in Spanish Renaissance Music in vihuela. So, for those who are interested in hearing a master at work, check out his upcoming recital Ralph Maier & Friends on Sunday, May 1st, 2016 from 2-3pm in the TransAlta Pavilion of the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts.
Not only will he be strumming a vihuela, Maier’s program includes some pieces on the Baroque guitar, which is a five-course instrument meaning it has five pairings of strings to strum. The strumming, traditionally, was meant to accompany dancing, so there are a series of universal chord progressions known to many players of the time; much like a Blues progression today. The progression, Maier says,“became a staple. Then, composers would write a variation on it.” Among those composers, he lists Bach, who added his own touch to the Spanish plucking tradition. Maier’s study of the form has led him to complete his latest CD, aptly titled “Variations” which is available on both iTunes and CD Baby.
Musically speaking, he gets history. My personal history, having known Ralph for nearly two decades, is that there’s nothing he can’t play on a guitar. Tim Brady is a contemporary composer who wrote a piece for 20 electric guitars. Maier was one of the twenty. He was so inspired by this composition that he recorded it for his latest CD, playing all twenty parts multi-tracked. After recording it, he sent his interpretation to the composer. His reaction, according to Maier, was, “he liked it and that was very reassuring.”
Recently, in addition to his teaching at MRU Conservatory he has been teaching university classes like The History of Led Zepplin, Progressive Rock Music and The History of Heavy Metal. “I’m all over the place, musically.”
Maier will be reuniting with the Oberon Guitar Trio (Brad Mahon & Murray Visscher) as well as teaming up with flutist Tim Janz for this program. As to what era their contributions might represent, it’s anybody’s guess.
When I asked directly what we could expect in this Spotlight Series Concert, his answer was confidently nebulous. “I’m not absolutely sure.”
Such is the secret of a true modern Renaissance man.
On April 30th, 2016, you’ll find Herbie Hancock, Aretha Franklin, Diana Krall and Sting at the White House. There will also be some jazz music featured in Bologna, Italy in the Jazz 4 Peace Celebration, and in the Quartet Diminished in Concert show at Niavaran Hall in Tehran, Iran.
Jazz music brings together the improvised solo expressions of individual instruments into an artistic whole in a combo. That’s the message of UNESCO’s International Jazz Day, celebrated this year on April 30, 2016.
“UNESCO (United Nations Educations, Scientific and Cultural Organization) declared this day a day that celebrates creativity and diversity of Jazz music,” says in-the-know saxophonist Mark DeJong.
DeJong, who’s the new Artistic Coordinator at MRU Conservatory, has composed a special something to celebrate at the TransAlta Pavilion, “We are celebrating some of our renowned jazz alumni. We’re featuring a great local vocalist by the name of Aimee-Jo Benoit. She has a great following with indie bands like Woodpigeon. Joining her are some former grads of the Jazz Program.”
The program is made up of some jazz standards, “She’s going to dive in to the American Songbook for those ‘tin pan alley’ chestnuts.” DeJong continues, “then some jazz originals and really creative interpretations of some of her favourite Canadian icons like Joni Mitchell and Neil young.” No matter what the source inspiration is, DeJong insists that Benoit promises to, “breathe new life into them.”
He would know first hand.
DeJong is among the esteemed alumni joining Benoit onstage with saxophone in hand. “This is my first presentation as the new Artistic Coordinator at MRU Conservatory.” he says, “One of the things I wanted to do was be involved in the early shows both as a programmer and on the ground on the stage.”
As a unique UNESCO moment, DeJong and the combo are excited to have CBC’s Tim Tamashiro take the stage as guest emcee. “Anyone who’s a jazz fan in Canada knows Tim… not only with his incredible career as a jazz vocalist, but as the host of CBC Radio 2’s Tonic.” The ‘drinky’ jazz crooner will be on hand to spread the harmonious message to the jazz community, “he’s such an energetic and creative personality,” DeJong says, “We’re really delighted that he’s able to join us.”
Benoit, DeJong and Tamashiro are warming their chops for April 30th. To celebrate UNESCO International Jazz Day with the rest of the world, click here, or head to the White House.
- by JLove
Now in its 26th year, Christmas in Song has delighted family audiences with a mixture of holiday favourites, classical masterpieces and traditional carols. It’s become a treasured part of the city’s holiday festivities.
Christmas in Song is an excellent showcase featuring the talents of the Calgary Youth Orchestra, and Mount Royal’s family of choirs: Arietta, Arioso, Artio and Kantorei. This year, the Conservatory’s Jazz faculty and students will be adding some seasonal swing.
“For me, the musical highlight of the season is always Christmas in Song — the Conservatory’s wonderful yuletide celebration,” says Mount Royal Conservatory Director Paul Dornian. “It’s always a thrill to see such a large stage filled with Mount Royal choristers and Calgary Youth Orchestra members.”
Performers will be sharing the stage with Calgary’s Heebee-jeebees, the popular a cappella group made up of several Mount Royal choral alumni: Cédric Blary, Chris Herard, Ken Lima-Coelho, and Jonathan Love.
For some of the children in Arietta and Arioso, this is their first performing experience.
The Conservatory is especially pleased to collaborate once again with Glencoe Resources, its long-time partners in Christmas in Song.
Tickets: Adults $30, Students/Seniors $20, Children under 12 $10, family and group discounts available. Call 403.440.7770
People are still talking about Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq’s Polaris Music Prize gala performance last week. But take a closer look on stage: that’s violinist Jesse Zubot. Did you know he got his start taking lessons from our Academy for Gifted Youth manager Bill van der Sloot? Zubot began playing violin at age four and studied with van der Sloot until he was 16.
(His brother Joshua Zubot also studied at the Conservatory.)
Zubot, who now calls Britannia Beach, B.C., home where he runs the critically acclaimed creative music label Drip Audio, is part of three Juno Award-winning acts: the acoustic-roots ensemble Zubot & Dawson, The Great Uncles of the Revolution and Fond of Tigers.
He came back to the Conservatory as a guest artist for the Academy a few years back.
We caught up with Zubot to learn more about his Conservatory experience.
Jesse Zubot: One of the best things I got through the teachings from Bill was learning very clean and precise technique. This saved me a lot of time once I became a professional musician. As an adult musician, I could concentrate more on composing and creating exciting performances instead of having to spend all my time keeping my playing together.
Question: Your incredible work with Tanya Tagaq was a joy to hear and to watch during the Sept. 22 live performance at the Polaris gala. What do you think audiences took away from your performance? What was the experience like for you?
Jesse Zubot: I think the audience at the Polaris took away that it’s OK to be musically free… I think they may have sensed some form of spiritual awakening almost. Working with Tanya is all about being in the moment and letting the music guide you. We pretty much do 100 per cent improvised performances so it is very real and can even be overwhelming for some listeners as we aren’t afraid to raise the roof with extreme volume or intense emotions. Hopefully the Canadian music industry will be more open to supporting more artistic live musical performances in the future at award shows. The experience was great for me. It was good to actually really do what we do instead of conforming to an arranged piece of music that is the same as the actual recording, like most others did. It felt great to get some recognition for our work. We’ve been touring hard for the last six or seven years.
Question: Looking back, what was the best advice you received as a young musician that you carry with you today?
Jesse Zubot: I would say having fun and being committed is very important. If you make the decision to be a musician you really have to honour that decision and go for it 100 per cent. It can be a hard life, but if you give it all you got, you will be rewarded greatly.
And here’s what Bill has to say about Jesse Zubot:
“The interesting thing about Jesse is that his imagination is boundless. He defies description as an artist. He has the facility and skills of an accomplished classical musician and that’s what makes him so amazing. He’s invented his own style of playing violin, that’s his imagination. There’s no one in the world that plays like him.”
And here’s a favourite memory: “I remember when he was 12, we couldn’t find him to go on stage to play a Paganini violin concerto in D major. We found him on a stage ramp riding his new skateboard while wearing his tux!”
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.”