Music at University of British Columbia

University of British Columbia. Non-denominational undergraduate and graduate teaching and research institution incorporated 1908 in Vancouver, absorbing the McGill-affiliated McGill University College of Vancouver in 1915 and awarding its first degrees in 1916.

Music at University of British Columbia

University of British Columbia. Non-denominational undergraduate and graduate teaching and research institution incorporated 1908 in Vancouver, absorbing the McGill-affiliated McGill University College of Vancouver in 1915 and awarding its first degrees in 1916. Noted in particular for its programs in forestry, geology, and oceanography, it offers a wide range of studies in the arts, sciences, and professions.

Music Instruction

Faculty and Student Enrolment
Ida Halpern introduced courses in music appreciation in 1940 through the Department of Extension, but music was not established as a formal academic discipline at the University of British Columbia until 1946, when the Vancouver brewer Robert Fiddes endowed the appointment of Harry Adaskin as head of the Music Department. Frances Marr Adaskin and Jean Coulthard were among the department's first teachers. Barbara Pentland joined in 1949.

Until 1958 the department offered courses for general arts students and presented weekly concerts featuring the Adaskins and other faculty members and guests. These concerts greatly enriched Vancouver's musical life and prepared the ground for the appreciation of contemporary music.

After 1958 increasing government support enabled the department to expand. Harry Adaskin did not wish to undertake the heavy administrative duties of such an expansion, but remained as a teacher until 1973. He was succeeded as head 1958-71 by G. Welton Marquis. Subsequent heads have been Donald McCorkle (b Cleveland, Ohio, 1929, d Vancouver 1978; a teacher at the University of British Columbia until 1978 and head of the music department 1972-5), Robert Morris (acting head, 1975-6), Eugene Wilson (executive secretary, 1976-7), and Wallace Berry (1978-84). William Benjamin became head in 1984 and continued as director when the department was restructured as the School of Music in 1986. Robert Silverman succeeded Benjamin 1991-6, followed by Jesse Read 1997-2007, and Richard Kurth beginning in 2007.

During Marquis' tenure, the department underwent rapid expansion. The B MUS program, which began in 1959 with 27 students and 8 faculty members, had 170 students and 41 teachers by 1964. By 1970 the department had 311 students (280 undergraduate, 31 graduate) and 55 faculty members. The figures for 1990 were 325 students (265 undergraduate, 60 graduate) and 69 teachers (29 full-time and 40 part-time); in 2008, 291 undergraduate and 118 graduate students were supported by a faculty of 29 full-time and 56 part-time teachers

Music Degrees
Degrees offered have included a B MUS (performance; composition; music history; and general studies, including elementary and secondary education streams), BA music major, M MUS (performance; composition; choral conducting), MA (historical musicology; music theory; ethnomusicology), DMA (performance; composition), and PH D (musicology, theory, ethnomusicology). The Faculty of Education has offered a B ED, an M ED, and a D ED with majors in music education.

Throughout the 1960s the department emphasized performance. Many student ensembles - orchestras, a concert band, choirs, chamber groups, and a Collegium Musicum (Vancouver) - gave regular free public performances. An opera workshop, begun in 1962, developed further after the US opera director French Tickner (b 1930) joined the faculty in 1964. In that year the university was the first in Canada to offer the B MUS and M MUS with a major in opera. Graduate and undergraduate students were encouraged to study at least one historical instrument, eg, the viola da gamba or the viola d'amore. The department's ethnomusicology program included instruction in such instruments as the Japanese koto, shakuhachi, and shamisen. In the 1970s increasing emphasis was placed on research and the implementation of graduate programs in academic areas. Significant work has been done by, among others, Donald and Margit McCorkle (Brahms); Dimitri Conomos (Byzantine music); Ming-Yueh Liang and Michael Tenzer (ethnomusicology); David Metzer (musicology); Evan Kreider (Pierre de la Rue); Edward Gregory Butler (rhetoric); John Sawyer (English viol music); Elliot Weisgarber (Japanese music); and Nathan Hesselink (South Korean music). Researchers active in the areas of performance and education have included Allen Clingman, Ronald de Kant, Cortland Hultberg, Hans-Karl Piltz, Marie Schilder, and Robert Silverman.

Later faculty appointments included composers Stephen Chatman and Keith Hamel; pianists Jane Coop, Terence Dawson, and Corey Hamm; choral conductors James Fankhauser and Bruce Pullan; singers Peter Barcza and Nancy Hermiston; violist Gerald Stanick; violinists Andrew Dawes and Jasper Wood; and ethnomusicologist Alan Thrasher.

At the graduate level, composition, music theory, and piano have been emphasized - a reflection of changes in faculty, new theory programs, and new facilities, particularly for electroacoustics. A general conception of the undergraduate level as a professional training program, rather than as a liberal arts education, has emerged. Emphasis has been placed on the orchestral training program. Majors in theory, guitar, and general studies, and courses in jazz, ethnomusicology, computer music, vocal accompaniment and other areas have offered an expanded range of music and approaches to its study.

Facilities and Resources

The University of British Columbias four-storey music building was opened in 1968, and has housed 35 practice rooms; 38 teaching studios; one of the largest academic music libraries in Canada (in 2009 it held 80,000 books and scores and more than 23,000 recordings); and a 289-seat recital hall, used for the majority of student and faculty concerts. Opera productions have been held in the 600-seat Old Auditorium, built in 1925, and the universitys major performances have been presented in the 1,400-seat Chan Shun Concert Hall, opened in 1997 as part of the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts.

A tracker-action Casavant organ was installed in 1970 at a cost of $100,000. The department also acquired one practice and one portative organ; a violin (Saluzzo, 1690) by Goffredo Cappa, a pupil of Amati; a violin by Richard Duke (London, 1764); violins by Alessandro and Ferdinand Gagliano (Naples, 18th century); an early grand piano by Aloys Biber (Vienna, ca 1835); a German double manual harpsichord by Craig Tomlinson (1986); a Flemish single-manual harpsichord by Kenneth Bakeman and Robert Silverman (1979); modern replicas of many Renaissance and Baroque harpsichords and string and wind instruments; 125 pianos; and Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, and Indonesian classical instruments.

Performances and Conferences

The school organizes many ensembles including a symphony orchestra, string orchestra, opera workshop and theatre, wind ensemble, wind symphony, stage band, percussion ensemble, contemporary music ensemble, Asian music ensemble, collegium musicum, and the University Singers, University Chamber Singers, and Choral Union. In 1990, to mark the university's 75th anniversary, the school established the chamber orchestra Summer Strings. In 2008, as part of the universitys centenary celebrations, the UBC School of Music premiered Lloyd Burritts opera The Dream Healer (2 Mar 2008), with David Agler conducting singers Judith Forst, John Avey, and Roelof Oostwoud; and the UBC-commissioned Earth Songs, by Stephen Chatman.

The school has presented numerous student and faculty concerts as well as series by guest performers, including Jane Coop, Ben Heppner, the Phoenix Chamber Choir, and the Borealis String Quartet, named the schools first quartet-in-residence in 2000. In addition, masterclasses have been given by Isabel Bayrakdarian, Angela Cheng, George Crumb, Jane Eaglen, Ensemble Contemporain de Montreal, Bill Holman, Jon Kimura Parker, Alexina Louie, Catherine Robbin, the Schubert Ensemble, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Dawn Upshaw, and Pinchas Zukerman, among others.

The university was host to the Centennial Workshop on Ethnomusicology (initiated by Ida Halpern) in June 1967 and the Northwestern Regional Workshop of the National Association of Teachers of Singing in June 1978. Beginning in 1976 the school has collaborated with Early Music Vancouver in an annual series of concerts and workshops known as the Vancouver Early Music Program. In 1985 the university hosted a joint meeting of the American Musicological Society, the Society for Music Theory, the Society for Ethnomusicology, and the College Music Society. An important theme of this conference was the Bach-Handel-Scarlatti tercentenary. The school also conducts a band festival for high schools each October.

Notable Alumni

The first B MUS graduates, May 1962, included Errol Gay and Zoltan Roman. The first PH D in musicology was granted to Joanne Dorenfeld in 1976. Other notable graduates of the University of British Columbia School of Music include Lloyd Burritt, Judith Forst, Ben Heppner, Diane Loomer, Alexina Louie, and Barry Truax.

Honorary degrees have been awarded to Sir Ernest MacMillan (LLD 1936), Ira Dilworth (LLD, 1948), Harry Adaskin (LLD, 1980), Kazuyoshi Akiyama (D LITT, 1986), Jean Coulthard (D LITT, 1988), Maureen Forrester (LLD, 1993), Oscar Peterson (LLD, 1994), Mario Bernardi (LLD, 1997), Robert Silverman (D LITT, 2004), Raffi Cavoukian (D LITT, 2005), Richard Margison (D LITT, 2006), Irving Guttman (D LITT, 2009), and Diane Loomer (D LITT, 2011).


Further Reading

  • "Perspectives: the University of British Columbia," The Canadian Music Journal, vol 3, Summer 1959

    Marquis, G. Welton. "Canadian music at the University of British Columbia," The Canadian Composer, 2, Aug 1965

    "View from the West Coast," The Canadian Composer, 26, Feb 1968

    "Modern, ancient music techniques taught at U.B.C.," The Music Scene, 257, Jan-Feb 1971

    Lavender, Terry. "Ladies and gentlemen... the University Singers!" UBC Chronicle, Winter 1984

    UBC High Notes, Winter 1999-Winter 2008

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