University of Ottawa School of Music: 50 years Old and Not a Single Wrinkle

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The University of Ottawa School of Music is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Through decades of innovations, many teachers and students have stood out, allowing the school to be recognized across the country as one of the most dynamic.

Founded in 1969, the same year as the National Arts Centre and its orchestra, the University of Ottawa School of Music has, from the very beginning, attracted well-known teachers and musicians, such as Gerald Bales, Yves Chartier, David Hildinger and Jean-Pierre Sevilla. “Our privileged relationship with the National Arts Centre Orchestra has had major repercussions on the music school and has ­allowed us to achieve the highest standards in teaching, especially in the interpretation ­programs,”explains Lori Burns, director of the school since 2013. Indeed, both institutions have fostered the emergence of a true musical ecosystem in Ottawa and its surrounding area. The school has also established close ties with several other musical institutions in the region, such as the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, the Ottawa Chamberfest, le festival Musique et autres mondes, the Académie des Orchestres pour jeunes d’Ottawa (AOJO) and Orkidstra.

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The 1988 inauguration of the Perez Pavilion of the University of ­Ottawa, a building still occupied by the music school, was a turning point in its development. The school now boasts a 150-seat concert hall, an independent music library and modern rehearsal studios. The master’s program was also created the same year, which allowed the school to greatly diversify its courses. The various master’s programs, whether in musicology, performance or composition, now attract more than 80 students. “The growth of our master’s degree programs is one of our greatest success stories of the last 20 years,” Burns commented. During the same period, the University of Ottawa Orchestra, under the direction of David Currie, has grown from 30 to 60 members. The Wind section has distinguished itself by expanding its repertoire and refining its interpretations thanks to its conductor Daniel Gress; and the Opera Studio, directed by Sandra Graham, now offers complete productions with orchestra. All these changes allow more students to gain hands-on experience and favours their development in order to access professional careers.

In 2005, the school inaugurated its Research Laboratory in Piano Pedagogy. This laboratory facilitated the creation of a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in piano pedagogy. The school also plans to ­establish a PhD program. “This doctoral program will have an impact on all our other programs, as PhD students bring their own expertise and enrich the School of Music,” says Burns.

“We are investing a lot of time in the new Creative Space, a space where music and technology meet, in collaboration with the University of Ottawa’s Digital Arts, Theater and Visual Arts programs,” says Burns. “We are also building a partnership with the Faculty of Engineering, and this summer we were the first ever Gee-Gee Engineering camp for Music and Technology, which was a great success.”

To mark its 50th anniversary, the school will hold the Fifty Years of Crescendo Event on Oct. 5. The day will begin at Perez Pavilion with a fair at the new center for the well-being of musicians. Participants will be able to experiment with different approaches, such as the Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais Movement Awareness, Active Global Stretching, Physiotherapy for Athletes and chiropractic techniques. The School of Music will also open its doors to allow current students to discuss their research projects. The Piano Pedagogy Research Laboratory will be accessible, and participants will be able to discover the cutting-edge research being conducted there. They will also be invited to enter the Creative Space which highlights 200 years of Clara Schumann. Eight researchers will hold interactive workshops in which they will present their work on the pianist and composer.

The Tabaret Pavilion will, in turn, welcome Da Capo 2019: a ­Celebration. New features and projects will be announced. The School of Music will take this opportunity to pay tribute to its founding ­teachers Evelyn Greenberg and Jean-Paul Sevilla. The Angela Hewitt Award of Excellence will be presented for the first time to soprano Joyce ­El-Khoury (who graduated in 2005) to mark her exceptional career.

Moreover, on the Fifty Years of Crescendo day, the National Arts Center Orchestra, with guest star Sarah McLachlan, will present the NAC’s Golden Gala, a fundraising event for the National Youth Trust.

All these activities will highlight the importance of musical life in the Ottawa region. “In this rich environment, musicians can evolve their entire life,” Burns says, “from children’s programs, through school, youth orchestras, different groups and choirs, to university, the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, the National Arts Centre and more. It’s wonderful to be part of such a strong and healthy music ­community.” Burns is clearly proud of her accomplishments and those of her predecessors.

Fifty Years of Crescendo will be held on Oct. 5, 2019 from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the University of Ottawa. Go to

The NAC Golden Gala will also be held on Oct. 5 at 5:30 p.m. at Southam Hall of the NAC. Go to

*Translated by Traduction CMP Translation

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