Newswire | Shireen Abu-Khader, Jamie Hillman and Others Join Toronto Mendelssohn Choir Artistic Team

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Toronto, July 20, 2022 – The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir is thrilled to announce their 22/23 artistic team, which includes the appointment of several new collaborators and the commencement of a Composer in Residence program for the first time in the TMC’s 128-year history.

Dr. Shireen Abu-Khader is the inaugural Composer in Residence, marking a new chapter of growth and collaboration for the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. Dr. Shireen Abu-Khader is a Palestinian-Jordanian Canadian artist, composer, and educator. She holds a PhD in Music Education from the University of Toronto, and a Master’s in Choral Music from the University of Southern California. Shireen’s work introduces music from the Levant region (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Iraq), as she strives to collaborate with many artistic voices.

She is the founder of Dozan World, which aims to spread music of her region to an international community through music publication.

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“Shireen is an exceptional artist, composer and educator with whom I share the desire to bring people together through music and to democratize the choral art.” Artistic Director Dr. Jean-Sébastien Vallée says, adding, “I look forward to collaborating with her on several projects to communicate powerful stories, showcase unheard voices, and bring communities together through the power of choral music.”

Dr. Jamie Hillman joins the TMChoir this season as Director of Community Engagement and Associate Conductor. This new position highlights the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir’s ongoing commitment to community engagement and educational outreach initiatives. A prime candidate for this role, Dr. Hillman, is active as a conductor, singer, pianist, music educator, and composer. As a Boston University Prison Arts Scholar and faculty member of BU’s Prison Education Program, Hillman co-initiated an innovative vocal music program in the Massachusetts prison system. Hillman brings rich, diverse experience and expertise to his role at the TMC.

This addition to the team also signifies a budding relationship to the University of Toronto, as he was appointed the Elmer Iseler Chair in Conducting at the University of Toronto in 2021, where he is also Director of Choral Studies and an Associate Professor.

“Jamie’s passion and advocacy for the transformative power of choral music as well as his exceptional charisma on the podium is an exceptional addition to the TMChoir’s artistic team.” Notes Vallée, “His extensive track record as a music educator and community leader— including his recent work to establish a vocal music program in the Massachusetts prison system—will allow us to truly serve Toronto’s various communities.”

Additionally, Rena Roussin gains a new title this year as Musicologist in Residence. Roussin’s voice will be familiar to TMC audiences, as she is the author behind their season program notes. This new title outlines the choir’s dedication to redefining how we view and program western- classical music. A Métis and settler woman with additional Haida ancestry, Roussin has an interest in the ways art music in Canada interacts with Indigenous artists and communities in efforts to realize reconciliation, while completing her PhD dissertation at the University of Toronto on constructions of disability and gender in Haydn’s late oratorios. A truly well- rounded scholar, Roussin serves on the curatorial/editorial board of Musicology Now and the Canadian Opera Company’s Indigenous Circle of Artists.

Rounding out the artistic team, Simon Rivard, 21/22 associate conductor, stays on for another season as Artistic Collaborator, and Dr. Irene Gregorio, Collaborative Pianist and Musical Assistant, holds her position. Dr. Jean-Sébastien Vallée, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor, marks his second season with the choir. The impressive team of six collaborators demonstrates a high level of excellence, vision, and diversity within the organization, and an exciting season to come.


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