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Current & Recent Projects

Performances, Premieres, & Major Funded Projects

Changing Colonial Narratives in Eurocentric Music History

Dr Margaret Walker

Margaret Walker has been awarded a SSHRC Insight Development Grant for a two-year project on “Changing Colonial Narratives in Eurocentric Music History.” Her research team includes Sandria P. Bouliane (Université Laval) and D. Linda Pearse (Mount Allison University) and both graduate and undergraduate research assistants.

Being Together: Investigating Perceptions and Products of Audience Co-Presence in Contemporary Theatre

Dr Kelsey Jacobson

Kelsey Jacobson has been awarded a SSHRC Insight Development Grant for her project “Being Together: Investigating Perceptions and Products of Audience Co-Presence in Contemporary Theatre.” She will be working with the Kick & Push Festival as well as graduate and undergraduate research assistants over a two-year period. 

You Should Have Stayed Home: Live theatrical performance for multiple audience members in virtual reality

Michael Wheeler

Working with Co-investigator Dr. Laura Levin (York University) Michael Wheeler will investigate how recent advances in virtual reality (VR) technology have altered the nature of digital co-presence. There is now the capacity and a market for live VR performances that are attended virtually by audiences from their homes. A new approach to creation is emerging where performers and audience members are in physically disparate locations but occupy the same shared three-dimensional digital space. The creative output of this research will be a VR performance of the critically acclaimed production You Should Have Stayed Home, an auto-biographical re-telling of the events on the streets of Toronto during the 2010 G20 Summit. The performance will be presented by SpiderWebShow Performance at The Festival of Live Digital Art at The Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts in 2022. Funded by a SSHRC Insight Development Grant and a VISTA Vision Grant (York University).

Past Projects


Composed by Dr Dean Burry; Libretto by Yvette Nolan

This Indigenous-Settler Canadian collaborative opera premiered at Tapestry Opera on May 16th, 2019. With music composed by DAN School professor and Newfoundlander Dean Burry, lyrics by Algonquin playwright Yvette Nolan, and starring Kwagiulth and Stó:lo mezzo-soprano Marion Newman, Shanawdithit centres on the story of Shanawdithit (1801-1829), thought at the time of her death to be the last member of the Beothuk Nation in what is now called Newfoundland. In 1829, Shanawdithit was taken to St. John’s by William Cormack, where she created a series of ten drawings that speak of the life of her people, their encounters with the European settlers, and loneliness of survival. These detailed drawings form the basis of the opera.

Shanawdithit brings Indigenous artistic collaborators together from Nations across the country to give voice to Shanawdithit and her people, responding to the ten drawings that are the only first-person account of the life of the Beothuk. Led by Nolan, collaborators, performers, and Indigenous community members have been instrumental in the shaping of the work from the beginning of development, through a collaborative and workshop-driven creation process influenced by oral and visual histories passed down to them. The collaborators have studied each drawing and determined how to visually communicate the essence of Shanawdithit’s account, using dance, language, costume, photography, projections, sculpture and set design to effectively bring her drawings to life on the stage.

In 2020, Dean Burry and Yvette Nolan won the 2020 Dora Mavor Moore Outstanding New Opera Award!

To read more about the Tapestry Opera production, click here https://tapestryopera.com/performances/shanawdithit/

To see the trailer, click here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edKJujCPdLQ

Four Seasons of the Canadian Flag

Composed by Professor John Burge

This work for large Romantic orchestra was commissioned by the National Youth Orchestra of Canada for the orchestra’s cross-Canada tour celebrating the nation’s 150th anniversary of confederation in 2017.  The Ontario Arts Council provided funding for the commission which was also supported by the Saskatoon and Kingston Symphony Orchestras.  These two supporting orchestras will premiere a version requiring smaller orchestral forces in 2017 as well.  John Burge wrote an article on this work for the online journal, The Conversation.

One Last Night With Mata Hari

Book, Lyrics and Direction by Professor Craig Walker with Music Composed by Professor John Burge 

This one-woman show with acting male pianist had its premiere at the Studio Theatre of the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts from Jan. 11-22, 2017 starring Patricia O’Callaghan and Gregory Oh.  Mata Hari (1876-1917) was renowned as an exotic dancer and courtesan throughout Europe in the early 20th century.  Her conviction and execution by France on charges of spying for Germany during World War I is but one of many aspects of her life that add to her ongoing notoriety.  This “performance” takes place on October 14th, 1917, the night before Mata Hari faces the firing squad.  The setting is, nominally, a room within the Saint Lazare Prison in Paris, where prisoners, the Sisters of Marie-Joseph and other prison staff are gathered.  There is a screen onstage (although it is not strictly necessary until the second act) and a piano.  The pianist, also acting the role of Dr. Bizard, comes out, sits down at the keyboard and prepares the audience for the upcoming performance.  Mata Hari, dressed conservatively, eventually enters and through song and narrative, tells her side of the story. 

Watch a nine-minute trailer from the show.

Triggering Our Collective Memory: How Tropes in Video Game Music Create Immersion

Dr. Stephanie Lind  

Video games are played by billions across the globe. Originally seen as merely a means of entertainment, it is now clear that this is a newly-emerged art form integrating sound, visuals, and narrative. The research project will map “game culture” references and how they are perceived by players by examining how common tropes or cultural references in video game music are realized from a music structural/analytical perspective. This research will identify that tropes are an unspoken means of communication within game narratives, impacting player immersion. The connection between games, communication, and embodiment will be of interest to gamers, media, sociologists, and others. The project will support undergraduate student research, and research results will be communicated via popular online media (such as Youtube) in addition to traditional academic platforms.

Promoting Equitable Access to Music Education in Canada: Examining the role and benefits of an El Sistema model for music education

Dr. Julia Brook

Access to music education in Canada is inequitable. While developed nations such as the USA and UK have acknowledged this notion by taking steps to ensure that every child has the opportunity to play and instrument and to sing, Canadian provincial and federal governments have not followed this trend. Consequently Canadian citizens, through various community organizations, are striving to provide equitable access to music education. El Sistema programs are one model of music instruction that is being used to increase access to music education. Students in an El Sistema program receive free performance-based instruction for several hours a week. The proposed research aims to: (a) Document and analyze the musical development of the students participating in a Canadian El Sistema program over a two-year period; (b) Analyze how and if the components of the Sistema program strengthen connections among students and between students and adults associated with the program (i.e., sense of belonging); (c) Describe how the program features provide equitable access to music education; and (d) Examine how the program’s infrastructure supports and adapts to the community in which it is situated.

Music, War, and Canadian Nationhood

Dr. Kip Pegley

Dr. Pegley is currently engaged in a research program funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to explore how music helps shape discourses about and representations of Canada’s role in international conflict, including the ways music is used in mass-mediated texts to depict Canadian combatants. Articles stemming from this research include “Music, Memory, and Ideology at the Canadian War Museum” (Echo: A Music-Centered Journal, 2012), and “Music in theatre and post deployment: re-evaluating the therapeutic benefits of sound” (Journal of  Military, Veteran and Family Health, 2015).

What Do You Do With A Music Degree?

Dr. Julia Brook & Dr. Sue Fostaty-Young, Investigators

The purpose of this research study is to examine the types of work in which alumni of an undergraduate music program are currently engaged, and how they use their recently acquired skills and knowledge in both music and non-music contexts. While Canada has a rich and diverse musical culture many believe that pursuing a career in this field is often ill advised. Further, tertiary music programs have been criticized for not appropriately encompassing Canadian musics, and as such The College Music Society has called for a transformation of tertiary music education programs. However, as these changes are implemented we also need to be mindful to maintain existing strengths in tertiary music programs. To do this it is necessary to have an in-depth understanding of the types of learning that alumni engaged in during the music degree and the extent to which alumni are currently able to engage in the dynamically changing and expanding world of music and also transfer their learning to alternative contexts.