Articles tagged with: humanities

  • Student-run podcast provides guidance, inspiration for future artists

    The Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts in downtown St. Catharines is home to the student-run podcast, Dear Marilyn, named in honour of the late textile artist and philanthropist.

    Originally published in The Brock News | TUESDAY, APRIL 12, 2022 | by 

    What started as a passion project for two Brock University students in search of career tips has become a robust podcast series providing invaluable insight to the next generation of creators.

    Produced for students by students, the popular podcast Dear Marilyn is now in its second season of connecting the student community with professional artists, with plans to continue production on an ongoing basis.

    Created in 2021 by Dramatic Arts (DART) students Danielle Letourneau and Luca D’Amico, the podcast name honours celebrated textile artist, philanthropist and arts advocate Marilyn I. Walker. In 2008, Walker made a historic donation to Brock that led to the creation of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA).

    Letourneau, the podcast’s producer who is now in her fourth year of study with a concentration in Drama and Education and minor in History, says that she has often felt anxiety about entering theatre as a profession.

    “I started this podcast to give students like myself a resource for practical job advice,” Letourneau said. “The arts industry is not always considered the most conventional career path, but we do it because this is what we love; the arts nurture our souls.”

    Supported by Dean Carol Merriam of the Faculty of Humanities through the Dean’s Discretionary Fund in 2021, the Associate Dean of Fine and Performing Arts and MIWSFPA department Chairs, the Dear Marilyn team invites local and surrounding artists from a range of artistic disciplines to share their stories.

    Co-hosts Hayley Bando, a second-year Dramatic Arts major with a concentration in Production and Design, and Chloe Racho, a third-year Music major with a minor in French Studies, are thrilled to be part of the project.

    “We are honoured to help bring these diverse perspectives about professional journeys in the arts to the Brock community,” Bando said.

    Recent podcast guests include actor, writer and producer Thet Win, voice actor Keegan Vaillancourt and singer-songwriter Glenn Marais.

    MIWSFPA faculty have been supportive since day one, with Karen Fricker, Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts, championing the podcast idea in its early stages.

    “I was happy to support Dear Marilyn initially because it’s a great idea, and a positive student-led project during the hard time of the pandemic,” she said. “I looked forward to each episode and was entertained and educated by the hosts’ sparky exchanges with guests.”

    DART Associate Professor Gyllian Raby guided the grant proposal for Dear Marilyn resulting in the expansion of the podcast to include all four departments at the downtown arts campus (Dramatic Arts, Music, Visual Arts and Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture).

    “What’s not to like about Dear Marilyn? It relates directly to our mission to create experiential, professionalized learning for students producing, hosting, editing and broadcasting,” Raby said. “And, it’s entertaining and insightful.”

    DART Associate Professor Danielle Wilson has been working with the team on the second season. Episodes are edited by Alex Sykes, a fourth-year DART student with a concentration in Production and Design.

    Available on Spotify, the next episode goes live this week. For the latest news, follow Dear Marilyn on Instagram.

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  • FACULTY FOCUS: Nina Penner working to create change in Canadian opera

    Image caption: Nina Penner, Brock University Assistant Professor of Music, enjoys sharing her love of opera with her students.

    Originally published in The Brock News | TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 09, 2021 | by 

    Note: Faculty Focus is a monthly series that highlights faculty whose compelling passions, innovative ideas and various areas of expertise help weave together the fabric of Brock University’s vibrant community. For more from the series, click here.

    Nina Penner’s students are always surprised to learn she’s not a singer.

    Although the opera expert has been a part of many productions throughout her career, her home has always been in the orchestral pit.

    The classical clarinetist, and now Brock University Assistant Professor of Music, has always found herself fascinated with the art form and rejoices in her ability to share it with others.

    Penner’s love for music began with the piano at age eight, but it wasn’t until a few years later when she picked up a clarinet that she truly found her fit.

    Nina Penner, now an Assistant Professor of Music at Brock University,
    spent countless hours during her childhood honing her skills on the clarinet.

    For weeks, she played as much as her lips would allow, stopping only when her muscles weakened from exhaustion.

    “I was obsessed with the clarinet,” she says lightheartedly, reminiscing about how her father went from renting her an instrument to quickly realizing a purchase was in their future.

    Penner, who grew up in Niagara, began teaching herself from books before moving on to private lessons in her adolescence.

    After high school graduation, she pursued her Bachelor of Music in Clarinet Performance at the University of Toronto.

    “I like performing a lot, especially ensemble music, orchestra and chamber music,” she says. “I’ve always liked playing new music, including music by student composers.”

    After time, however, Penner began to realize that the performer life — and the entrepreneurial aspects of promoting yourself and booking gigs — wasn’t for her.

    Her interest was instead starting to drift in a new direction.

    Penner’s history courses on music and music theory began to draw more of her attention and, after some discussions with her professors, she decided academia was the world she was best suited for.

    She went on to complete her master’s at the University of Toronto and her PhD at McGill University, both in musicology.

    But her love for opera never waned. She decided that as an academic, it would be her area of focus.

    During her performance days, Penner’s gaze between notes often fell to the talented singers, her mind trying to take in as much detail as possible.

    “I could see what was happening on stage and that was really fascinating,” she says. “I think that enhanced my desire to understand more about opera staging, which is what some of my early musicology work was about.”

    Since joining Brock in July 2020, Penner has expanded her work to look at opera — as well as musical theatre and film music — as it relates to various social movements.

    In high school, Nina Penner, now a Brock Assistant Professor of Music,

    performed a concerto with the Niagara Youth Orchestra.

    Her most recent project, funded by a Brock Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Institution Grant, explores the experiences of Indigenous, Black and People of Colour working in opera in Canada.

    The study, “Exploring New Collaborative Models in Indigenous-led Opera in Canada,” is a collaboration with Amplified Opera, a Toronto-based collective that seeks to amplify previously marginalized voices in the industry.

    They are about to launch a survey to learn more about the frequency and severity of racial discrimination and microaggressions in Canadian opera.

    “Because I’m not a singer and I’m a white settler, it was so important to get the voices of the people who this research is hopefully going to serve, to survey them about their experiences and about what can be done to rectify these situations,” she says. “This is not about getting people to relive these painful experiences, but to document them and start thinking about what we can do to move forward.”

    After the survey is completed, Penner plans to interview about 20 singers this winter to get more detailed narratives and recommendations for change.

    The intention is to ultimately improve equity and diversity in the opera industry.

    “It’s not just about hiring more people of colour,” Penner says. “We also have to rethink how we’re creating the works themselves, rethink the actual creative process. How we are we working together and at what point are people of colour involved in creating these pieces?”

    Companies led by People of Colour, such as Amplified Opera, are exploring new collaborative and leadership models, such as involving singers from the earliest stages of creating new works and productions. By documenting these new approaches, the study aims to encourage larger houses, such as the Canadian Opera Company, to consider replicating some of these collaborative models.

    “The hope is to see not only indie opera companies but also the big houses take a risk and do something a bit differently,” she says.

    For anyone new to the genre but interested in learning more about it, Penner says indie opera companies are the way to go.

    The performances are often more intimate and in smaller spaces that allow the audience to better see the facial expressions of singers, giving a better feel for what is happening, she says. Their shows are also more likely to be in English, breaking down language barriers for some first-time opera fans who may find a production in a different language intimidating.

    Tapestry Opera in Toronto specializes in producing new works that address contemporary concerns, Penner says, while Against the Grain Theatre in Toronto performs older repertoire predominantly, but does so in a way that brings out its relevance for audiences today.

    “You’re more likely to get an aesthetic that’s kind of like Rent, but they are singing Puccini’s music,” she says.

    “There’s a lot of different opera out there. I think it’s a matter of finding the kind of opera that is going to grab you — and it’s going to be different for everyone.”

    Although Penner has yet to formally introduce her two-year-old daughter to the genre, both she and her husband have ensured music has remained a part of their St. Catharines household.

    “I pick at the piano sometimes and she’ll climb up on the stool and play some things,” she says. “I’ll be playing a Handel piece, but all she really wants to hear is Three Blind Mice.”

    For more information on Penner’s upcoming survey or to participate, email npenner@brocku.ca

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  • Virtual auditions for Brock University choirs now open to community

    Originally published in The Brock News | WEDNESDAY, JULY 14, 2021 | by 

    Image caption: Rachel Rensink-Hoff, Associate Professor of Music at Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts and Artistic Director of Brock University Choral Activities, is excited for Brock choir auditions to get underway in advance of the fall 2021 season.

    Brock choirs are back this fall and singing a hopeful tune for a busy season of choral activities for the University and wider Niagara community.

    Choir auditions are now open and will be running online throughout the summer for two ensembles: University Choir and Sora Singers.

    University Choir is a mixed voice ensemble for soprano, alto, tenor and bass voices and is open to all members of the Brock community, including students, faculty and staff.

    Sora Singers (formerly the Brock Women’s Choir) is an upper-voice ensemble for anyone with a soprano or alto voice. Auditions for Sora Singers are open to the Brock community as well as the wider Niagara community.

    Rachel Rensink-Hoff, Associate Professor of Music at Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) and Artistic Director of Brock University Choral Activities, is hopeful that choir members will be able to sing together in person, pending public health and Brock University protocols.

    “It has been a really tough year and as singers, we are all feeling rusty,” she said. “Building our vocal technique will certainly be the top priority when we convene in the fall to rebuild our singing community.”

    While the past year posed challenges for Brock’s choirs, Rensink-Hoff feels there were key lessons learned through experimentation with digital platforms, which she hopes will be integrated into the program going forward.

    “Because we are all familiar with collaborative opportunities in online formats, this coming year we will be virtually welcoming several composers whose works we will be studying and performing,” she said.

    Diversity and inclusion are also top of mind for Rensink-Hoff as the she plans for the coming season.

    “I am committed to diversifying our performance repertoire and spending more intentional time together exploring the voices of under-represented composers and communities,” she said.

    All audition details and rehearsal times can be found on the Sing at Brock! website. The audition is a two-part process involving a singing recording followed by a meeting over Zoom. Students who are interested can enrol in a choir for credit as a Brock course elective.

    The last day to audition for both the University Choir and Sora Singers will be Monday, Sept. 13.

    Choir rehearsal and performance formats are subject to change and will be delivered in adherence with Brock and public health protocols.

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  • Fine and Performing Arts grads poised to shape the future with creative skills

    Image caption: Soo Myung Oh, at her piano, will graduate with a Bachelor of Music and plans to perform professionally in addition to pursuing teaching performance after completing her degree at Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts. Image credit: Photo by Shannon Peebles, Ventures & Vows Photography.

    Students graduating from Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) are ready to make their mark in the world.

    From creating innovative art in support of social justice causes, to utilizing professional art practices in the mental health field and pursuing careers in live performance bringing joy to audiences, MIWSFPA grads are drawing on their academic experiences and diverse skill sets to propel them forward on their career paths.

    For Ian Ball, who will graduate Friday, June 18 with a Bachelor of Arts in Dramatic Arts and History of Art and Visual Culture, continuing his creative work in digital media is a top priority.

    Music graduand Nick Braun will continue to write and record his own music after graduation.

    Ball is currently working with Toronto-based [elephants collective]’s Telethon Telethon! This collaborative project is a monthly digital performance experiment that aims to provide aid to various social justice causes and is currently supporting the Anishnawbe Health Foundation.

    Ball is looking forward to the easing of public health restrictions within the arts when it is safe to do so.

    “I’m hoping I’ll get a chance to develop a follow-up to work I co-created in 2019’s Nuit Blanche in Toronto,” he said.

    Combining his interests in dramatic arts and visual culture, Ball will be pursuing a master’s degree in Cultural Studies at Queen’s University in the fall, with hopes of one day completing a PhD and working in the cultural field.

    As Music graduand Soo Myung Oh looks to the future, she reflects on her time at Brock. The busy mother of three pursued her degree during the day, reserving her evenings for family time.

    “My four years in the Music program were about the process of identifying myself as a musician,” said Oh, who graduates Friday with a Bachelor of Music, Concentration in Music Education and Minor in Applied Linguistics. “Although I played piano for years in my youth, I was completely new to public performance and I had to learn how to play music and deliver it to audiences.”

    Oh fondly remembers the experience of performing in the Recital Hall at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, adjacent to the MIWSFPA in downtown St. Catharines. Performing on a professional stage was a defining moment for the musician.

    “I can still recall the way the piano sounded as I played, and the interaction between the sound and the air in the hall on that special day. It was simply an amazing experience,” she said.

    After she graduates, Oh will continue to perform professionally and would like to eventually teach performance, inspired by her concentration in Music Education. Her current interest for further study is therapeutic recreation and gerontology.

    “Since my musical experience at Brock started from my own experience of retrieving memories, and my process for preparing my solo piano recital relied heavily on the cognitive process of music and brainwork, I became interested in the connection between the two and implications of aging,” Oh said.

    “My degree has allowed me to write music and produce my own recordings,” Braun said.Nick Braun, who will also graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Music, is excited to continue writing music.

    His studies have given him a unique skill set “to make modern, unique and refreshing music,” he said, adding his style fits somewhere in the alternative rock realm.

    Braun will take some time after graduation to work locally, save money and continue to work on his personal music projects.

    “Between me and my network of friends in the music industry, I will be taking on opportunities to work with various people and explore our creative potential as young artists,” Braun said.

    Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture graduand Maya Meyerman is excited to continue her scholarly and creative work in the cultural field and will pursue a graduate certificate in the arts and culture sector at Humber College in September.

    Graduand Maya Meyerman, who will receive her Bachelor of Arts in Studies in Arts and Culture with a concentration in Cultural Management on Friday, discovered her career pathway through diverse experiences within the interdisciplinary program.

    Gaining a critical view of contemporary culture and connecting with the local arts scene led Meyerman to pursue a graduate certificate in Arts Administration and Cultural Management at Humber College.

    “I’m excited to pursue opportunities in Toronto and build upon my experience at Brock,” she said. “The MIWSFPA is such an inspiring place to learn and connect with the arts, and I have made deep connections with the arts community.”

    Meyerman recently produced an arts festival for youth ages 13 to 30 in Kingston and will be spending the summer preparing for next year’s edition.

    “As someone who didn’t want to study just one branch of the arts, the Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture and the MIWSFPA provided me with a creative and safe venue to explore my personal interests, introducing me to the many versions of what ‘the arts’ can be,” she said. “I know that it has prepared me to take on the next step towards my career in the arts industry.”

    Visual Arts (VISA) graduand Kendra Bosse has developed her art practice and realized her passion for photography as therapy.

    Bosse, who will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art and Psychology and Minor in Indigenous Studies, is committed to engaging with her art to positively impact individuals experiencing mental health issues and addiction.

    “After graduation, I will be attending Canadore College to study mental health and addictions counselling to gain experience in the field before pursuing graduate school,” she said.

    Bosse and fellow VISA graduand Cree Tylee are capping off their final year at Brock with a double exhibition “treasured | (A)part,” currently on view virtually in the VISA Gallery on the first floor of the MIWSFPA until Monday, July 5.

    Relationship as Deep as The Ocean, 2021, Cyanotype on Cotton (24 in x 36in) by Kendra Bosse as featured in the double exhibition “treasured” and “(A)part.”

    The bodies of work were developed under the supervision of Visual Arts Chair and Associate Professor Amy Friend for the students’ independent studies courses in the Visual Arts.

    “The double exhibition of treasured and (A)part was a cathartic way to finish the end of an unconventional graduating year,” said Tylee, who will graduate with her Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art and Minor in the History of Art and Visual Culture. “Working with Visual Arts Media Resource Co-ordinator Max Holten-Andersen to create a virtual exhibition for our show (including a 360 virtual tour) was an insightful experience that wouldn’t have happened under different circumstances.”

    Even though they were unable to have a traditional gallery opening, the ability to learn and become well-versed in the creation of virtual exhibits is a valuable skill the students will take with them, she said, calling it a “silver lining.”

    Title wall of Cree Tylee’s body of work entitled (A)part. Tylee describes this exhibition as a “very introspective and multi-faceted body of work with multiplicities of concepts I’ll be able to draw on for further graduate studies.”

    Both artists agree that bringing this final exhibition into fruition has been an enlightening process, acknowledging that completing a thesis under the supervision of Friend and having a final exhibition made their final year very fulfilling.After graduation, Tylee, recipient of the Distinguished Graduating Student Award in Visual Arts, will be taking an accelerated studio program in Ceramics at the Haliburton School of Art + Design while preparing for further graduate studies.

    The virtual exhibition and 360 gallery tour of treasured | (A)part can be viewed on the Visual Arts website.Fine and Performing Arts grads poised to shape the future with creative skills

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  • Upcoming: The Department of Music virtually attends Royal Conservatory of Music College & University Music Fair 2020

    The Department of Music at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts at Brock University is excited to virtually host future musicians at their online booth! The Royal Conservatory College & University Fair is going virtual this year. Set for October 3, 2020, registration is FREE. It has never been easier for future students to learn about the programs offered, admission requirements and much, much more. See you there!

    Register for free: https://bit.ly/2ZS1cLR

    To learn more about the programs offered through the Department of Music at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, drop by our degree programs page.  

     

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  • Brock Choir sings new tune for virtual 2020-21 season

    (including content published THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 03, 2020 | in The Brock News by )

    Choir at Brock University will look a little different this fall by moving to a virtual rehearsal format.

    “Given the known risks of singing together in groups, we will not attempt to do what we normally do until health guidelines permit us,” says Rachel Rensink-Hoff, Associate Professor of Music and Choir Director.

    While not being able to safely gather and practice in person together is a challenge for those in choir, Rensink-Hoff sees it as an opportunity.

    “We have a unique opportunity to get to know and learn from one another in new ways through online discussion and active engagement.”

    Rensink-Hoff will focus the choir on pursuing some of the things they haven’t usually had time for, such as building individual skills in vocal technique and stage presence, analyzing music as a vehicle for storytelling, and reflecting on the historical and cultural contexts of songs. There will also be a “Shared Perspectives” series of guest interviews and workshops with conductors, composers and vocal-choral specialists from across Canada and the U.S.

    Choir members will need headphones, a video recording device such as a phone, computer or tablet, as well as internet connection.

    The Treble Choir (sopranos and altos) will rehearse together virtually on Thursdays from 6 to 9 p.m., and the Mixed Voices choir (sopranos, altos, tenors and basses) will meet Mondays and Wednesdays from 2:30 to 4 p.m.

    “Our work will emphasize the process, rehearsing, over the product, performing,” says Rensink-Hoff. “This is a tough transition for those of us in the arts, but it is also a chance to for us to strengthen our performance skills and to reflect on the significance of live performance to individuals and communities.”

    Choir auditions are open to Brock students, faculty, staff as well as members of the wider Niagara community. Both new and returning choir members may book their auditions online before the deadline on Thursday, Sept. 10 at 11:59 p.m.

    For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:
    * Michelle Pressé, Brock University Communications, mpresse@brocku.ca, 905-688-5550 x4420 or 905-246-1963


    SING@BROCK ONLINE EDITION: audition for choir 2020-21

    Open by audition to all students, faculty, staff and members of the Niagara community!

    For the 2020-2021 academic year, choir will be fully online until guidelines allow for other forms of gathering. As such, the course will be less about performance outcomes and more about the process of learning, connecting, exploring and innovating as key elements of ensemble participation.

    Singers will engage with a diverse body of choral repertoire in sessions on vocal technique and choral skill development, explorations of movement and stage presence, analysis of music and text, workshops with guest artists, and collaborations through innovative singing projects. Rehearsal and performance skills will be developed in the context of a supportive community that promotes cross-cultural understanding and self-expression.

    Previous singing experience and ability to read music is required.
    For more information contact:
    Rachel Rensink-Hoff, rrensinkhoff@brocku.ca
    SEE >>> brocku.ca/sing

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  • Redesigned course explores global music and identities

    (Published FRIDAY, JULY 31, 2020 | in The Brock News by )

    This fall, Brock University students will have the opportunity to explore how music shapes, and is shaped by, global cultures.

    Music in Global Cultures (MUSI 1P50) will explore how music expresses and shapes identity around themes of race, gender, spirituality, disability and sexuality.

    “Every unit will have case studies from all over the world,” says Nina Penner, Assistant Professor of Music. “We’ll be doing a lot of non-western music.”

    For those who may associate music appreciation classes with symphonies and string quartets by predominantly white men from previous centuries, this course will offer a fresh angle with a diverse repertoire.

    “We’ll be talking about music and its relation to the society and culture in which it is a part,” says Penner.

    Students will be exploring music from countries such as Gambia, India, Nepal, Japan and Cuba in genres including hip hop, jazz, sufi, disco and blues.

    Students will explore issues of race through the music of the Black Lives Matter movement and American blues and examine disability through the music of the Goze, a group of female Japanese musicians with visual disabilities, and the Deaf West Theatre in Los Angeles. They will investigate how Buddhist chant, the Whirling Dervishes of the Mevlevi Sufi order and traditional Jewish music express spirituality, and explore gender expression in opera and Balinese gamelan music.

    Penner hopes students from all disciplines across Brock will consider taking the course.

    “I really enjoy teaching music for non-majors,” she says. “I find it really exciting to take people who like music but think they aren’t skilled in music and show them how much they can learn and develop skills to listen to and describe things about music.”

    In North America, Penner says, students traditionally don’t get a lot of instruction in thinking about and discussing music critically.

    “It’s exciting to see students develop this vocabulary and to talk about music in a precise and informed way.”

    Course enrollment is open to any students who are interested. There are no theory requirements or prerequisites. The course is offered entirely online and the enrolment cap has been lifted to reflect the online learning environment.

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