Visiting Artists

The first visitor to the Edward Johnson Building in 1962 was composer and education Carl Orff, who taught the first International Conference on Elementary Music Education and introduced Orff Schulwerk to over 160 participants.

Since then, the Faculty of Music has hosted hundreds of visiting artists and lecturers throughout the academic year, enriching musical thought for students, faculty members, and the public.

Here are some profiles of just a few of those visitors: Hindustani vocalist Pandit Jasraj, Czech composer Karel Husa, jazz composer Maria Schneider, and avant-garde composer György Ligeti.

Pandit Jasraj

Pandit Jasraj performing in Convocation Hall; April 18, 1999; Faculty of Music Archives

An internationally revered guru, Hindustani vocalist Pandit Jasraj (1930) first performed on stage at the University of Toronto in Walter Hall on April 9th, 1995. This concert and subsequent live CD, (which can be found in our Music Library,) marked the establishment of a scholarship fund in his name for students studying Indian Classical Music. His second visit to the University of Toronto in 1999 was highlighted by a full-house concert at Convocation Hall, where he was the recipient of the Faculty of Music’s Distinguished Visitor Award. He was the first distinguished visitor of Indian Classical Music in the University’s history.

Jasraj is a vocalist with a range of three and a half octaves and is the foremost voice of the Mewati gharana tradition of Hindustani classical music. Although the Mewati gharana is a devotional musical practice, Jasraj’s reach extends beyond the sacred into semi-classical and popular fields. He has been featured on over 100 recordings since 1950, and has toured internationally to great acclaim.

Pandit Jasraj performing in Convocation Hall; April 18, 1999; Faculty of Music Archives

An honored pedagogue of his craft, Jasraj’s musical legacy revolves around the continued development of North Indian music at home and abroad. He has founded schools dedicated to the Mewati gharana, following its traditional pedagogical principles, in Toronto, Vancouver and New York, among others. For his contributions to Indian music and culture, Jasraj was honoured with the Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award of the Republic of India.

“If there is one advice I would like to give it is practice, perfection and purity of notes that one has to be constantly be working upon. Music learning is an ongoing class. Nobody passes out. Every musician is a student forever.”

Jasraj in conversation with Shashank Subramanyam, 2006

Karel Husa

Karel Husa (1921-2016) was one of the preeminent Czech composers of the 20th Century. A student of Boulanger and Honegger, Husa was a composer of great regard, notably winning the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1969 for his String Quartet No. 3 and the Grawemeyer Award in 1993 for his Cello Concerto. Husa, like many of his contemporaries from the Eastern Bloc, left the communist and increasingly oppressive Czechoslovakia after his studies abroad. He then immigrated to the United States where he accepted positions at Cornell University and Ithaca College.

In addition to his orchestral acclaim, Husa is perhaps best known for his contributions to the Wind Ensemble repertoire. His Music for Prague 1968, written as a response to the brutal Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia has become a standard of the symphonic wind repertoire. Music for Prague has been programmed over 10,000 times since its composition, including three times at the Faculty of Music: February 15, 1976 (Dir. Stephen Chenette); April 1, 2006 (Dir. Darryl Eaton); and February 4, 2012 (Dir. Alain Cazes).

“I think that Music for Prague is popular because it offers a wonderful balance between technical challenge and artistic reward. It is a difficult piece to put together, and sometimes the musical language is a bit abstract, especially for players encountering Husa for the first time. But when it all comes together, the emotional impact of the piece for both players and audience is tremendous. I think the importance of its subject matter is also important – people have something they can hang on to as they listen. Husa used an old Hussite song as source material – a song of resistance that would have been known to all Czechs in the time Music for Prague was written. I think Music for Prague really opened up new possibilities for composers seeking to create new sounds – the attention of this important composers shone the spotlight on the potential of the wind band as an artistic medium.”

Dr. Gillian MacKay, Professor & Director of the Wind Ensemble

Husa visited the University of Toronto, Faculty of Music in November 1986 to conduct the Contemporary Music Ensemble (Dir. Robin Engelman) performance of his chamber work, Serenade (1963). Unfortunately, no recording of this performance is available at this time – although we would love to hear from you if you were there!

Maria Schneider

Maria Schneider (1960) is one of America’s foremost jazz musicians of our time. A genre-bending bandleader, pianist and composer, Schneider has notably won five GRAMMYs in both jazz and classical categories. Still active, Schneider continues to record, perform and teach around the world. A graduate of the University of Minnesota and the Eastman School, Schneider was awarded a NEA Apprenticeship Grant in 1985 to study with famed trombonist and bandleader Bob Brookmeyer, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Minnesota in 2012.

In addition to her artistic practice, Schneider is a prominent advocate for the rights of musicians in the digital age. She is an outspoken critic of YouTube, Spotify and other streaming services which, through legal loopholes and unethical practices, fail to both properly compensate creators for their work and protect their intellectual property. She has testified to this effect before the United States Congress, participated in round-table discussions with the United States Copyright Office, and appeared on television and numerous publications. She was a founding member of the artist advocacy organization musicanswers as well as the crowd-funded ArtistShare platform.

Schneider was the first (primarily) jazz composer to be named the Roger D. Moore Distinguished Visitor in Composition at the University of Toronto Faculty of Music in 2008-2009. On April 4th 2009, she conducted the U of T Jazz Orchestras in a concert of her music.

U of T 10 O’Clock Jazz Orchestra with Shannon Graham on saxophone, conducted by Maria Schneider, 2009.
U of T 10 O’Clock Jazz Orchestra with Shannon Graham on saxophone, conducted by Maria Schneider, 2009.

“Maria Schneider’s residency was a highlight of my time at U of T. Many of the students in the program, including myself, were very interested in jazz composition as well as performance and it was inspirational to learn from one of the most prominent composers in jazz today. It was wonderful to experience her unique style of conducting while playing in the big band. It was also important for me to see a woman occupy that role, as female leadership can unfortunately be a rarity in academic jazz programs.”

Shannon Graham (BMusPerf 11)

György Ligeti

One of the most influential and innovative composers of the 20th Century, Ligeti needs little introduction. A composer of Hungarian origin, he fled the Soviet regime and settled in Vienna in the late 1950s. This new period in his life marked a shift towards the avant-garde, away from the dodecaphonic style he formerly composed in. His avant-garde work is wide-ranging; earlier works from this period involved his trademark micropolyphony, widely popularized by its inclusion in the soundtrack of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Later, his compositional focus shifted away from sonorous explorations to those of rhythm. His three books of Études for piano are among the most popular of his compositions from this later period, and are widely considered as some of the finest piano writing of the late 20th Century.

Ligeti – Études pour piano, Book III, Étude 16

Ligeti visited the University of Toronto, Faculty of Music in 1973 for the CAPAC-MacMillan Lecture in MacMillan Theatre. Ligeti joined distinguished company, as other lecturers included Glenn Gould, Zoltan Kodaly, Ravi Shankar, Luciano Berio and Maureen Forrester. These lectures were held annually from 1963-1977 as part of the summer school curriculum and were originally facilitated by MacMillan. Ligeti’s 1973 lecture was the first after MacMillan’s death in May of that year.

This 1973 lecture addresses a variety of topics related to his compositional practice. Although primarily about his interest in electronic music, he discusses his unique notational style, harmonic language, micropolyphony, and even holograms.

Please enjoy this fascinating snippet of his lecture in MacMillan Theatre, courtesy of the University of Toronto, Faculty of Music Library, where he explains his desire to create poetry through electronic sounds.  If interested in the full lecture or the others above, please inquire in our Music Library directly.

by James Conquer