Archive for Stories

My Wonderful Musical Home

I arrived at age 16 to the Faculty of Music as a piano student of the great Anton Kuerti in the MusBac in Performance program and began what has been and continues to be a rich, creative, fulfilling and inspiring journey throughout my professional career.

The Faculty was much smaller then and students participated in intensive musical training involving all aspects of music making, working closely with brilliant professors, meeting and mingling with world renowned guest artists and developing life-long relationships with each other! My professors and mentors to mention only a few included John Beckwith, Gustav Ciamaga, Ezra Schabas, Arnold Walter, Lloyd Bradshaw, Oscar Morawetz, Walter Buczynski, Victor Feldbrill and Godfrey Ridout. We were fortunate to personally meet, participate in master classes and have coffee and conversation with visiting artists such as pianists Vladimir Ashkenazy and John Ogden, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and conductors Seiji Ozawa and Walter Susskind. It was a rich tapestry of learning and prepared me so well for graduate studies abroad where I continued honing my musical interests and skills.

Upon returning to Canada I initially began teaching at the Royal Conservatory of Music and a few years later was asked by former dean Ron Chandler to teach a group piano class for non-piano majors and subsequently to applied piano students at the Faculty of Music. Needless to say I embraced this opportunity to give back to my alma mater and to share my knowledge and experience with the next generations of musicians and have been doing so at the Faculty of Music for over 30 years and going strong! The support, mentorship, warm collegiality and opportunities to develop my rich and varied musical life and career have largely been made possible through this school, my wonderful musical home of which I am so proud and proud to be a part of!

-Boyanna Toyich (BMusPerf 1970)

My First Materials of Music Class

My first Materials class at the Faculty – Prof. Lothar Klein was the teacher. At that class he gave us a theory/harmony test. I got my paper back the next week with the note that “You will have to work hard in this class”. Welcome to U of T!

-Harcus Hennigar (BMus 1974, horn)

With artistry and integrity

My long association with the Faculty of Music was to conduct the Concert Choir (Now the MacMillan Singers) for three years while their conductor was on leave. That wonderful experience led to many friends and acquaintances I admire and respect. A few years later I was asked to teach a few organ students, which has led to forty years of working with organists who have gone on to have international careers. It was a formidable commitment but now is a joy to see these artists represent the University of Toronto with artistry and integrity.

  • John Tuttle, Organist to the University of Toronto, Organist and Director of Music, Trinity College

You win a free lunch!

As a long-time member of the Faculty of Music community, I have been fortunate to witness many memorable events and outstanding performances while enjoying the privilege of sharing a colleagueship and benefitting from the mentorship of so many of Canada’s finest musicians.  The story I would like to share reveals another equally important aspect to life at the Faculty – the warmth and generosity of this colleagueship that I have experienced on countless occasions.

Twenty years ago, while coaching and rehearsing at EJB in the “vocal corridor” leading to the backstage entrance of Walter Hall, I stepped out for a short break.  At that time, I was just over 4 months pregnant – with twins. My husband and I had decided to have a little fun with the inevitable announcement that indeed we were expecting. Whoever had the courage to actually comment on what was becoming obvious would be treated to a free lunch.  Just as I stepped out for that break, Mary Morrison also stepped out of her studio, and sure enough, immediately approached me, put her arm around my shoulder, warmly and simply said “I just noticed you’re pregnant! Congratulations!” Happily, I was able to respond “Thank you! – you win a free lunch!” and Mary accepted the invitation with her usual grace and good humor.

Despite being one of Canada’s premier musicians and pedagogues of the past 100 years, Mary’s simple gesture of care and kindness revealed her boundless generosity and respect towards everyone – regardless of who they are or what their role is in the community. Although personally a special story for me, it is representative of the many genuine interactions with colleagues and staff that have been and will continue to be an important part of daily life at the Faculty of Music.

  • Mia Bach, Instructor, Collaborative Pianist

I know lots about Beethoven!

One of the faculty duties that I enjoyed was the annual round of admission auditions/ interviews. It provided a fresh view of the orientation and background of incoming students which I found to be valuable when preparing my classes. The most memorable of these took place in the late 80s, involving a young, enthusiastic flute player who was applying for admission to the general program.  She played well and had a strong grade average, making her a good candidate.  Her answers during the interview were all very confident: she knew what she knew!  Near the end of the interview we asked her if she knew anything about Beethoven:

“Yes, I know lots about Beethoven!”

“Do you know if he wrote any symphonies?”

“Yes.  He wrote two: the Fifth and the Ninth!”

  • Professor Emeritus Timothy McGee

Faculty Christmas Party Memories

I also remember the annual Christmas party that was held in the lobby of the EJB. Members of the Faculty created performances that defy explanation or description but were enjoyed by all. I especially remember William Aide and his farmer routine. The late Dean Gus Ciamaga improvised with a rhythm section plus ‘yours truly’ and we always had to play his favourite “Blue Skies”. The Faculty of Music Dixieland Combo performed and you can imagine the sound of the ‘Legit-Dixie’ mix. There were also performances by special guests like MP Bob Rae (piano) and Oliver Jones with now Faculty member Dave Young. I recall that we were giving Oliver and Dave U of T Faculty of Music Jackets. When Oliver, who is small in stature, tried his on it was so big that he disappeared. We ordered another jacket in his size and I bought the oversized culprit, I still wear it today………miss those Christmas parties……THOSE WERE THE DAYS.

  • Professor Phil Nimmons, Director Emeritus of Jazz Studies

Jazz Program Beginnings

It’s 1973 and I was hired by then Dean John Beckwith and Performance Coordinator Ezra Schabas to take over directing the Faculty of Music Big Band from Ward Cole, who was leaving to go out west to the University of Calgary. The sessions were during the Fall and Spring terms on Mondays from 7 to 9pm and membership was voluntary from the entire University regardless of what Faculty and from the general public. During my early days with the band we didn’t always have a full complement and it was suggested that we put a trap line on Bloor Street to capture any busking musicians and bring them into the band. However, in the long run things improved and eventually there were 2 bands and they rehearsed from 7 to 9 pm on Mondays and Wednesdays and full attendance was consistent. Little did we know, at the time, that this was the seminal beginning of the Jazz Program which later, after more than a few years, became a reality through Dean Paul Pedersen who hired Paul Read as its first Director. Its beginning was bumpy but today, in every way, it is SWINGING.

Photo: Phil Nimmons performing in Toronto, photo by Bruce Litteljohn.

  • Professor Phil Nimmons, Director Emeritus of Jazz Studies

My best Faculty Experience

In fourth year Douglas Bodle put together a chamber choir. I was invited to join (not sure why) but it was one of the highlights of my years at the Faculty. I learned so much about phrasing, balance, ensemble, intonation and overall music-making from his coaching.

  • Harcus Hennigar (BMus 1974, horn)

No one steps into the same Music Library twice

The pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus insisted that the only constant in the universe is change. In describing my 40 years at the Faculty I like to adapt one of his fragments to say that no one steps into the same Music Library twice. Every day more scores and books, and almost every day music in new audio and video formats are added. Locating and using these resources once meant card and book catalogues and searches in the stacks; technology is putting more and more within reach of your personal computer. Library users appear as students, then reappear 20 years later as professional performers or teachers thrilled to see the changes in the ease and breadth of access in their areas of interest. Whether you just dip your toe in the river of knowledge, or plunge right in, you can be sure it will be deeper and richer the next time you visit.

  • Kathleen McMorrow, Librarian Emerita

Collegiality of Faculty Members

When I first came to the Faculty of Music I was pleasantly surprised that, unlike the majority of music programs in universities and conservatories in North America and other parts of the world, the piano faculty would teach a master class in rotation allowing students to receive feedback from multiple approaches. I find that initiative open-minded and healthy for all of us. I am very proud that this was possible at U of T when I know that, in fact, it is very rare elsewhere! Colleagues are very collegial at the Faculty of Music and that is a very important matter I am very happy about.

  • Enrico Elisi, Associate Professor: Keyboard, Piano