Queen's University

Margaret Walker reflects on the future of music at Queen's

 
2013-09-23

As the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts takes shape on the waterfront, the School of Music readies itself for this new facility. Dr. Margaret Walker, Director of the School of Music, sat down with Meredith Dault, Senior Communications Officer, for a chat about what the IBCPA will mean for music at Queen’s.

Meredith Dault: Let’s start with a little background: when did the School of Music get its start at Queen’s?

Margaret Walker: The School of Music at Queen’s was founded in 1969 as the Department of Music, with Canadian composer Istvan Anhalt as its first Head, and is currently housed within the Faculty of Arts and Science. It’s a small and intimate program, with about 130 undergraduate students, all of whom are either working towards their Bachelor of Music, which includes a performance aspect, or their Bachelor of Arts.. We also have a well-known program in music education, with many students in the concurrent education stream. The School of Music has always had a strong focus on composition, as well. Since its start, four of the seven directors of the School have been composers. Having successful and prolific (and award-winning) composers at the helm and in our community has been important for us.

MD: When did the dream for a concert hall first come about?

MW: Having a concert hall has been a dream at the School of Music for decades now. I once heard the associate dean of arts and science and former director of the school of music, Dr. Gordon Smith, explain that when he first arrived at Queen’s in 1989 he was put on a concert hall committee! There were plans, at one point, to build a recital hall adjacent to Harrison-LeCaine Hall, but that never came to fruition. That’s why we generally use Grant Hall for large ensemble concerts – like the Homecoming “Showcase”, on October 18. Sometimes we use McLaughlin Hall in the JDUC. Sometimes we have to rent outside venues. We also have a rehearsal room and a lecture theatre in the basement of Harrison-LeCaine Hall that we can use, but neither are ideal. The fact is that we give lots and lots of concerts, and we’re physically scattered. We aren’t able to say this is our home. Every time we do a concert in Grant Hall, for example, we have to move all the instruments and music stands over. Sometimes we have to move grand pianos around, too, and that’s expensive!

MD: How will things be different when the IBCPA opens next fall?

MW: It’s really a dream come true for us. We are so thrilled to know that we will have a new space we’ll be able to use for our performances. And the other wonderful thing is that we will have a real rehearsal room. Our current basement rehearsal room is so cramped that when you get our symphony orchestra in there, there’s hardly enough room for the violinists to move their bows back and forth.

And it’s not just the recital hall that we’ll be using – the lobby is a potential concert space as well. We’re already anticipating using it for our Sing-along Messiah in December and making it a real community event! The new building is going to be gorgeous.

MD: What kind of impact do you think the new facility will have on music students?

MW: The challenge for music programs is finding a way to keep things current – especially when much of the music we play is 300 years old. That means staying in touch with the professional world of music making in all its manifestations, not just classical music. We want our students to be equipped to pursue careers in fields like arts management, sound production and radio, too – and the interdisciplinary nature of the IBCPA will facilitate that.

We want our students to be self-starters and to take initiative, and we imagine that happening as they work together on collaborative projects with students in other disciplines, while making connections that will serve them long after they have left Queen’s.

The Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts officially opens in November 2014. For more information, visit http://www.queensu.ca/badercentre

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