Gloria Saarinen | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Gloria Saarinen

Gloria Saarinen (b Manson). Pianist, teacher, administrator, b Dunedin, New Zealand 21 Sep 1934, naturalized Canadian 1964; LRSM, B MUS (Otago, New Zealand) 1956, honorary ARAM (London) 1999.

Saarinen, Gloria

Gloria Saarinen (b Manson). Pianist, teacher, administrator, b Dunedin, New Zealand 21 Sep 1934, naturalized Canadian 1964; LRSM, B MUS (Otago, New Zealand) 1956, honorary ARAM (London) 1999. A child prodigy, she studied first in New Zealand and later, with the assistance of numerous scholarships, at the Royal Academy of Music in London under Frederic Jackson, and in Europe, where her teachers included Friedrich Wuehrer, Richard Hauser, Alfred Cortot, Guido Agosti, and Abbey Simon, before settling in Calgary in 1963. She received the Harriet Cohen Commonwealth Medal that year. She toured and performed widely as a recitalist with Menahem Pressler, Allan Monk, Mark DuBois, Steven Staryk, and Edith Wiens; as chamber musician with the Prague, Allegri, and Orford string quartets; and appeared in concert with leading orchestras (Winnipeg, Calgary, Hallé, New Zealand) under Sir Ernest MacMillan, Arthur Fiedler, and others. She performed often in the USA and in New Zealand.

Teacher and Chamber Musician

She performed with the One Third Ninth trio (of which she was a founding member 1970) until it disbanded in 1981; all three were Alberta artists in residence for a time. She was a professor at the University of Calgary 1969-75, and at the Mount Royal College Conservatory beginning in 1973, and taught on a part-time basis until 1990. In conjunction with her solo career, she founded the Chinook Piano Competition, which began on a provincial level in 1982 and progressed to a national event by 1985. In 1988, she formed the Chinook Trio with flutist Susan Hoeppner and cellist Ofra Harnoy (later, with Amanda Forsyth) and succeeded Stephanie Sebastian as pianist in the Canadian Piano Trio, an ensemble-in-residence at York University. She founded a number of other chamber music ensembles including the Chinook Duo and the Chinook Ensemble, and as of 2003 performed with Trilogy and the Quartet Saint Cecilia. She was artistic director of the Chamber Music Society of Calgary, and hosted 'Musical Portraits,' an award-winning Calgary television program. Saarinen was founding artistic director for the Esther Honens International Piano Competition in 1992. She taught for many musical organizations including Dixon Hall Music School, the Midsummer Music Society, and the Okanagan International Festival for the Arts. She taught piano at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto 1986-91 and again from 2003, and maintained a private studio in Toronto. She commissioned works by Murray Adaskin, Violet Archer, Malcolm Forsyth, Allan Rae, and others, and performed works by Oscar Peterson, Srul Irving Glick, Chan Ka Nin, Archer, Harry Somers, and others.


She recorded the complete Schubert duets with Arnold Draper (Doremi DDR71125, 71126), as well as making recordings with the Canadian Trio, and solo recordings on the Doremi and Avalon labels. She accompanied saxophonist Daniel Rubinoff on a CD, The Old Castle, in 1998 (Carnival Records CCR 030); and with Rubinoff she recorded Glick's Suite Hebraique No. 4 (Carnival CCR-032).


Saarinen received the following awards: Alberta Government Award for Cultural Contribution, Winter Olympics, 1988; Rotary International Paul Harris Award, 1997; and a Special Teacher's Award, Ontario Registered Music Teachers Association, 2001.

Further Reading

Challenge yourself - take the CC Quiz!

The Canadian Encyclopedia is a project of Historica Canada, a non-profit, nonpartisan organization devoted to teaching Canadians more about our shared country.  We also produce the Heritage Minutes and other programs. If you believe all Canadians should have access to free, impartial, fact-checked, regularly updated information about Canada’s history and culture in both official languages, please consider donating today. All donations above $3 will receive a tax receipt.

Book a Speaker