Music at York University

York University. Non-denominational Toronto institution offering a range of part-time and full-time undergraduate and graduate degree programs and non-degree courses. It was founded in 1959 and accepted its first students in 1960. Its first campus - Glendon - opened in 1961.

Music at York University

York University. Non-denominational Toronto institution offering a range of part-time and full-time undergraduate and graduate degree programs and non-degree courses. It was founded in 1959 and accepted its first students in 1960. Its first campus - Glendon - opened in 1961. After an initial period of affiliation with the University of Toronto it became independent in 1965 with the opening of its main campus on the northern outskirts of Toronto. In 1991 degrees obtainable in music were BA (specialized honours), BFA (music), and MA (musicology/ethnomusicology). Through part-time study at York's Atkinson College a number of music education courses were also offered towards the B ED degree.

William McCauley, the first appointment in music, served 1961-9 as music director, organizing extracurricular musical activities and setting up performing ensembles. One of the latter, the York University Choir, won the 1967 City of Lincoln Trophy awarded by the FCMF. A Faculty of Fine Arts, created in 1968, had by 1990 become a large and comprehensive facility offering interdisciplinary studies in theatre and visual arts, music, film and video, and dance. Sterling Beckwith designed the music program and served 1969-71 as its director, succeeded by David Silcox 1971-2. A Music Dept was formed under the chairmanship of Austin Clarkson in 1972. Subsequent chairmen have been Alan Lessem 1975-82 (David Lidov was acting chairman 1979-80), James McKay 1982-8, David Mott 1988-89, and Steven Otto (acting) 1989-90. Mott resumed his position as chairman in 1990. In 1991 there were 15 full-time and 28 part-time teaching staff. The Music Dept's graduate program (established by Stephen Blum, who served as director 1977-85), offers specialized courses taught by Austin Clarkson, Beverley Diamond, David Lidov, Jay Rahn, Trichy Sankaran, James Tenney, William Wescott, and Robert Witmer (who became director in 1985).

Performance training at York has not been structured according to traditional patterns, but has reflected, rather, interests in jazz, early, contemporary, computer-based, and non-western music, supported by collections of eastern and early-European instruments and an electronic laboratory. Concerts by staff, students, and visiting artists were presented regularly in the university's 600-seat Burton Auditorium until the centre of activity shifted to the Decoustics Acoustical Control System Centre for Acoustical Research at York (DACARY). This computerized facility manipulates space, controlling resonance and sound. The only comparable facility is the twinned centre at the Technical U of Delft, Netherlands. DACARY was introduced to the public in November 1987 as part of the CJRT/York concert series, presenting works of R. Murray Schafer; the official opening was in March 1988. McKay was instrumental in establishing both the facility and the concert series. York University also has a Fine Arts Interdisciplinary Computer Centre, a music satellite facility, an Atari/Amiga lab, and the Oscar Peterson Studio for Advanced Jazz Research.

In 1990 the Music Dept supported five large and numerous small student performing groups including the Jazz Orchestra, York University Choir, Wind Symphony, and contemporary music ensembles. Orchestra York (formerly a community orchestra under various names), led 1978-89 by McKay, has premiered works by Victor Davies, Michael Horwood, Kevin McKinney, Victor Mio, and Stuart Shepherd.

York has pioneered university-level jazz studies in Canada, starting in the 1970s. The program in 1991 was co-directed by John Gittins and Robert Witmer. Oscar Peterson became an adjunct professor in 1985.

The South Indian program (founded in 1971 by Jon Higgins; Trichy Sankaran was head in 1991), part of the world music program, has hosted festivals beginning in the mid-1970s. York has also sponsored conferences, guest lecturers, and performers. The Canadian Piano Trio became artists-in-residence in 1985; the members in 1991 were Gloria Saarinen, Jamie Weisenblum, and Nina Tobias. Christina Petrowska was also on the performance faculty in 1991. Scott Library has an extensive collection of books, scores, records, tapes, and CD's. Three talent scholarships are available to students of exceptional ability.

The following have received honorary degrees (D LITT) from York: Mavor Moore (1969), Maureen Forrester and Norman McLaren (1972), Harry Somers (1977), Louis Applebaum (1979), Steven Staryk and Ernesto Barbini (1980), and Edith Fowke (1982), Andrew Davis (1984), Reginald Godden and Gilles Vigneault (1985), Peggie Sampson (1988), Bruce Cockburn (1989), and Udo Kasemets (1991). Floyd S Chalmers received an honorary BFA in 1973. Oscar Peterson received an honorary D LITT in 1982 and became chancellor of the university in 1991.

See also Archives.

Further Reading

  • 'York's spirit of adventure found in music courses,' MSc, 266, Jul-Aug 1972

    'DACARY can deliver concert hall sound in a closet,' York Gazette, vol 18, no. 7, 1987

    Littler, William. 'Sound system can turn shoebox into cathedral,' Toronto Star, 2 Apr 1988

    Johnson, Phil. 'Theory, practice - and all that jazz,' Toronto Star, 6 Jun 1991

    Miller, Mark. 'Tickling the ivory tower,' Toronto Globe and Mail, 8 Jun 1991

    Chapman, Geoff. 'Chancellor of keyboard loves York gig,' .Toronto Star, 9 Jun 1991

    Musicology and Ethnomusicology at York, Faculty of Graduate Studies Newsletter 1985-

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