artistic rendition of the new Petro-Canada Hall
By Wade Kearley
It’s 1 a.m. last Saturday morning and Dr. Peter Gardner
and the Newfoundland Symphony Youth Orchestra (NSYO) have
just de-planed and rendezvous at Memorial’s School
of Music to catch their rides home. “When we arrived
at the school,” recalled Dr. Gardner, “a group
of percussionists were just going into the studio for rehearsal.
That was the only time available.”
“I think Petro-Canada’s
decision to serve the community in this way through
the university is very wise.”
Such late night activity is not unusual. “The
School of Music has reached its capacity to accommodate
the burgeoning provincial music scene,” said Dr. Gardner.
He ought to know. As director of the NSYO (and general manager
and artistic director of the NSO), Dr. Gardner depends heavily
on the school and its community outreach policy. He believes
such outreach is part of the school’s vitality, but,
“in many ways they have become a victim of their own
success. They have created such a demand that there is no
way to accommodate everyone.” The introduction of
the new master’s program in music has created additional
So it was with excitement and relief that Dr. Gardner greeted
the news last week that Petro-Canada will fund the creation
of a $1.2 million Petro-Canada Hall, a rehearsal and performance
space for the School of Music. “Finally they are going
to have room to breathe,” he said.
Scheduled to open in early 2005, the new facility will be
attached to the M.O. Morgan building where the School of
Music is housed on the St. John’s Campus. With an
audience capacity for 120 people and a rehearsal capacity
for 150 musicians, the Petro-Canada Hall will be equipped
for both recording and Web-casting.
At the reception after the announcement Nov. 19, master’s
student Julia Halfyard could barely contain her excitement.
As a graduate student and member of the opera workshop she
knows what it’s like to have to hunt for rehearsal
space. But for Ms. Halfyard, the Petro-Canada Hall is more
than that. “As musicians we are really proud of what
we do. But it is a greater source of pride to be a part
of a community that supports us like this,” she said.
Part of her excitement is the design, layout and cutting-edge
technology of the hall.
by Chris Hammond
Kate Read of the Atlantic String Quartet performs during
the announcement of Petro-Canada’s contribution
to a new concert and rehearsal facility at Memorial.
Susan Knight couldn’t agree more. As
founder and artistic director of the Newfoundland Symphony
Youth Choir she sees great potential for the choir through
the new facility.
“The broadband technology is fabulous,” she
said. “It gives us the ability to work in concert
with and learn from other choirs around the world,”
she said. “I think Petro-Canada’s decision to
serve the community in this way through the university is
She added that a suite of offices included in the design
will help organizers stabilize and improve annual musical
festivals and events.
School of Music faculty member Dr. Doug Dunsmore is also
conductor of the Newfoundland Symphony Philharmonic Choir.
Since its formation in 1987, the choir has used the School
of Music facilities whenever they can book the time. “This
new facility will allow us to honour our commitment to the
community and continue to offer a full academic complement
to undergraduate and graduate students.”
It is not just members of the music community who are singing
Petro-Canada’s praises for this generous gift. Frank
Fagan is the executive director of the Association of Cultural
Industries, a multidisciplinary lobby group for the arts.
“We are excited by the exponential growth of music
in this province,” he said. “In an environment
where corporate dollars for the arts have been few and far
between, Petro-Canada has shown they are leaders. They recognize
the arts as an investment and are willing to step up to
the plate and invest without seeming self-serving.”
There is also praise for Petro-Canada and the impact of
their gift from within the oil and gas sector. Fred Way
is vice-president of the board for the Canada Newfoundland
Offshore Petroleum Board. That organization oversees offshore
development. Mr. Way points out that there is a requirement
in legislation that companies involved in offshore development
must invest in research and development and in training.
When Petro-Canada approached them for a ruling on whether
the investment in the School of Music would qualify under
the legislation, “we discussed it around the table
and we ruled it was eligible,” said Mr. Way.
“It’s important to support the growth of Memorial
and we’d like to see more investment like this by
other companies in the oil and gas sector.”