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   A Memorial University of Newfoundland Publication

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November 27, 2003
 Newspage

 


Music community elated over announcement
Room to breathe

 
An artistic rendition of the new Petro-Canada Hall
An 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 pressure.

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.

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.
Photo 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 very wise.”

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.”


 


 
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Next issue: December 11, 2003

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