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Spotlight on Alumni: Dr. Edmund Dawe

By Bojan Fürst

Dr. Edmund Dawe, a pianist, is a graduate of Memorial’s School of Music and today is dean of the Marcel A. Desautels Faculty of Music at the University of Manitoba. While overseeing a massive expansion of the school consumes most of his waking hours, he still finds time to perform and teach. He recently answered a few questions for our contributor Bojan Fürst.

Tell me a bit about what preoccupies you these days and why.
In July 2007, I began a new position as dean of the Faculty of Music at the University of Manitoba. In recent years, the faculty has outgrown its current building and plans are underway to relocate the faculty into state-of-the-art facilities by the fall of 2012. Last May, we announced a historic gift of $20 million from Dr. Marcel A. Desautels and his foundation. I have the privilege of spending each day working with a truly exceptional group of colleagues. So, most of my time is spent in day-to-day administrative responsibilities. I also perform on a regular basis. Last summer, I completed the recording sessions for a CD of two-piano works with New Brunswick colleague, Lynn Johnson. Previously, I have recorded two solo CDs and a CD as a member of the Atlantic Arts Trio. I cannot imagine my life without piano performance.

Tell me about your experience at Memorial? How did it shape you?
I owe a great deal to Memorial University. I entered the then Department of Music in 1977, when the program was still very new. However, from the outset, it was clear that the level of education was high and there was an underlying excitement among faculty and students – a sense that we were making history and contributing to building an important post-secondary program in the province. The musical training I received at MUN was first rate. I benefited from numerous performance opportunities and received the support and encouragement of an outstanding group of professors. I was very well prepared for subsequent graduate work. I returned to MUN and taught at the School of Music as a visiting assistant professor (1986 –‘ 87), and a sabbatical replacement (1987 – ‘ 88). It was a privilege to be a member of the faculty, and to see how much the program had grown and developed in a relatively short time.

What is your best memory of your days at Memorial?
Most of all, I remember being part of a closely-knit group of friends. We worked hard and had a great deal of fun! I also remember participating in the many annual performances and tours – Festival Choir, MUN Chamber Choir, the Kiwanis Music Festival.

You are a Newfoundlander. How does that influence your music and your work or does it?
The earliest account of the Dawe family name in Newfoundland dates back to the 1590s when records include a George Dawe who fished in Newfoundland in the spring and summer, and returned to England in the fall. So history and roots have always been very important to me. I think this has always influenced me in some way or another. I am interested in knowing the connections between the music I am preparing and its historical and stylistic context. My research interests also focus on the history of piano performance and pedagogy. Over the past decade, I have spent many hours doing research in major libraries and archives – it is fascinating and extremely valuable in my work as a performer and teacher.

What do you miss about Newfoundland?
I have a large extended family, so I miss them. I try to get home at least once each year. I miss so many things about the culture, the humour, the political satire, and the folk tradition. I have lived in Winnipeg for less than two years, but I see many similarities between Newfoundland and the rich cultural tradition of Manitoba.

For most people music is something they play or listen in order to relax. What does a professional pianist and professor of music listen to when he is not immersed in his work?
Yes, music is central to everything I do. I listen to music constantly – orchestral works, chamber music, lieder, solo piano music, historic performances. I love to explore the vastness of contemporary music and its multitude of styles and influences. Rachmaninoff once said that “Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music.”

Besides music, what are your other passions in life?
I love to read, go to movies and, above all, spend time with my family. Karla and I have been married for 25 years. She is a musician (organist) and faculty member at the Marcel A. Desautels Faculty of Music. We have three children: Noel (22), Nick (20), and Natalie (17).

What are you reading at the moment?

I tend to have several books going at once. At the moment: Developing Talent in Young People, by Benjamin S. Bloom, My Memories of Liszt, by Alexander Siloti. He was one of the last pupils of Franz Liszt. And Olga Samaroff Stokowski An American Virtuoso on the World Stage, by Donna Stanley Klin. And I am rereading: As Near to Heaven A History of Newfoundland and Labrador, by Kevin Major As I stated earlier, roots are important!

What is your advice to today’s crop of MUN music students?
Work hard and know your craft! I hope you consider music to be your vocation, your calling. Music is a powerful force, and one of the most fundamental and versatile forms of human expression. Go out into the world and seek out ways to use music and your talents to make a positive difference. The world desperately needs the many benefits music can provide.
To hear some of Dr. Dawe’s exceptional performance visit his website at