Improvisation & the Mobilization of Performance Communities

With Sarah Joy Stoker, Elling Lien, Kristin Harris Walsh, and Roarshack (Andrew Staniland, Paul Bendzsa, and Rob Power)

Arts and Culture Centre MMAP Gallery (2nd Floor, above MMAP offices)
Tuesday, May 20th from 7:30pm-9:30pm

Join us for an evening of music and discussion focused on the role of improvisation in the sharing of knowledge and the building of performance practices and communities. We will discuss community arts organizations and arts communities, how we can make them more inclusive and how we can use improvisation and improvisatory values to help empower others to create.

This event and the March and April sessions of Improvising Spaces will begin with our panel discussion (7:30-9pm) which will be followed by an open sound and movement jam. We encourage you to bring instruments or clothes you are comfortable moving in and to spend half an hour (9-9:30pm) sounding and moving with us after the discussion.

Sarah Joy Stoker:

St. John’s, NL native Sarah Joy Stoker began her dance training as a child and graduated from the School of Toronto Dance Theatre’s Professional Training Program in 1996. She went on to work as an independent dance artist for David Pressault Danse, Pigeons International and Lynda Gaudreau’s compagnie de Brune, among others, performing throughout Canada, Europe, and in Brazil. Her own work has been presented throughout Canada, in New York and Italy.

Upon her return in 2001, Sarah founded Gutsink Productions Inc. and Collective Gutsink in St. John’s to generate opportunities for creation, improvisation and experimentation. Both were committed to working within the evolution and emigration of artistic practice to generate new forms of relation, collaboration and community.

Her creative process puts emphasis on the human condition; how we affect others, our environments, and ourselves. Sarah believes that art is an active force in life and should therefore be a vehicle for action in our communities. She keeps issues of ecology and humanity as the focus of her work, speaking to the fractured nature of our physical world.

Sarah has worked extensively with Neighbourhood Dance Works and the Festival of New Dance in St. John’s since 2003, acting as Festival Coordinator, Selection Committee member, General Manager, Board member and Chair of the Board. She has been an advisor to the Canada Council for the Arts, a board member of The Association of Cultural Industries of Newfoundland and Labrador and Eastern Edge, an artist run contemporary gallery in St. John’s. Sarah continues to create dance and cross - disciplinary work, owns and operates Pony Locale, a Pilates, Kinesiology Massage Therapy studio in St. John’s, adores her nephews more than life itself and grows organic food as much as she can.

Elling Lien:

Elling Lien was co-founder and editor of the alternative newspaper The Scope from 2006 to 2014, and is now the executive director of Unpossible Newfoundland & Labrador a nonprofit that looks after the RPM Challenge in the province and works to encourage people of all ages and skill levels to make art. He's also the founder of Open Bookshelves and the owner of a dive bar for wild birds called Junco’s Pub.

Dr. Kristin Harris Walsh:

Kristin Harris Walsh holds a PhD in Folklore from Memorial University of Newfoundland as well as an M.A. in Dance and a B.A. (Hons) in Fine Arts Studies, both from York University. Kristin is a dance scholar and dancer whose academic and creative work focuses on percussive dance, in particular, Newfoundland step dance and Irish sean-nós step dance. She currently holds an Insight Development Grant from SSHRC to facilitate this work. Kristin is President of the Canadian Society for Dance Studies and is the Past President of DanceNL, the province’s sectoral dance association. She is currently holds a research position with the Faculty of Medicine and is an Adjunct Professor in the School of Music, both at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Rob Power:

Rob Power is an active chamber musician, soloist, improviser, orchestral player, composer, teacher, and instrument builder. He has performed with the new music ensembles Continuum, Timeworks, and Attacca, the Celtic group Picket Line, the improv quintet JERK, and over twenty Canadian orchestras. Along with performances in Europe, Asia, South America and the United States, he has appeared at festivals across Canada from Whitehorse to St. John’s. Power has collaborated closely with many world renowned musicians, including Rivka Golani, Trichy Sankaran, Mika Yoshida, Beverley Johnston, Mark Fewer, Sal Fererras and John Wyre, and is a regular participant in Newfoundland’s Sound Symposium.

As a soloist, he has performed percussion concerti by Alan Bell, Clark Ross, Alison Cameron, and Gregory Hawco. As a chamber musician he has appeared in world premieres by some of Canada’s best known composers, including R. Murray Schafer, James Harley, Christos Hatzis, Stephen Hatfield, Clifford Crawley, Clark Ross, Bill Brennan, and John Wyre.

An active composer, Power’s compositions reflect a multitude of influences, and include both contemporary classical works and outdoor environmental pieces. Power was awarded the OZ-FM award for excellence and imagination in sound at the 2002 Provincial Drama Festival in St. John's, for composing the soundtrack for the Beothuck Street Players' production of Drink the Mercury. In 2006 he was invited to Patras, Greece to compose a Harbour Symphony for the European City of Culture celebrations, and that same year his percussion trio Untouchable was the first prize winner in the Millennium Arts Society Composition Competition. His most recent work, Cappahayden, was premiered at the 2012 Sound Symposium, and was toured throughout Atlantic Canada by the Torq Percussion Quartet.

Rob Power holds a Bachelor's degree in performance from the MUN School of Music, where he studied with Don Wherry, and a Masters degree from McGill University, where his teachers were Pierre Beluse and D'Arcy Phillip Gray. He has also studied with Alexander Lepak of the Hartford Symphony, and with Charles Fullbrook at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, England.

Currently, Power is an Associate Professor of percussion at the MUN School of Music, where he maintains a large and vibrant studio of talented percussionists, and directs the renowned Scruncheons Percussion Ensemble. He is on the Artistic Committee of the Sound Symposium, the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters Committee, and performs regularly in a wide variety of musical collaborations, including the St. John’s rock band The Bash Brothers and the improvisational groups Spanner and McKudo. Rob is also a member of Newfoundland’s premiere African drum and dance ensemble Dzolali, and is the principal percussionist with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra. An avid builder of new and unusual percussion instruments, Power’s recent constructions include the po-pipes, glass triangle, PVC talking drum, the quarter-tone mirrorphone, and the glass marimba.

In 2009 Power was awarded the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council's Arts in Education Award, and in 2011 he was given the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra Players Award.

Paul Bendzsa:

Paul Bendzsa has been an enthusiastic creator and performer of classical and new music for most of his 40-year career. He was founding member of the new music ensemble, Fusion, the Sound Symposium, and the widely traveled Canadian Saxophone Quintet. He currently plays with the percussion, woodwind, the Yamaha-WX5 wind synthesizer and electronics duo, Spanner, the theatre-music group, Blue Rider Ensemble, and is principal clarinettist with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra. As Associate Professor at the School of Music at Memorial University, Paul teaches clarinet, saxophone, New Music Ensemble, classical and jazz improvisation, and chamber music. In the community he teaches a number of young aspiring musicians. Bendzsa also leads workshops for school teachers and students on creativity and composition through improvisation.

Paul is endlessly experimenting with artists in other media; for example, recent collaborations with visual artist Les Sasaki (in a series called "Hear the Art - See the Music") and improvisations with Vida Simon of Montreal.

Andrew Staniland:

Composer Andrew Staniland has firmly established himself as one of Canada’s most important and innovative composers. Described by Alex Ross in the New Yorker magazine as “alternately beautiful and terrifying”, his music is regularly heard on CBC Radio and has been performed and broadcast internationally in over 35 countries. Andrew is the recipient of the 2009 National Grand Prize in EVOLUTION, presented by CBC Radio 2/Espace Musique and The Banff Centre, top prizes in the SOCAN young composers competition, and the 2004 Karen Keiser Prize in Canadian Music. As a leading composer of his generation, he has been recognized by election to the Inaugural Cohort of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists Royal Society of Canada in 2014.

Andrew has been Affiliate Composer to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (2006-09) and the National Arts Centre Orchestra (2002–04), and has also been in residence at the Centre du Creation Musicale Iannis Xenakis (Paris, 2005). Recent commissioners include the Brooklyn Art Song Society, cellist Frances-Marie Uitti, Les Percussions de Strasbourg, and Duo Concertante. Andrew is the lead composer/educator with the Gryphon Trio’s Listen Up! education initiative, created and produced in collaboration with the Gryphon Trio and Rob Kapilow. He also performs himself, both as a guitarist and working with new media (computers and electronics).

Andrew Staniland is currently on faculty at Memorial University in St John’s Newfoundland, where he founded MEARL (Memorial ElectroAcoustic Research Lab). At MEARL, Staniland leads a cross-disciplinary research team that has produced the innovative ARC 16 and ARC 2.0, and electronic music instruments.


School of Music

230 Elizabeth Ave, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1B 3X9

Postal Address: P.O. Box 4200, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1C 5S7

Tel: (709) 864-8000