Leadership in the arts community is necessary for its success, making individuals like Allison Balcetis essential. Allison teaches saxophone at the University of Alberta, however instructing only accounts for a fraction of her leadership initiatives. When you picture a leader your mind produces an image of someone giving commands, but from Allison’s mind comes something very different. Instead she views leadership as “bringing people together” and “creating opportunities.” Allison has helped to implement several programs, some reaching beyond Edmonton, but “what [she] is most proud of is how many people [they’ve] gotten together to produce art.”

Arts Leadership is fundamental for the invention of new art because it provides creators with opportunities they would be hard pressed to find anywhere else. For example Subarctic, a program Allison initiated with Jen Mesch (a local dancer and artist), brings together different artists and introduces them to a comfortable environment where they feel free to improvise and experiment with their music. Through both this program and support from art leaders like Allison, new, original pieces are created and performed. Allison describes her leadership role with Subarctic as a little bit of everything, from “setting up chairs [to] making sure people feel comfortable to improvise with each other.”

Photo Credit – Emily Balcetis

Another project Allison is involved in is Andre Mestre’s Curto-Circuito, where young composers in Brazil congregate to discuss and create music intended for the saxophone. Allison revealed that its “hard to convince anybody to perform your work” when you’re a young composer, so herself and Andre have constructed a setting where people can both create compositions and experience them being played.

Allison’s approach to leadership is also extremely beneficial to her students, not only because of the direction she provides as a professor, but also because of the real world perspective she presents. A career in music rarely involves just performing which is what Allison aims to teach her students through her leadership role in the community. According to Allison, while completing a bachelor’s degree, students spend so much time focusing on improving their art that they don’t get to experience the “work and variety involved” in a music career.

Photo Credit – Kendra Litwin

Her role in the community stimulates an increased consideration from others not directly involved with music. Allison describes the contemporary or Avant Garde music she suppots as the “art of our time” which encourages the public to reflect on who we are right now culturally. It introduces them to ideas and concepts as they occur, such as the composition of new pieces.


Based on Allison’s unique and effective approach to leadership it is unsurprising she was 2017’s recipient of the Qualico Arts Leadership Award from the Mayor’s Arts Appreciation night.


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