There’s nothing more satisfying than a story about someone who has discovered what they love and committed to fearlessly chasing after it! Well, that is exactly the case with U of A Alum, Rachel Soong, who has developed a successful career from her two passions: music and film.

Music has been a large part pf Rachel’s life for as long as she can remember. Although she hasn’t always known what she wanted to be when she grew up, she was always certain it would involve music. Similarly, she remembers being in middle school and telling her Grandma she thought working on film soundtracks would be an amazing job.



While in her first year of a combined BMus/ BEd degree, Rachel received a piece of advice which she held onto for the next seven years. The advice was, if she was really passionate about film then she should consider attending the Vancouver Film School. Well, after completing her undergrad and then a Master’s degree at the U of T, she did just that!

Presently, Rachel has graduated from the Vancouver Film School and happily pursuing a career in sound design and composition. Sound design is an immensely diverse field where Rachel has the opportunity to occupy several roles including boom operator, production sound mixer, dialog editor, sound effects editor and music composer. In sound design there are two major categories: production sound, which is capturing sound that occurs during filming; and, post-production sound, which is everything in terms of sound that occurs after the film has been cut. Rachel admits her favourite of the two is post-production. She shares “it’s extremely rewarding to watch a film and know you have paved the path for the audience’s emotional connection.”



Rachel’s background in music helped put her ahead of the game in film school and has been extremely beneficial for a career in sound design. She explains it’s incredibly useful to already have a trained ear and understand concepts such as balance, rhythm and conveying emotion to an audience. Completing a music degree also equipped her with the skills for self-discipline as well as working independently. She explains her experience with music has provided her with “the ability to step away from the little details and see the overarching story” behind what she’s working on.

Rachel has worked on several interesting projects but one upcoming assignment she is especially excited for is a short film about a passed down family technique for making Chinese pulled noodles. She’s particularly excited for this project, not only because it’s a unique idea, but also because the film will be paired with live traditional Chinese music. Some projects she’d love to see in her future include working for Pixar or DreamWorks on an animation project, as well as experiencing one of her film scores performed by live musicians.

Three talented musicians from the U of A participated in this year’s National Youth Orchestra Tour; Taran Plamondon (Horn), Peter Clark (Horn) and Rafael Piesiur (violin). We thought it would be interesting to ask about their experiences over the summer and share some tips for students wanting to audition for the NYO next summer!

What is your favourite thing about participating in the NYO?

Peter: You get to travel to some pretty awesome places throughout the summer. I’ve personally only participated in the Canadian NYO tours, but because we live in such a beautiful country I’ve visited some really unique places. However, the best part has to be the lifelong friendships you create with fellow musicians.

Taran Plamondon (left) , Peter Clark (middle).

Taran: My favourite part will always be  spending time with old friends and making new ones. When you’re with the same people every day for two months it’s impossible to avoid forming meaningful friendships (and the occasional rivalry)! Also, I believe branching out and leaving your hometown is an important step towards a career as a musician; it’s amazing how much travelling you experience with the NYO.

Rafael: I’ve participated in the NYO for the last two years and they have been the best summers of my life! Not only do you meet so many wonderful people, but also the faculty strive to open your eyes (and ears) to new concepts and ideas.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to audition for the NYO next year?

Peter: While preparing for the audition, you should treat it as though it’s an audition for a professional orchestra. Also, playing your audition material for others, especially your teachers, can be a huge help!

Taran: The best thing about the NYO audition is it’s recorded. So, technically, you can redo your audition as many times as you want in order to get it just right. However, you have to remember, if you can repeatedly redo your audition, so can the other candidates. Start practicing your material as soon as you can and leave yourself enough time for recording to ensure you submit your most polished take.

Rafael: The audition process was probably the most stressful part of the entire experience, but it was incredibly valuable because it prepares you for professional orchestra auditions. One tip I have, specifically for the string players; the string faculty at the NYO are particularly attentive towards rhythm, intonation and dynamics. So, while listening to your recordings it will help to pay special attention to these elements.

How do you think participating in the NYO will help with a professional career in music?

Peter Clark (left), Taran Plamondon (second from right).

Peter: The program really helps you fine tune your instrumental abilities. In fact, if you look at professional Canadian orchestras, you’ll notice a significant number of their members are NYO alumni. It’s up to you how you use the experiences and information to improve after the summer ends, but you acquire a lot of tools while you’re there.

Taran: The connections you make during your time in the NYO are absolutely priceless. I’m already starting to feel the effects of these connections. For instance, thanks to the mentorship and coaching from Gabriel Rutherford (a member of the TSO), I was able to secure a spot at the Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music in the fall. With the right attitude, attending the NYO is a huge first step   towards distinguishing yourself in the highly competitive music world.

Rafael: Even though I’m a music lover and an active musician, I’m actually an engineering student at the U of A. However, I believe participating in a variety of high level activities, such as the NYO, makes you a more employable candidate in whatever career path you’re following!

More information about the National Youth Orchestra is available on their website!



Natasia Martin, the designer of the 2017-2018 music mainstage promotional illustrations, kindly provided us with some insight into her creative techniques. Her approach to the design process began with listening to the repertoire for each concert, while sketching any images or words the music provoked. These inspired sketches were eventually transformed into this season’s brochure concept, where every component from the basic design to the colour palette is intentional.

Based on her initial sketches, Natasia concluded her designs needed to convey a sense of dance and movement to coincide with the theme of this season’s repertoire. Therefore, in order to portray the bold imagery she desired, she structured her designs usinggeometric shapes. By using these geometric shapes, Natasia was able to “simplify the elements she used to represent each performance”. She shared the purpose behind the simplification was to create a cohesive collection of separate illustrations that appear to be intertwined.

Natasia chose to display the playful nature of this season’s repertoire through the use of multicolored dots, which decorate her designs like “confetti”. The continuous use of these dots throughout each individual illustration functions to reinforce the imagery of dance and movement.

Lastly, these bold illustrations were devised to have a colour palette mirroring the Studio Theatre designs in order to create a sense of harmony between the two. The only exception to these identical colour schemes was Natasia’s inclusion of bright yellow in the music designs to symbolize “energy and vibrancy”.

These fantastic designs will be displayed throughout campus during the school year to help showcase the abundance of wonderful shows the 2017-2018 season has to offer!

This Sunday, September 10th, let’s talk about mental health! Just about everyone is affected by mental illness, either directly or indirectly. However, there is still a significant amount of stigma surrounding the topic of mental health. So this Sunday, join us in Convocation Hall for the Mysterious Barricades concert, which was initiated by the U of A’s Elizabeth Turnbull, to help us work towards improving discussions about mental health.

Elizabeth Turnbull and Laurier Fagnan


Not only does this concert support a wonderful cause but it’s also a pretty unique event. It isn’t every day you experience students, staff and alumni performing together and that’s exactly what the Mysterious Barricades concert promises! This music filled day will showcase a variety of musicians, such as the Music Department’s Chair, Dr. William Street. Another expected highlight will be the performance by internationally acclaimed opera singer and U of A vocal professor, John Tessier. Also, student ensembles, such as the talented Madrigal Singers led by chorus master Leonard Ratzlaff, will also be performing. There will also be a performance by Curt Young, an indigenous artist and advocate for the well-being and mental health of indigenous individuals. However, these are only a few of the wonderful performers filling up the event’s 22 hours!

In between all the fantastic musical performances there will also be a variety of speakers addressing the topics of mental health and suicide. These speakers include The Chair of the Board of Governors Michael Phair, City Councilor Scott McKeen, MP Randy Boissonault and the Dean of the Faculty of Arts Lesley Cormack.

This day will be packed with fantastic, one of a kind performances and conversations! We’d love it if you would take some time on Sunday to come out and support your fellow staff and students, as well as contribute to engaging discussions about mental health.

More information can be found on the Mysterious Barricades website, including a place to live stream the event if you are unable to attend!

If you’re looking for a way to kick off the fall semester, look no further than our first concert of the year; Volk for Chamber Music! This concert features Dr. Patricia Tao (piano), Robert Uchida (violin), Rafael Hoekman (cello), Gabrielle Després (second violin) and Laura Veeze (Viola).

Dr. Tao is an active chamber musician and initiated both the Guild Trio and the Summer Solstice Music Festival here in Edmonton. As Concertmaster of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Robert Uchida is a well-known ensemble musician and soloist. Rafael is currently the principal cellist in the ESO. However, he is no stranger to large ensembles, as he previously performed with the Calgary Philharmonic, Orchestra London Canada and several other professional ensembles. Dr. Tao, Robert and Rafael are also all faculty members at the U of A! At only 17 years old, Gabrielle Després has been studying the violin since she was three years old and currently studies with Robert Uchida. Laura Veeze is a member of the ESO’s first violin section and is known across Europe for her solo, recital and chamber ensemble performances.

This concert will focus on the use of popular musical elements in the works of Schubert, Schumann and Brahms. The first half will consist of short and light pieces with folk and dance elements from each of the three featured composers. However, the second half will showcase Brahms’ Piano Quintet in F Minor, Op. 34, which creates a more dark and serious atmosphere. With so many talented musicians performing pieces by these well-known composers, you definitely won’t want to miss this concert!


At the Edmonton Folk Music Festival last weekend, the U of A’s Sound Studies Initiative hosted a fantastic workshop titled “Tribute to Folkways Records.” However, you might have found yourself wondering, why celebrate Folkways Records at the Folk Fest?

Moses Asch Founded Folkways Records in the late 1940’s with a single intention: to record everything considered sound and give a voice to people, groups and genres not normally heard. Overtime Folkways Records accumulated a large collection of recordings formally known as The Moses and Frances Asch Collection. When the U of A received the Moses and Frances Asch Collection almost 40 years later, they also acquired the responsibility of sharing Moses’ philosophy.



Dana Wylie, who introduced the collection this weekend, explained it’s important to let people know such an important collection is currently located in Edmonton. Folk music continues to draw inspiration from the Moses and Frances Asch Collection – so promoting this resource at the Folk Fest seemed to make perfect sense. It was amazing when these records were gifted to the U of A in the late 1980’s because there was no internet: the contents could only be accessed by owning the collection. Today, even though, the information is more readily available through online databases this collection still connects the U of A and Sound Studies to folk music culture.

The four performances chosen for Saturday’s workshop were Anais Mitchell, Martyn Joseph, Mary Gauthier and the Unthanks; all extremely talented musicians and storytellers! These artists were chosen because of their ties to the Moses and Frances Asch Collection. However, Dana revealed any performer chosen from the Folk Fest roster would have had connections to these overtly influential records, whether they knew it or not!

By participating in the Folk Festival, Sound Studies aims to honour the philosophy of Moses Asch, while gaining recognition for Edmonton and the U of A’s amazing connection to the culture of folk music.

Guest blog post by Leila Raye-Crofton

Off the Top Theatre Projects, a company started by Ashleigh Hicks and myself, came together all the way back in Drama 150 at the University of Alberta. Ashleigh and I were in this class together, led by Jan Henderson, and we became fast friends. We both were very interested in working together and doing a Fringe production, so we went to work! Over the years, we tried several times to get into the Fringe but we unfortunately were never picked in the lottery.

Nevertheless, we persevered, and this year (our third time in the lottery), we finally got in!  We are so excited to finally get to work together in a professional capacity for the Fringe and we would love for you to come see our production, Tempting!

This production has been a thrilling challenge for me because it marks my first time directing anything outside of a school setting. My background is more in acting, as I am currently a student in the University of Alberta’s BFA Acting program. I wrote and directed a one-act play in high school, I’ve assistant directed a couple of shows, and I took Drama 383 (Introduction to Directing), but this is my first time digging into any directing without a teacher or professor looking after me.

Luckily, the cast and creative team of Tempting have made this a total non-issue. They’ve made me feel incredibly supported and I am very happy with all we’ve been able to do in the process so far. It’s been a wonderful collaboration with a brilliantly talented group, and I couldn’t be more excited to share our work with you!

An earlier version of the script was produced at the University’s New Works Festival, and we are ready to bring the new production to the Edmonton Fringe Festival! The play involves a confrontation between a skeptic and a psychic over a deadly prediction, and it is a gripping forty-minute dispute over love, loss, trust, and truth. We hope that it is a production that opens up perspectives and really gets audiences talking about vital issues, such as spirituality and medically-assisted death.

We think this play is very important right now, not only because of the issues within it, but because our creative team is entirely made up of women! We are incredibly proud to be part of #fringefemmeyeg, and we hope that the Fringe audience will look to support female-driven theatre.

Tempting, an original play by Ashleigh Hicks and Leila Raye-Crofton

Tempting will be playing at the Westbury Theatre, a wheelchair-accessible venue, during the Edmonton Fringe Festival August 17-27, 2017. Tickets are $10 for students/seniors, $12 for general admission. Our showtimes are August 17th 8:00pm, August 19th 12:15pm, August 21st 2:30pm, August 24th 11:30pm, August 26th 8:00pm, and August 27th 4:15pm.

If you’re able to fit us into your Fringe-ing, we would absolutely love to see you!

For more information, find us on our Facebook event.

Guest blog post by Savanna Harvey

You find your seat in a dimly lit theatre. You take a few minutes to chat with the person next to you. You skim through your program. The announcement plays, and you turn off your phone. The preshow music fades out. The houselights sink down to black. You wait for the show to start. You wait… for the lights.

But the lights do not come back on. This is Shadowlands.

Shadowlands is my newest play. It is the first play of an experimental trilogy inspired by content and medium. Each play will have avant-garde staging that is in dialogue with its subject matter. For Shadowlands, this means plunging the audience into literal and figurative darkness. “What is true? What is real? How do we know? But how do we know? How do we know…”

There are four characters: Cells in a petri dish. A scientist. A ghost. A laboratory mouse. Who are they? Where are they? What is “they” and what is “here”? How do we know?

I tracked these questions throughout my undergraduate degree at the University of Alberta – followed these questions through the English, Drama, and Philosophy Departments. Shadowlands is very much a synthesis of classes in performance studies and epistemology, ideas explored with Professors Robert Appleford, Kristine Nutting and Bruce Hunter. When I finished my degree in 2015, it was but the beginning of a revolution that would explode my artistic practice.

Since graduating, I have live-streamed a show about social media that took place both on the stage and on the internet. I have created a play where the script was projected in real-time and was as present and active as the actors onstage. I have marched in one of the largest political protests in history and then archived and recreated that protest with mannequins and a couch. I have danced blindfolded in the streets with strangers.

Shadowlands is touring across Canada this summer in the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals tour and will be in Edmonton August 18th – 27th, 2017. Fringe Festivals happen all over the world, and Edmonton’s is the largest in North America. Historically, these festivals are havens for the innovative, the dissimilar, the independent, the new… and yes, the downright bizarre. Theatre from the fringes. In the rich tradition of Fringe Festivals everywhere, Shadowlands embraces all these things.

The reason you should see Shadowlands is the same reason you should see any show at Fringe: there are no rules. This festival is non-curated, un-juried, uncensored. Artists can say whatever they want. They can be whatever they want. They can do whatever they want. Which means, you as the audience, are empowered to do that, too. Fringe is freedom. But freedom is not fail-safe. And if that isn’t drama, I don’t know what is.

Tickets to Shadowlands are available through the Fringe website:

Find Pretentious Productions (my performance company) on social media for show updates and even special offers on tickets. You can also visit my website

In case you missed it, the 30th annual Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Awards took place at the Mayfield Dinner Theatre on June 26, 2017, with many University of Alberta alums taking home awards for the best in Edmonton theatre.

2017 Sterling Award recipients from the U of A included:

Outstanding New Play (award to playwright)
Irma Voth by Chris Craddock (Theatre Network)

Outstanding Director
Dave Horak, Stupid Fucking Bird (Edmonton Actors Theatre)

Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Mat Simpson, Stupid Fucking Bird (Edmonton Actors Theatre)

Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Andréa Jorawsky, Irma Voth (Theatre Network)

Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Melissa Thingelstad, Stupid Fucking Bird (Edmonton Actors Theatre)

Outstanding Independent Production
Stupid Fucking Bird (Edmonton Actors Theatre)

Outstanding Set Design
Stephanie Bahniuk, Stupid Fucking Bird (Edmonton Actors Theatre)

Outstanding Costume Design
Cory Sincennes, Crazy for You (Citadel Theatre / Theatre Calgary)

Outstanding Lighting Design
T. Erin Gruber, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Citadel Theatre)

Outstanding Artistic Achievement, Theatre for Young Audiences
Vern Thiessen & Brian Dooley (not alum), Writing and Translation, Bello (Concrete Theatre / L’UniThéâtre)

Outstanding Fringe Production
The Fall of the House of Atreus: A Cowboy Love Song (Troglodyte Theatre)

Outstanding Fringe New Work (award to playwright)
The Fall of the House of Atreus: A Cowboy Love Song by Jessy Ardern (Troglodyte Theatre)

Outstanding Fringe Director
Corben Kushneryk, The Fall of the House of Atreus: A Cowboy Love Song (Troglodyte Theatre)


The Annual Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Awards celebrates the professional theatre in Edmonton. For more information, visit their official website.

The 2017 Edmonton Fringe Festival opens today, attracting artists and performers from all over the world to thrill audiences for 10 straight days.

The University of Alberta is proud to see many of its students and alumni producing or performing in some of this year’s shows. Here is just a small sample of productions featuring U of A talent…!


65 Roses
After spending his entire life comforting others through his diagnosis of Cystic Fibrosis, Jerome decides to embark on a journey to find his own solace.
Presented by: Taylor Paskar
U of A Talent: Taylor Paskar (Playwright, Director, U of A Open Studies), Ben Osgood (Cast, BA Drama), Samantha Kennedy (Stage Manager, BFA Stage Management)
Venue: Backstage Theatre (10330 84 Ave.)
Tickets: $10 Adult / $7 Students & Seniors
More information, schedule and tickets


Off Book: The Improved Musical
The ensemble needs only one suggestion from the audience to create a spontaneous new musical on the spot, with improvised songs, choreography and scenes, and you’re guaranteed to never see the same show twice.
Presented by: RapidFire Theatre
U of A Talent: Marguerite Lawler (BFA Acting)
Venue: Roxy Theatre (8529 103 St.)
Tickets: $13 General Admission
More information, schedule and tickets


Onions and Garlic
When a noble but unlucky onion seller does a good turn for a mysterious old woman, he never expects her to turn his life inside out. A new family musical based on an old Jewish folktale.
Presented by: Empress of Blandings Productions
U of A Talent: Paula Simons (Co-creator, BA Honours English)
Venue: Studio Theatre in ATB Financial Arts Barns (10330 84 Ave.)
Tickets: $10 Adults / $7 Students & Seniors
More information, schedule and tickets


Prophecy is a one-woman saga by award-winning playwright Jessy Ardern. Watch as the cursed Cassandra (Carmen Nieuwenhuis) struggles to spread truth in a world that refuses to listen.
Presented by: Impossible Mongoose
U of A Talent: Jessy Ardern (Playwright, BFA Acting), Corben Kushneryk (Director, BFA Acting), Carmen Nieuwenhuis (Cast, BFA Acting)
Venue: Strathcona Baptist Church (8318 104 St.)
Tickets: $13 Adults / $12 Students & Seniors
More information, schedule and tickets


The Scientist works in her lab. She experiments with microscopic organisms and gathers scientific observations leading her to the truth. Then one day, her studies are interrupted by a ghost. In a reality determined by evidence, how can The Scientist deny the proof before her very eyes?
Presented By: Savanna Harvey
U of A Talent: Savanna Harvey (Playwright, Performer, BA English, Drama)
Venue: King Edward School (8530 101 St.)
Tickets: $13 General Admission
More information, schedule and tickets


A skeptic confronts a psychic and demands she recant a deadly prediction. Unfortunately for him, she is not easily persuaded; unfortunately for her, he’s not giving up without a fight.
Presented by: Off the Top Theatre Projects
U of A Talent:
Ashleigh Hicks (Playwright, BA Drama Honours), Leila Raye-Crofton (Director, BFA Acting), Millie Winzinowich (Stage Manager, BFA Stage Management), Brianna Kolybaba (Designer, BFA Design), Erin Pettifor (Cast, BFA Acting)
Venue: Westbury Theatre (10330 84 Ave.)
Tickets: $12 General Admission
More information, schedule and tickets


The Wedding
Tales of mythic nature, bold beginnings, and tasty secrets, will all unfold before your very eyes. Rapid Fire Theatre is proud to present The Wedding, a sketch comedy show that might just be best wedding you’ve ever attended.
Presented by: RapidFire Theatre
U of A Talent: Marguerite Lawler (Co-creator, Cast, BFA Acting)
Venue: Holy Trinity – The Cool Air Rentals Stage (10037 84 Ave.)
Tickets: $13 Adults / $8 Students & Seniors
More information, schedule and tickets

The 2017 Edmonton Fringe Festival runs August 17-27. Visit the Fringe website for a full list of shows and information.