Getting through your Undergrad is a trial most students are all too familiar with. Whatever your field of study may be, making it through those first four years on a roller-coaster missing its safety bars.

Armed with his French Horn, Taran Plamondon came to the University four years ago, ready to tackle the many challenges of obtaining a University degree. However, he admitted the last four years have had their “ups and downs,” but he has found the overall experience to be mostly enjoyable.

With his convocation fast approaching I asked whether he was more nervous or excited to graduate; I found his answer quite surprising! While most of the students I know are pretty nervous to graduate, Taran is filled with excitement. Through his training over the last four years he has learned to “put [himself] out there” which he feels has opened up so many opportunities for him.

Taran on the night of his final recital!

For Taran, completing his bachelors here at the U of A was unique because he was able to participate in both the Symphonic Wind Ensemble and the University Symphony Orchestra without encountering anything more savage than a little friendly competition.

His favorite memories from his time here, echo the U of A’s unique characteristic of being big enough for professional ensembles and small enough for the program to be more personal. The first of these memories was performing the solo in the Strauss Horn Concerto with the Symphonic Wind Ensemble at the Winspear. Another favorite memory was when his teachers let him skip an entire week of classes to go watch the Berlin Philharmonic perform. Don’t worry he is completely aware how nerdy this sounds but he insists it was absolutely worth it!

A quick selfie before his audition in Toronto (which he clearly aced!)

Next September he plans to attend the Orchestral Training Program of the Royal Conservatory at The Glenn Gould School, which is exactly as impressive as it sounds. Taran confessed that if he hadn’t had access to so many amazing opportunities, travel opportunities, moving all the way to Toronto would seem terrifying. However, he’s managed to make many connections in Toronto and has been fortunate enough to gain familiarity with this city he will soon call home.

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.

 

QUICK DIRTY: Art/Des Pop-up Feature Image

The exhibition “QUICK DIRTY: Art/Des Pop-up” brings together University of Alberta MFA, MDes and MA in History of Art, Design and Visual Culture (HADVC) students. The Art and Design Graduate Student Association put together this exhibition to showcase the diverse work executed while earning a Master’s degree. The works are on exhibition at the Lodge gallery space, an exciting new Edmonton venue located at 11034 124th Street.

QUICK DIRTY: Art/Des Pop-up

Becky Thera “What do I do now?” performance, embroidery

Myken McDowell, Madeline Mackay, Meghan Pohlod, T.J. McLachlan, Becky Thera, Sarah Jackson, Phoebe Todd-Parrish, Angela Marino and Noemi de Bruijn are all graduate students in the department of Art and Design celebrating their research through this exhibition. The artists are at different points in their degree, working in design and visual arts, brought together in support of each other’s research. One of the most rewarding parts of a Master’s program in Art and Design is the building of community and peer-connections. These artists certainly demonstrate the importance of shared support within a community.

QUICK DIRTY: Art/Des Pop-up

Left- Noemi de Bruijn “Enveloped” oil and acrylic on canvas, Right- Angela Marino “Anger” oil on canvas

The show is extremely diverse. As you enter the gallery, you are greeted with T.J. McLachlan’s minimalist sculpture, projecting abstract, computer-rendered images onto a sheet of frosted glass. Large-scale paintings from Noemi de Bruijn and Angela Marino confront the viewer’s body with bold colour and intricate mark-making. The remnants of Becky Thera’s embroidery performance linger in the middle of the gallery, discussing the trauma of sexual violence. Sarah Jackson’s digitally printed maps indicate the subjective ways humans interact with time and space. As you move to the end of the show you can see Myken McDowell’s photo-polymer prints which reference Super 8 film and the function of memory.

QUICK DIRTY: Art/Des Pop-up

Myken McDowell “Homecoming” photopolymer, relief and chine colle

In a typical “pop-up” fashion, the exhibition is only open for a short period. If you want to check out the terrific work by these graduate students, the show is open May 19th-31st, Tuesdays to Thursdays from 12-5. The gallery will also be open on Saturday, May 27th from 12-5.

QUICK DIRTY: Art/Des Pop-up

Meghan Pohlod “Resolution 1” photolithography, monotype, chine colle

Recently returned from Nashville, Kat Danser kindly sat down with me to discuss her time spent recording and her strong relationship with the musical world. Although I was slightly nervous to meet the “Queen of Swamp Blues,” her inviting personality and engaging stories soon erased my nerves.

When I inquired about her recent project down in Nashville she announced that she is extremely excited about her upcoming album because she feels it is her strongest work yet, both creatively and vocally. Much of Kat’s inspiration originates from her own experiences, so the substance for this album stemmed from her travels throughout the American South. This provided an overarching theme of travel for this compilation of music.

It was a miracle that I was able to meet with her at all because, as a doctoral candidate in ethnomusicology, a professor of popular music and a performing musician, she is always swamped (which I guess is fitting for the Queen of Swamp Blues)! When I inquired about how she manages to survive such a hectic schedule she admitted that she often encounters conflicts while balancing her numerous responsibilities. While she is able to approach performing and teaching as the same thing, she confessed that once you become a student there is little time for much else (a roadblock familiar to most students). However, this ambitious musician does not let this tarnish her passion for music because as she puts it, she is “living her passion.” She gushed that she gets to experience both creating music and researching it; because of this opportunity, she is able to bring a real world perspective to music both inside and outside the classroom.

Based on the amount of enthusiasm Kat has for her diverse roles in the music community, it is no surprise that she applies a similar attitude to activities outside the realm of music! Kat joked she is now “long in the tooth” and has realized having good mental and physical health is essential to her involvement in music. In order to embrace this philosophy Kat has gone “wild with exercise” over the last year and is currently training for the Woman to Warrior obstacle competition! Not only is exercise good for her well-being, but she also shared that it is critical for her dissertation because she comes up with her most creative ideas when she allows her brain to take a break.

Her album Goin’ Gone will be released sometime next year and I am excited for more of her unique sound and musical storytelling.

There are a few key things to note about this horribly bad photo I took of U of A student and cellist Adam Caulfield:

  1. He is the winner of the U of A’s 2016-17 annual concerto competition.
  2. He has been playing the cello ever since he was a small child.
  3. Although he plays with the U of A Symphony Orchestra, he is actually not a Music major, but is an honours student in Immunology.

One of the fun parts of my job is getting to meet people who are much smarter and far more talented than me. And by “fun” I mean “a great way to test my self esteem.”

Thankfully, when I finally got a chance to meet Adam and talk to him about his music, he was an incredibly humble and approachable guy. We found ourselves a table in a near-deserted Fine Arts Building (final exams were almost over, so not many students were left), and I got a chance to learn more about this fascinating guy.

First, how did he get to be so good with the cello? When he says things like “I started such a long time ago, that I actually don’t remember a time when I didn’t play,” I suspect that might have something to do with it.

Adam has been playing cello since he was four. (Photo courtesy of Adam Caulfield)

Since FOUR. (Photo by Deep Blue Photography)

 

He was so young when he started playing, that he doesn’t even remember having a say about it, or even why exactly his parents chose the cello. “We used to live in Parkallen, and a cello teacher lived just down the street, so I think there’s a good chance that’s why my parents picked it,” he laughs.

Flash forward many years later to 2014 when Adam decides to audition for the National Youth Orchestra of Canada. He does this by preparing an audition tape where he performs Robert Schumann’s Cello Concerto in A Minor, Op. 129.

At that moment, he doesn’t know that a couple years later, he would dust off that same concerto piece to win the U of A concerto competition, making him the featured soloist with the University Symphony Orchestra at the Free But Happy concert.

Adam Caulfield performs at the Free But Happy concert

Adam at the Free But Happy concert. (horrible photo courtesy of Erik Einsiedel)

 

But despite his talent with the cello, Adam chose to pursue a science degree instead of music, and is currently a 3rd year student studying Immunology at the U of A.

“I’m very interested in human biology, and I’ve had plans to go into medicine for a while. But what I discovered during my degree is a strong interest in infectious disease research,” he says. “I actually wasn’t even aware of it when I first chose my degree, but I’m glad it’s worked out this way.”

When he’s not earning standing ovations at the Winspear Centre or studying the world’s deadliest viruses, Adam loves watching movies and TV. At the time I spoke with him, he was working his way through the TV series Bones — “It’s kind of trashy, but I’m enjoying it,” he laughs. Adam is also an avid snowboarder who was disappointed he wasn’t able to hit the slopes this last season, but it was to ensure he didn’t “break anything” before his concerto performance.

 

As for the future, Adam plans to enter the U of A concerto competition again this October, but this time he’s teaming up with a violinist friend of his to tackle a double concerto by Brahms. But first things first: this summer, Adam writes his Medical College Admission Test, and we wish him all the best of luck with that.

Keep your eyes out for Adam Caulfield’s name on any upcoming music concerts. It’ll be a performance you won’t want to miss.

Hello and welcome to Talking Theatre. I am joined today by the Director of The Lady from the Sea by Henrik Ibsen adapted by the director himself, Michael Bradley, and the last show of the Timms Studio Theatre Season for 2016/17.

I’ve had you as a guest before and if anyone is interested in hearing more about your background they can listen to Episode 2 of the podcast. That being said, what was it like getting to this point in the program?

I’ve found since I’ve been here that I’ve been very fascinated by directors who take old things and make them new. Right now, the directors I am really drawn to include Thomas Ostermeier, Ivo van Hove, Declan Donnellan with Cheek by Jowl, and Peter Hinton’s work here in Canada. There’s a bunch of them and I’m attracted to them for various difference reasons. Take Romeo Castellucci for example, although I don’t think I’m trying to emulate his work, but I am fascinated by how he takes the bones of something old and says something new with it.

All that studying has led me to this project of adapting Ibsen’s work. It went in stages, I started looking at the modern classic canon and knew I was interested in that milieu. I looked at Ibsen’s plays that weren’t overly produced and tried to find what spoke to me. The mythos underneath this play really pulled me in, the Norwegian and Scandinavian sense of mythology and how they overlap with archetypes and Jungian embodied aspects of the psyche were very fascinating.

How did your research of the mythology of Norway fuel into this play?

Well the fascinating thing that I found was that it’s very much an embodied and physical spirituality. All of the mythical beings and creatures are things in the world. They can touch you and come and take you away. The spirituality of it is not ethereal, it is in nature and creature. So that’s what I find so interesting about it because I think it’s so impactful on Ibsen’s sense of the world.

This piece moves well into the mythical world because it’s one of his few pieces that isn’t set inside a house. It’s on the landscape of the Norwegian fjords, it takes place on a mountainside by fjords that are connected to the ocean but the ocean is not quite there. While it is a play about the sea, ultimately it is a play about the absence of the sea and the longing for that chaos.

Director Michael Bradley overseeing early rehearsals of The Lady from the Sea

Director Michael Bradley watches early rehearsals of The Lady from The Sea. Featuring Billy Brown as Lyndstrand (left), Nicole St. Martin as Ellida (center), and Kris Loranger as Arnholm (right).

How was the adaptation process of bringing this very specific Norwegian world into the contemporary?

What I found is that even by looking at the play I was passing through a couple filters. Coming from a sensibility of the world that is particularly Norwegian, in the sense of the mythology, and also passing through this other filter of Victorian society and playwriting style and conventions. I made the decision very early on that what I was most drawn to was that subterranean and primordial sensibility and so I wanted to take away the other barriers, or filters, between me and that.

At first I was going to look at a good adaptation of it, but I’ve yet to encounter an English adaptation of it set in contemporary times. Now there are ones written in contemporary language but they are all set in the period of the play. Ultimately what spoke to me were the voices of people I know, people like me. At the end of the day the reason why I am drawn to something is because I see myself in it. So I said to myself, rather than trying to put a round peg into a square hole in terms of putting everyone in t-shirts and jeans while they speak Victorian dialogue, why not re-write it instead so that I have the freedom to experiment.

What’s the rehearsal process been like so far? At this point I understand you’ve just begun your Q2Q process.

I really lucked into a great group of actors. I had high hopes that these people would come in and collaborate with me on this play. That’s the type of artist I like to work with, someone who will come in with ideas, offers, and challenge my concepts of the play. Because ultimately 10 of us working together along with the design team is going to create the best work rather than my ideas on high with everybody else trying to climb to get to them. That’s just not the kind of director I am.

We spent a lot of early days of exploration and play on our feet with exercises to get everybody playing together. We asked ourselves: well, this is our show so what are we going to do with it? What I’ve found is that so much of what we discover comes organically from that and my task is to help shape it and see what is coming out to make it more pronounced and direct.

Set design by Ksenia Broda-Milian

Set design by Ksenia Broda-Milian. Featuring Nicole St. Martin as Ellida (left) and Michael Peng as Wangel (right).

You’ve been working in the Bleviss Laboratory Theatre for the last two years, so what was the transition like coming onto the Timm’s stage?

There’s just a lot more moving parts. Things take a little bit longer and there’s more people on task doing things, there’s more channels to go through to get things happening. Over at the Bleviss most of the people we were working with, including myself, were on their 1st, 2nd or 3rd attempts at that kind of massive collaboration within this institution. Now we’re in the Timm’s where very few people are doing what they’re doing for the very first time which is cool.

Some of them I am working with again. Tegan, our stage manager, I worked with last year. We have an understanding all ready and we’ve been building on that relationship.

Moving into tech has a lot more moving parts, there’s just so much more to see. It’s really exciting! I know that beginning directors don’t often get these opportunities, usually they have to work on smaller indie stages. So working on such a big proscenium stage with flies, moving lights, all the bells and whistles is exciting. It gives us lots of opportunities to tell the story.

Thank you for sitting down and talking with me today! To hear the rest of our interview and to learn more about Michael’s process and what drew him to this piece click the link to hear the whole thing or follow us on iTunes at Talking Theatre.

THE LADY FROM THE SEA
By Henrik Ibsen, adapted by Michael Bradley
May 18-27, 2017
Timms Centre for the Arts

Director – Michael Bradley
Production Designer – Ksenia Broda-Milian
Sound Designer – Matthew Skopyk

Tickets and Show Information

I’m backstage at the Timms Centre for the Arts, waiting in the Green Room to interview BFA Acting student Emma Houghton, who is in the middle of rehearsals for Henrik Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea. With just a week to opening, The Lady from the Sea is not only the last show of the 2016-17 Studio Theatre season, but is also the last production that Emma will perform in before graduating from the University of Alberta.

She’s running late from rehearsal but when Emma finally arrives, I’m greeted by this bright and charismatic girl dressed in black combat boots, black tights and a black top, her blonde pigtails a stark contrast to her outfit. She apologizes for running late as their director was still giving rehearsal feedback to the cast, but from her sheer energy and enthusiasm, I can already tell she’ll be fun to talk to.

A peek backstage at Emma (left) rehearsing with Lady from the Sea cast members Gabby Bernard (right) and Billy Brown (front).

A peek backstage at Emma (left) rehearsing with Lady from the Sea cast members Gabby Bernard (right) and Billy Brown (front).

 

With the whole Green Room to ourselves, we settle in to a couple of oversized purple chairs and start talking. Having only just met her and not knowing anything about her, I start by asking Emma about her theatre background.

Born and raised in Edmonton, Emma has been performing from a very early age. Edmontonians may have even seen her during the early 2000’s as a child performer at The Citadel Theatre in productions of A Christmas CarolThe Sound of Music and Who Has Seen the Wind.

A young Emma Houghton in The Sound of Music at The Citadel Theatre. (photo courtesy of Emma Houghton)

 

After graduating from the Victoria School of the Arts and doing local theatre in Edmonton, Emma began her university studies here at the U of A before transferring to McGill where she spent a year as a history major. “That was my period of ‘Do I want to be an actor? I don’t know…’,” she laughs.

The answer ended up being yes, because while still in Toronto, she auditioned for the BFA Acting program and was accepted. Now, at the end of her three-year program, Emma will be seen on stage as 16-year old Hilde in Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea, adapted and directed by Michael Bradley.

“The show is about plumbing your past, and coming to terms with what you’ve done and promises you’ve made,” Emma explains. “For Hilde, she’s not ok with people who hide everything under the rug and pretend everything’s fine. Hilde is very obnoxious, because she tries to get people to tell the truth, and she tries to reveal everyone’s secrets.”

Lady from the Sea costume fittings with Production Designer Ksenia Broda-Milian.

Lady from the Sea costume fittings with Production Designer Ksenia Broda-Milian.

 

Emma has been a fan of Ibsen’s work even before landing this role. When asked what she thinks audiences will love about this show, she talks about the themes from this play originally written in 1888, but now set in present day.

“Some of the original ideas about being stuck in a certain place because of certain things are interesting to explore in the modern age. We have internet now, so are you really stuck? Can you really never get access to things? There’s a great quote by [Jean-Jacques] Rousseau: ‘Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.’ This show is about that — each of the characters is chained up by something, and it’s about discovering what it is, and what’s holding them there.”

As Emma ends her three years with the BFA program, I asked what it’s been like being with the same 12 people for every single class every single day, every rehearsal at night, and some of them even living together as roommates.  That’s a lot of time to spend with the same people for three straight years.

She reflects on how close they’ve become, and how they’re now able to call each other out on each other’s drama, literally. “It’s been great — we’re not the same people we were coming into this program. We’re like a family of ‘Hildes’ now. If something’s wrong, or if someone’s trying to avoid an issue, Hilde will say ‘No, this is the problem we’re all having, and we need to address this.’ And that’s what we do now.”

Emma with her BFA Acting classmates at The Olive Garden. "We went there every September for Jacob's birthday because it is his favourite restaurant."

Emma with her BFA Acting classmates at The Olive Garden. “We went there every September for Jacob’s birthday because it is his favourite restaurant.”

 

So how much is Emma like her character, Hilde? She says she may have been like Hilde when she was 16, but that was nine years ago. Emma does still find a lot in common with the character.

“Michael, our director, made her a painter, and I paint in my spare time, so I really connect with that whole aspect of putting feelings into paintings. That’s what Hilde does: she has all these feelings, and she tries to find ways to vent them out.”

One of Emma’s original paintings.

 

On leaving her program, Emma looks back on her time with the U of A and talked about some of the best things she’s taking from the Drama Department.

“It’s given me a safe space for the past three years to take a bunch of risks, which is invaluable. I did some stuff as the character Osip in Government Inspector that I was pretty nervous about — trying out different voices, and dancing was a new thing for me. It’s given me more confidence, and a whole toolkit of exercises to bring my characters to life.”

As for “life after BFA,” Emma talks about wanting to travel and see the world. Professionally, she’d love to do more musicals, and has aspirations of Stratford and doing big shows in Toronto. “I also want to spend some time here in Edmonton with the companies I grew up with — the people and the community I really respect.”

The Lady from the Sea will run May 18-27, 2017, at the Timms Centre for the Arts (purchase advance tickets here). Also look for Emma’s paintings at Edmonton Whyte Avenue Art Walk in July, and see her in The Last Wife at Alberta Theatre Projects in Calgary this September.

THE LADY FROM THE SEA
By Henrik Ibsen, adapted by Michael Bradley
May 18-27, 2017
Timms Centre for the Arts

Director – Michael Bradley
Production Designer – Ksenia Broda-Milian
Sound Designer – Matthew Skopyk

TICKETS AND INFORMATION

 

With over half of Canadians playing video games on mobile devices, computers or consoles, there’s no denying their popularity. In fact, Canada ranks third in the world for developing video games (just behind the U.S. and Japan) with 472 studios in an industry that’s contributed $3.0 billion to Canada’s GDP each year.

The Certificate in Computer Game Development at the University of Alberta is helping the next generation of game developers prepare for a career in this burgeoning field. A joint venture between the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Science, the program brings together students from a wide variety of disciplines to learn the art of creating video games, and who will eventually form teams to produce a short game as their final project.

The top projects from the 2016-17 term were nominated for the 9th Annual CMPUT 250 Game Awards, with winners announced at their event held on April 28, 2017. Special guests included reps from video game giant BioWare, a longtime supporter of the program with its head studio based here in Edmonton.

Game of the Year winner "Canned" by Cool Band Name Studios.

Game of the Year winner Canned by Cool Band Name Studios, with BioWare Software Developer, Sarah Beck (far right).

 

Associate professor Vadim Bulitko is the lead instructor in the CMPUT 250 course. “This is one of the few University of Alberta courses where undergraduate students from different disciplines come together to work on an intense team-based semester-long project,” he says. “In doing so, they get to apply their specialized skills while at the same time learning to speak the other disciplines’ language—just like in the real world, where many projects are team-based and team members have different backgrounds.”

After forming their teams, the groups got straight to work on coming up with ideas for a game. English major Shelby Carleton, lead writer for the game Panacea, spoke to Curious Arts about how they came up with the sophisticated and emotional concept for their game:

Once the concept was decided, teams had to carefully map out their entire game in a design document. Art & Design major Alex Patterson was the lead artist on the game The Tempus Hotel, and explains how they went from design doc to an actual, playable game:

More information about the Certificate in Computer Game Development and the CMPUT 250 course is available online. Also check out the full list of nominees and winners of this year’s CMPUT 250 Game Awards, including video trailers of each game.

When she was a kid, Ksenia Broda-Milian loved creating scenes with her dolls, posing them in dramatic ways to tell stories.

Who knew that those days of playing with Barbies and Polly Pockets would lay the groundwork for where she is today: designing costumes and life sized “playhouses” for the cast of The Lady from the Sea, the final production of the 2016-17 Studio Theatre season.

Now about to graduate from the MFA Theatre Design program at the University of Alberta, Broda-Milian is the Production Designer for The Lady from the Sea. As her thesis show, Broda-Milian designed the set, costumes and lights for this classic Norwegian tale by famed playwright Henrik Ibsen, adapted to modern times by director and MFA Directing student Michael Bradley.

In this episode of Origin Stories, Broda-Milian talks about her unusual journey from actress to scientist to theatre designer.

Stay tuned for more video interviews with Broda-Milian as she gives a behind-the-scenes look at the art and inspiration behind her designs for The Lady from the Sea.

 

The Lady from the Sea

THE LADY FROM THE SEA
By Henrik Ibsen, adapted by Michael Bradley
May 18-27, 2017
Timms Centre for the Arts

Director – Michael Bradley
Production Designer – Ksenia Broda-Milian
Sound Designer – Matthew Skopyk

TICKETS AND PRODUCTION INFORMATION

Every Edmontonian knows that this is an exciting time for the Oilers, having finally made it back into their first playoff series after 11 long years.

One Edmontonian who’s become the centre of attention is Robert Clark, a graduate of the U of A Department of Music. He is the official Oilers singer of the national anthem who, on April 12 at game 1 against the San Jose Sharks, quickly went viral online after turning the anthem over to 18,000 fans in Rogers Stadium.

Next to breaking their 11-year drought, Robert’s stunt was the most powerful moment in recent Oilers history, because the last time the Oilers had been in the playoffs was also when the late Paul Lorieau — who had sang the anthem for the Oilers for 30 years — also turned the anthem over to the fans, so it was a fitting tribute.

Amidst hundreds of interview requests from all over North America including CBC and USA Today about his newfound viral fame, Robert kindly made time to chat with me about it.

“When [the Oilers and I] were discussing what I was going to do for the anthem, they brought me in and they said ‘we’re going to do something that’s never been done before: we’re going to put you in with the fans, you’re going to be wearing an Oilers jersey (normally I’d be wearing a suit and tie), you’re going to start the anthem, you’re going to hold up the mic and let the fans take over.'”

“I honestly had no idea how big it was going to be in the sports world.”

Born in southern Alberta, Robert credits his father for introducing him to classical music as he was growing up. Playing the clarinet and other instruments from grade 6 to 12, Robert didn’t actually start singing until high school.

“Grade 10 was when I joined choir, only because they had no men. I kind of got lured slash bribed into it, but I discovered really quickly that I enjoyed singing.”

Flash forward to the U of A, when Robert enrolled in Education to teach music at the high school level. In his first year, he started taking voice lessons, and that’s when he found a connection with singing, and discovered opera.

Robert performing opera at the U of A.

Robert performing opera at the U of A.

 

“My love for opera wasn’t… immediate,” he laughs. “It took a while.”

Under Leonard Ratzlaff, Robert sang with the Madrigal Singers, and credits Ratzlaff for teaching him so much about musicality.

 

Under Leonard Ratzlaff, Robert sang with the Madrigal Singers, and credits Ratzlaff for teaching him so much about musicality.

Robert has fond memories of performing with the U of A Madrigal Singers under Leonard Ratzlaff.

 

His love for choral music and opera grew to the point where Robert switched from Education to Music Performance after his first year, and eventually graduated with his Music degree.

After pursuing his Masters at the University of Western Ontario, Robert moved back to Alberta to do an apprenticeship with Calgary Opera, and has been performing professionally ever since.

 

Robert eventually returned to Edmonton with his family and performed in several shows with Edmonton Opera.

Robert has performed in many Canadian debuts of major productions like Moby Dick and Silent Night.

 

Robert eventually returned to Edmonton with his family and performed in several shows with Edmonton Opera.

Then, in 2013, he got the call.

The Oilers were looking for a successor to the great Paul Lorieau, and Edmonton Opera had suggested Robert. The audition process began with Robert sending the Oilers recordings of him singing both the Canadian and American national anthems.

“Then they called me in to test me inside Rexall Place, and basically the rest is history.”

Since singing with the Oilers isn’t a full time gig, Robert is able to continue performing with other groups like Edmonton Opera, Vocal Alchemy, and Chronos Vocal Ensemble, with whom he has his season finale performance on May 7.

When he’s not entertaining people with his powerful Tenor voice, Robert spends time with his four young children, two dogs, and his wife with whom he also runs a family business.

 

Robert looks back warmly on his time at the U of A.

“Everything that happened there was a new experience for me. I look back very fondly on my years at the U of A and everything I learned there,” he says. “Had I chosen something else, I would not be where I am today, so I owe a lot of that to the instruction and the passion I felt from the teachers there.”