What our Music grads do

music stock photo

Inviting alumni back to perform, teach, and share their talents with the community and current students enriches the program.

Music grads who have gone on to succeed in various fields in music not only demonstrate the value and 'real-world' viability of a degree in Music from Waterloo, but they can also offer current students advice and encouragement. 

We love to hear from our grads. Send us your career updates to music@uwaterloo.ca. 

Gabe Guerra- Joint Music and Arts & Business, 2021

Gabe Guerra started to love music at an early age. He grew up in a Central American household, where music filled every corner of the house and inspired him to begin his musical journey. “When I was 8 years old, my dad bought me my first electric guitar, and that’s what really kickstarted my journey as a musician,” shared Gabe.

As his inspiration and passion for music grew, Gabe decided to pursue music with an Arts & Business undergraduate degree along with a major in Music. He was part of the Music Living-Learning community during his first year, where he met most of his peers and mentors, such as Stephanie Kramer. She has been a dedicated voice instructor at Conrad Grebel University College and the University of Waterloo since 1998. “As a voice student, getting to work with Stephanie Kramer was one of the main highlights of my university career,” said Gabe. “The mentors and peers that I gained through the Grebel community certainly made for a smoother transition into university life.”

Gabe lived at Grebel during his first year, which he found invaluable. “Living at Grebel was great as a music student, as the majority of my classes were in the same building,” he said. “It was very convenient to have the practice rooms nearby and it made my student life a little easier.” Living and studying at Grebel inspired Gabe to start his current business, a music school called Whole Tone Music. “Ultimately, I don’t think I would have started my business had I not pursued my degree in music,” expressed Gabe. “Making a living with music is something that I’m very grateful for, and my degree in music and the connections that I made at UWaterloo have made it possible.”

Gabe started Whole Tone Music in 2016 by giving music lessons in his parent’s living room. “I felt that there was a need in the community for a fresh and fun approach to learning music, so I set out to make the process of learning music as enjoyable as possible,” said Gabe. Currently, in Uptown Waterloo, the team at Whole Tone Music has eight talented instructors, including Ruth Guerra, a Grebel graduate who has a minor in Music. “Seeing the impact that music has on the lives of our students is what inspires us and pushes us to keep growing,” expressed Gabe.

Gabe set out an impressive path in music by sharing and refining his knowledge with the community. As he moves onto his next phase in life, Gabe wishes to share some advice with current students who are on their own path to success. “My advice would be to get as involved as your schedule allows!” he said. “There’s a good chance that you’ll make some lifelong connections in the extracurricular groups that you join, and your university experience will be better for it.”

By Ashitha Mantrawadi

Gabe Guerra

Stephanie Collings- Joint Honours Music and Arts & Business, 2020

Music has been an important part of Stephanie Collings’ life for as long as she can remember. As a child, she was quite shy, and preferred activities where she was not a part of a group or team. Piano lessons were the perfect solution. They were a place where Stephanie could be herself and pour her thoughts and feelings into the music she played. “For me, music means connecting with myself on a deeper level,” Stephanie explained. “It has allowed me to convey my emotions when I’m unable to through words which has been really special. It’s where I feel at peace and where I feel the most confident in myself.”

At the beginning of her undergraduate degree, Stephanie was originally in a field of study that didn’t feel right. With the absence of music, she realized just how much piano meant to her, and she also wanted to pursue her other interest in business. After reading about the University of Waterloo’s co-op program and learning that an Arts & Business Major offered her everything she desired, Stephanie decided to switch into a joint Honours Music and Arts and Business Co-op degree“I really enjoyed having that nice balance of being able to express my creativity through the music, while also applying my critical thinking and problem solving abilities through Business.”

Currently, Stephanie is working as a digital operations coordinator for a tech company. The position allows Stephanie to use the skills that she developed from the business side of her degree, but in the future she welcomes the idea of potentially focusing on a music-related career. She is very interested in the music industry and is excited to explore the broad range of opportunities available to her. Outside of her job, Stephanie has been working with music producers in an electronic music space, as well as creating some of her own music.

Stephanie lived at Conrad Grebel University College for all four years of university, and those years were some of the best of her life. The connections she made, the incredible experiences, and the supportive Music Department staff all impacted her life for the better. “I made the most amazing friends and memories,” she said. “My professors were very approachable which I really appreciated, and were truly passionate about their work.”

As she moves on to the next stage in her life, Stephanie wishes to share her wisdom with current and prospective Music students. “My first piece of advice is to enjoy it!” she said. “Four years goes by extremely fast, so I would encourage anyone in Music to take advantage of the amazing opportunities available in the Music Department, whether it’s joining different ensembles, creating study groups with other students, or attending different events, concerts or workshops. My second piece of advice is to not be afraid to reach out if you need any kind of support. Everyone in the Music Department is so kind, supportive, and encouraging, and they’re all rooting for you and your success!”

Written by Jace Jaeden Ellis

Nicholas Wong- Joint Honours Music and Statistics, 2020

Nicholas Wong graduated from the University of Waterloo in 2020 with a joint degree in Statistics and Music, studying two subjects with “very different study styles.” Though he always dreamed of becoming a conductor, statistics was an area of expertise for Nicholas, and a skill he thought would be useful regardless of his future plans. Throughout his studies, Nicholas enjoyed every moment, especially “taking part in different ensemble rehearsals.”

Currently, Nicholas has been working as a music teacher in an international school, as well as a freelance piano teacher. Though he is far less involved in the statistics sector, Nicholas has been able to use the knowledge gained from his studies to help him with his investment plans. With his mathematical mind, Nicholas has a unique perspective on music. “To me, music is a tool to communicate to others and to perceive things differently from another angle.”

Attributing much of what he learned in his studies to the Music Department at Conrad Grebel University College, Nicholas said that his experiences at Grebel and UWaterloo are very precious to him and will never be forgotten.

Caroline Bordignon- Joint Honours Music and Visual Arts, 2016

Caroline Bordignon has an incredible passion for both music and art, she decided upon the University of Waterloo for the ability to pursue both, doing a double major. Thus, she found herself at Conrad Grebel! It is between these walls that she was able to take a composition course for the very first time, and that course change her life as she fell in love with composing. While she had written music all her life, she says, "I never knew that a Composer was something you could be, I thought that it was something only great prodigies got to do." 

The composition course taught by Carol Ann Weaver gave her the chance to write a piece that an orchestra performed at the Sound of Land festival in 2014, which is one of her favourite memories of her undergraduate degree. These experiences lead Caroline to discover that she wanted to become a professional composer, as well as an artist. Combining the two different art forms to make a unified piece, something that she had learned about in both music and art history.

In her third year, Caroline had the wonderful opportunity to go an exchange trip to England where she studied at the University of Newcastle and fell in love with the country. Caroline had started to look for schools to do her Masters of Composition. She soon discovered that in England they have schools devoted only to music called Conservatoires, and she even had the opportunity to see a class of performers from an conservatoire perform. Upon graduating in 2016 and receiving a Bachelors in joint Honours Music and Fine Arts, Caroline enrolled in a Masters of Composition program, and deciding to once again return to the United Kingdom, this time in Manchester.

Caroline is in love with Manchester, and the Royal Northern Conservatory where she has one year left of her Masters. She describes the city, as a vibrant mix of new and old, among her favourite parts are the Northern Quarter and Deans Gate. Caroline has found a wealth of opportunity at her school, and she speaks of its incredible collaborative atmosphere. “If you write something and want it to be played. You just need to ask a performer, and they are eager to perform.” The school has also provided many opportunities to allow Caroline to have her work performed by an orchestra, and recorded. As well, she has been able to enjoy some of the amazing professional connections the school has, with the BBC philharmonic and the London symphony to name a few. These professional partners provide opportunities for composers to have their works played by a reputable orchestra. This school has provided Caroline with excellent opportunities that she is incredibly grateful to have experienced.  

Now that she is nearly finished her Master’s program, Caroline is looking into completing a Ph.D. and is going to be once again applying to schools in the United Kingdom. While she loves Manchester and wouldn’t mind continuing her time there, she also would enjoy trying London. Caroline says with a smile, “If you have an idea just got ahead and do it! Don’t wait until you have something to start from! If you want to do something, you should just go and do it!” This philosophy shines through in her actions, for example in moving to England, Caroline’s experiences shows us that dreams can come true.

Emily Yarascavitch- Biomedical Sciences and Music Minor, 2016

Music has always been an important part of Emily Yarascavitch’s life. As a toddler, she took an immediate interest in the fiddle after attending her brother’s lessons, and at age four, she began lessons of her own. Soon after, she was competing in fiddle competitions across Ontario, which further led to North America-wide competitions, Royal Conservatory of Music Violin examinations, church choir performances, weekly fiddle clubs, and performing anywhere from nursing homes to big stage events. But Emily had a second interest, one for science and math. When it came time for university, Emily was “unsure of the job stability in pursuing music as a career,” so she decided to major in Biomedical Sciences instead.

It did not take Emily long to realize something was missing from her life. She felt hollow without her initial passion, and so by her second term she began choosing music courses as electives and found this hole was filled. “It brought me joy having music back in my daily schedule,” Emily said. “I soon started meeting friends from the music program and I felt so welcomed in the Grebel community. I set up a meeting and decided to add Music as my minor.”

Emily found that music, math and sciences had many connections, and discovered the reason she had an interest in all three. In particular, she found that the fine attention to detail and hand-eye coordination of playing the violin were very similar to the skills required in a multitude of science labs. After graduating in 2016with a Biomedical Sciences degree, Emily believed she would move on to pursue a job in the medical field. But she felt that something was still missing. She realized she did not want to pursue a medical career, she wanted something more. And that something came in the form of a surprise not long after. “Within a few months of finishing school, I was offered a touring job playing fiddle that changed everything. Now I am succeeding in music as a full-time career and loving every minute of it!”

Currently, Emily uses her musical talents to explore multiple different avenues. “There is always something to involve myself in,” she said. “Some of my avenues are teaching, touring, composing, recording, social media, and managing.” In addition, she runs a successful violin/fiddle/stepdance studio where she works with students of all ages, and tours professionally with different groups as a freelance musician. Emily is constantly expanding upon her impressive set of skills and learning new ways to apply herself in music-related positions. As of now, she is learning her way around the media/marketing director role for one of the bands she works with. Furthermore, with the COVID-19 stay-at-home restrictions in place, Emily has found a way to make the best of a terrible situation, and is spending her time learning how to record music professionally from home. “Learning recording technology and electronic music is now opening up an entire new world of opportunities to explore!”

Throughout her years as a musician, Emily has won many competitions and achieved numerous accomplishments. One of her most memorable was winning the Canadian Junior Fiddling title in 2012, just before the start of her undergrad. From 2016 to 2019, she reached one of her lifelong goals of being chosen to represent Ontario at the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Competition, placing tenth in her first appearance. “It has taken a lot of hard work and determination and I am excited to see what is in store for me next!”

Emily has many amazing memories of studying music at Grebel. First, she was amazed by the wide variety of courses offered by the Music Department. She was able to take courses from Jazz to Cathedral and Court to World Music. The diversity opened her views to different styles of music and encouraged her to explore different genres in her violin playing. But Grebel gave her so much more. The community, friendships, performing in the chapel as a soloist and with ensembles, and the “beautiful walks” around campus. “I have always loved the community part of music and I have met so many incredible people throughout my musical journey,” Emily said. “Studying different areas of music and playing Gamelan ensemble instruments helped me expand my musical knowledge and added to my ability to improvise in multiple genres today.”

Written by Jace Jaeden Ellis

Emily Yarascavitch

Marina Gallagher- Joint Honours Music and Classical Studies, 2015

For Marina the best part of studying at the University of Waterloo was the ability to be interdisciplinary. During her time here, she pursued both Music and Classical studies. “They overlapped quite a lot actually,” Marina recalls. While it was a rewarding experience, it was also a difficult one, as a Joint Honours meant Marina had to dedicate more of her time hitting the books. Studying both at the same time really enrichened her experience as an undergraduate just as much as the community at Grebel did as well.  She recalls in particular, the summer of 2014, she was in the Instrumental Chamber Ensemble (ICE) and that term had the pleasure of being a part of a trio. The friendships made between the three have lasted, and the bond formed is one of Marina’s fondest memories.

Marina graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor’s in Joint Honours Music and Classical studies, from there she went onto pursue her Ph.D. with graduate studies at the University of British Colombia (UBC).  Her reasons for going onto to further her education have a lot to do with a particular Grebel professor.

"Dr. Laura Gray was always encouraging,” Marina, says, “She supported me all the way along."

It was during her undergraduate studies that Marina discovered the current topic of her Ph.D. Dissertation. After taking a landscape course, Marina became increasingly interested in how music in video games shapes the players reality and immerses them in the game. Upon graduating the here at the University of Waterloo Marina headed out to British Colombia to pursue this topic among other courses.

When choosing the University of British Colombia Marina wanted to make sure that she could take the courses, she liked, even if they were in a different discipline than her own focus of study. Like the University of Waterloo, “They [UBC] are okay with you doing what you like.” Marina recalls that she even, “…took a Greek course last term,” She has a little connection to Grebel out there as well, she’s kept in touch with Dr. Laura Gray, as well a friend of the Doctor’s happens to be working at the University, and Marina has enjoyed the connection.

Marina has already started thinking about what will happen after she finishes her Ph.D. “If I finish it,” she jokes. She currently takes on private students for piano, she loves being able to see the moment when they really begin to connect with the discipline. “I would like to expand my piano studio,” she says about her future plans, “As well teaching as a Professor.” If there ever happens to be a course on video games music Marina will be the best person to teach it! However, having also studied classics she is also interested in teaching Latin. Regardless of where she ends up Marina will continue to bring her passion for music and classical studies to the table.  As she continues her graduate studies, Marina reflects on her time as an undergraduate and has some advice for anyone currently in or about to start their undergraduate degree. She says, “Be open to trying different courses and try whatever interests you.”

Remote video URL

Melissa Pettau- Honours Music, 2014

From a young age Melissa was heavily involved in music, taking lessons and performing, honing her talent. But, her second love was math and she come to the University of Waterloo with the goal of becoming a math teacher. Melissa filled her schedule with all the courses she needed to take to progress in the math program, without room for electives. Yet, math was not as fulfilling as she had expected, and she knew something was missing. It wasn’t until her third year that she allowed herself to take an elective, a music course on conducting, when she realized how much she missed music! From then on Melissa’s life changed, and she felt something calling to her to pursue a career involved in music.

Melissa really enjoyed her time in music program and she participated in the many different ensembles and activities. A favourite memory of this time was in her last year when she performed with the gamelan ensemble. She recalls how immersed in the music she felt while playing the instrument and the powerful feeling she got when playing it. The music faculty made Melissa feel supported by both students and staff, as well it built up her confidence level. The professors encouraged her to pursue what she enjoyed than pushing her into one category, this allowed her naturally discover her interests. After some stellar music history courses she came to understand that Musicology is she wanted to pursue. It was her final year when it dawned on Melissa that she could continue on in Graduate school.

Now Melissa studies Musicology at the University of Toronto, with a particular interest in music from the medieval period. Melissa finds it fascinating how music from the past, and music from our present are so similar but yet so different at the same time. She enjoys exploring the inter-connection between different periods of music. Furthermore, Melissa is able to teach some tutorials, she really enjoys being able to make an impact on her students. To brighten their day all while sharing her passion for the subject. While ultimately she did not decide to teach at the elementary or high school level, Melissa plans to one day become a lecturer or professor. Melissa loves being in graduate studies and being able to study something she absolutely loves. Melissa describes her Graduate studies as, "Having the freedom to do what you want with the information you learn." which she enjoys greatly. Furthering your studies is having the freedom to follow your curiosity.

When she finally allowed herself to have some fun, and take a class purely for enjoyment it changed her life, and Melissa does not regret it. She encourages others to pursue electives that they enjoy. Rather than loading their terms with all required classes just for the sake of getting ahead of the game.. University is truly a time of discovery, and Melissa’s story is a true testament to this. 

Christopher Snow- Honours Music and Business with Co-op, 2014

Living in Village 1 in his first year, Christopher felt the walk to Grebel in the dead cold night of winter was daunting. Although, it was where he longed to be. Reflecting on that time, he wishes he would have taken that walk and got to the practice rooms more than he did to play his percussion instruments. However, this circumstance, among others, led Christopher to choose to live at Grebel for his second year.

Grebel was a positive place for Christopher, and he cites it as the reason for his own positive outlook on life. Moreover, being able to saunter downstairs for class in your pyjamas was an awesome thing to be able to do. Living at Grebel also had the advantage of introducing Christopher to so many new people from different faculties and allowed him to get involved with so many different activities, such as ensembles, stage band, and Music Society, all of which enrichened his university experience,  allowing him to learn and grow as a person. Christopher reflects on his time in the Music Society as a challenging experience but ultimately a rewarding one. In this role, he had to learn to work well with others and to put aside what he wanted, in order to achieve things that would really benefit the students in the department.  Being in this role allowed him to connect to main campus, and specifically to the Arts Student Union. Christopher feels that this was an important connection to make as it helped build a bridge between the colleges and the university,

“Sometimes when I would tell people I was in Music they would be surprised! They’d go, "We have a Music program?’” Christopher feels that it is so important for current music students to talk about the program and spread the word that it is a great place to be!

When it came close to the end of his university journey Christopher had a tough decision to make; what would he do with the rest of his life?  He had a Music and Business major along with a Computer Science minor and work experiences from Co-op mostly in the Computer Science industry. This opened up doors in the business world, but sadly not having enough credits in the area of Computer Science opened very little doors in this field.  As well, Christopher discovered that he had very little interest in actually pursuing a career in business. Instead, what he loved to do was learn, and this passion lead to him finally deciding on becoming a Teacher. Christopher went on to earn his bachelors in education.

Currently Christopher is teaching in an elementary school in the Peel district, and he teaches grades 5 through 8 in class, although occasionally subbing in to work with the Kindergarteners. While this job has its ups and its downs - mostly ups - Christopher truly enjoys his work with children.  Especially when he gets to work with the Kindergarteners who are just starting their educational career, and whose minds are ripe for learning.  He brings several of his stories from Grebel with him to the classroom, even telling them of assignments he had to do for his piano studio classes, as he teaches the children the basics of the instrument. It is safe to say that his stories of university assignments probably blow these children’s minds by how tough they must seem. Yet with practice and dedication, some of his students may even find themselves here one day, studying music at the University of Waterloo.

Christopher Snow

Meaghan McCracken- Honours Music, 2014

When deciding where she would like to go to school, Meaghan McCracken felt drawn to the music program here at the University of Waterloo. Her experiences were more interdisciplinary. She feels had she gone somewhere else she never would have had the opportunity to take some of the classes she loved! She says, “It let me explore other things I was interested in, like English Literature and Anthropology. The breadth requirements also got me to take courses in subjects I would never have thought I'd enjoy, but ended up taking a lot away from, like Earth Sciences.” These classes weren’t the only thing Meaghan loved about the school. She enjoyed taking part in the Grebel community and making connections with students and staff alike. She recalls a favourite memory of, “…decorating the Christmas tree in the lower Atrium with other music students every year!” Meaghan graduated in 2014 with a bachelors in Honours Music, but don't be mistaken and think she had her life all figured out before that date.

Like many, when she entered university Meaghan had no clue what she wanted to do once her undergrad was over. She happened to stumble upon her current job later in her undergrad, she remembers it as a “Late-night life crisis” as she hunted for her dream job, she says:

“I was googling upcoming auditions for orchestras and had somehow found a listing of arts administration job openings.” Meaghan saw the posting for the Music Librarian and felt immediately that it was the job for her. She then discussed the idea with Grebel Instructor Barb, who taught Meaghan in her studio class for flute. It so happened that Barb knew the librarian at the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony. Barb mentioned that he was always looking for help, and Meaghan jumped on the chance to volunteer. After volunteering for a year, which allowed her to learn what the job entails, the librarian moved to Vancouver. Meaghan immediately applied to take over the vacancy. The rest is history and today Meaghan is still the Librarian for the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony and she couldn’t be happier.

Today she enjoys the many perks of her job, she enjoys being close to the action but behind the scenes. She often works closely with very talented musicians, and she gets to work with come celebrities every now and again. Meaghen enjoys her work and says her favourite part as “Getting to be an important part of the logistical process of putting a concert together and then the subsequent satisfaction at the end of the concert when the audience is giving a standing ovation.”

Meaghan has several plans for the future. Including heading back to school to get a master’s degree, in what exactly she isn’t quite sure! As well, she would enjoy working as a librarian at a big rental company like Disney. For students interested in a job in an arts administrative position, Meaghan has some sage advice:

"Do lots of research. There are many jobs in arts administration that people don't tell you about, but are very important! It's a great way to be right in the heart of the music field without necessarily being a performer."

Meaghan McCracken

Sophia Werden Abrams- Honours Music, 2013

Even though it’s been years since she graduated, successfully earning a degree in Music with a focus on Piano performance, Sophia Werden Abrams still remembers how good the cookies were.  She recalls the famous amazing treats of the college fondly, and it reminds her of the good years she had at Grebel.  During her time here, you could often find her in the Atrium, nestled into one of the cozy chairs or love seats and it’s in this environment that Sophia made strong friendships and great memories. However, it was Grebel’s professors who made the greatest impact on her. The smaller class sizes meant that Sophia was able to get to know her professors and they got to know her. The bond between them is still strong and she is grateful for all of their support. The professors helped her see that she could do more than she thought; they even helped her get into a master’s program.

When it came to continuing her education Sophia was certain that there was more to learn and she had further interest in conducting and choral music that drove her passion towards a Master’s in conducting at Memorial University in Newfoundland. For Sophia continuing her education was a new way to immerse herself in a new subject of interest, and she enjoyed the experiences that came along with it which included conducting and singing in the MUN choirs. She describes that moment when conducting when you connect with the music and the musicians - it is collaboration at play. Sophia explains that when conducting you have to be mindful of the energy you are both receiving from the performers and the energy you are giving back to them, this balance of energy can impact the way the music is performed.  She graduated with a Masters of Music, and a variety of experience to establish herself as a  teacher, conductor and performer. Which she has done incredibly well, she has toured with the National Youth Choir in 2016 in Alberta, and worked with Community Music Waterloo Region, which provided subsidized music lessons for children who would otherwise not be able to afford music lessons.

Today Sophia is a Hamilton based conductor, conducting the Oakville Children’s Choir, as well as a teaching piano and voice. She has a passion to bring music to those around her, and she has enough experience to find the moment. Sophia explains that when teaching a child music there is usually a moment when they have grasped a concept, they recognize a technique, or are able to perform at the end of their lessons for the year. It is moments like those that are her favourite thing about teaching. Additionally Sophia is training to become a certified Andover Educator, and has an interest in Body Mapping and how it impacts the musician and ultimately the music. She brings this awareness into her lessons and makes sure that all her students are standing correctly, which prevents some injuries from occurring.

Looking back on her time as a first-year student, new to the University of Waterloo, Sophia feels that it is important to, “Trust your instincts, do what makes you happy and seek new experiences.” It is these ideals that have lead Sophia to where she is now. Her passion for music, which is clearly visible in all that she does.

Matthew Attard- Honours Music and Business, 2013

Although Matthew has played piano since he was a young child, it wasn’t until he was able to try his cousin’s drum set that he really connected to music. Since then his love for music has only grown.  Despite this when he first came to Waterloo Matthew was enrolled in Math, although it didn’t take too long before he realized this was not for him. Wanting to keep his co-op Matthew switched to Arts and Business, which allowed him to focus on his music while still keeping his co-op program. While in school, Matthew took percussion in studio, which allowed him to hone his craft.

Matthew enjoyed most the small size of Grebel, especially being in Arts and Business and regularly getting to be on main campus, where class sizes can reach the hundreds. The small atmosphere of the college fostered strong relationships between him and his professors. He could tell that the faculty truly cared about his welfare and wanted him to succeed, which in return he feels drove him to do his best in his course work. In addition, the flexibility of the program allowed him to pursue his co-op program, which he describes as a valuable learning experience. Although what he remembers best from his time at Grebel is his last studio jury. He often felt sick during them, but for this last time, he was feeling great and it showed in his playing. As well he recalls the happiness he got from playing something more his style, rather than a classical piece, his professor encouraged him to play a piece that would best show off his talent and one he would enjoy as well. From this last jury Matthew can remember clearly the happiness of his professors who enjoyed seeing him have fun. His experience at Grebel was enrichened by the relationships he was able to have with faculty, and Matthew feels that this is a strength of the program.

Matthew graduated in 2013 with a Bachelors of Arts in Honours Music and Business Co-op. Today Matthew is a full-time teacher with the Peel District School Board teaching music, business, and math at the high school level. Matthew still gets to enjoy various musical projects with his band Dan Daly, and still teaches private lessons where possible. He gets to use many of the things he learned at Grebel in his role as a teacher, where he makes use of all this music theory and history classes. However, the biggest influence of Grebel on his work is his acceptance of flexibility and his desire to start from the student’s interest and move forward from there.

Looking back at this time as a first year, Matthew has some advice for current and future students.  First, always practice, when you think you’re done, practice some more. “There is always some five-year-old kid on YouTube who can do it better than you.” Matthew says. What distinguishes you is how hard you work, and with every additional practice time, you will improve as a musician.  Waterloo is a place that emphasizes mutual support among students rather than competition among them, take that opportunity to get to know your peers and collaborate with them. These are the lessons that Matthew has taken with him into his current roles, and make him the excellent teacher that he is today.

Corey Linforth- Honours Music, 2013

Corey Linforth, class of 2013, took the task of choosing a post-secondary school seriously. She researched the program at Grebel and found it was the perfect fit for her. She was able to study without specializing specifically in Opera. When she first enrolled, Corey enrolled as an Arts and Business student, although she would later drop the business side to pursue her passion for music. The atmosphere she remembers is a unique and healthy one, and the community does not result in a feeling of competition between students.

Today Corey is a Music director at a church, making sure Sunday morning worship service runs smoothly. Her day-to-day work is a mix of practicing, and administrative work. Depending on the plans for Sunday, she may spend more time practicing certain instruments, such as piano or organ.  However, her favourite part of her job is not practicing, although she definitely enjoys that too, but being able to rehearse with others. Not only is it enjoyable to work with others, but Corey enjoys the reduced pressure that comes with rehearsing rather than performing. She sees the performance as the end of something, so in a way it is a bit sad, and once a performance is done it is done meaning

“…that perfect version that was in your head didn’t happen.” This opinion comes from plenty of experience with performance.

Corey is involved in both Spiritus Ensemble and Arcady; as well, she has even created a new ensemble called Eviole. Arcady is an emerging artist program and allows young artists to do solo work, something which is rather difficult early on in a singer’s career. Corey has enjoyed having the wonderful opportunities offered by Arcady such as the specific pieces written by the director for young soloists to perform. While Spiritus, led by Grebel’s own Dr. Ken Hull, has allowed Corey to meet more great musicians, plus they  get to sing a lot of Bach which just happens to be her favourite composer! Eviole, Corey’s newest venture, is an ensemble centred around music written specifically for the female voice and draws inspiration from the 16th century trio of celebrated singers known as the Concerto delle donne.

When looking back on her time at Grebel, Corey has a few things she wished she had done differently. From taking specific courses, such as more language courses, which is specifically related to her singing, to taking a gerontology course, which she says would be very useful for anyone interested in working within the church! However, what she wishes she could go back and tell her first year self was to not stress about the mistakes and to use them as opportunities to grow. Corey had always known she wanted to be a musician, she had her doubts at times, ultimately she is doing what she set out to do.

Corey Linforth

Nadia Mazzarollo- Honours Music, 2012

Nadia Mazzarollo, class of 2012, has had a passion for singing and playing piano her whole life; it wasn’t until later when she had young children that she decided to follower her passion. Inspired by Eleanor James, partner of Canadian Composer Murray Schafer, Nadia decided to take the next step in music career by enrolling into the music program here at the University of Waterloo.

Nadia recalls the unique atmosphere of the school.  She describes the department as a family, who are there to support one another, and the lines of communication are very open. When she left the music program, she didn’t leave drained or overworked, but invigorated and inspired to do more with her degree. Inspired by the words of Murray Schafer, Nadia feels that at Grebel your art and your life intertwine and become one and you leave not only a stronger musician but a stronger person as well. This is something Nadia feels is unique to the Grebel music program, and something she has seen other graduates of the program experience. Nadia has even used her educational experience and the characteristics of the program to help her build her own amazing education programs, such as MPress Music located in downtown Kitchener.

Since leaving Grebel, Nadia has been involved in plenty of exciting ventures, such as being earning a Masters Degree in music from Western University and teaching music at Metalworks studio. As well Nadia has been on The Shot and started building her own business, MPress Music. In her experience on The Shot Nadia was amazed at the sheer amount of talent that is out there. Nadia recalls how the contestants were so open, and how much she enjoyed mentoring them. Nadia recalls how inspired she was by them and truly moved by their authenticity. By her standards, they all have won a prize, as she puts it, "The prize is touching one person, and sometimes we forget that..." 

In her newly opened studio MPress studio, Nadia has used principles inspired by the lasting impression Grebel had on her. The foundation of MPress is communication, collaboration, and community. The programs at MPress are geared towards adults, as Nadia feels there is such a yearning in the adult community to express themselves musically, yet they often don’t know where to go or how to do so. It is a space where Singers are encouraged to be their authentic selves, and to work with one another and those in the Kitchener-Waterloo music community. Nadia has even brought in outside instructors to give her students more experiences to collaborate and learn, such as an acting coach to aid in performance.  The community bonds together over Jam nights and Nadia encourages strong bonds within the MPress community, or more aptly put the MPress family.

Nadia Mazzarollo

Mary-Catherine McNinch Pazzano- Joint Honours Music & Drama, 2010

Mary-Catherine Pazzano completed her first undergraduate degree in 2010; Joint Honours in Music and Drama from the University of Waterloo. "I grew up watching and loving the old MGM musicals," Mary-Catherine explains how she quickly fell in love with the music featured in them. Many of the songs from these beloved musicals are also American standards, and from there, a fine appreciation in jazz formed naturally.

Learning at Grebel has had a positive impact on Mary-Catherine. She feels the liberal arts nature of the program did not “box” her into one area of focus, but allowed her to flourish and explore her voice.

"I was able to be my authentic self." 

The support of both faculty and fellow students was a highlight for Mary-Catherine; the teaching style of voice instructor, Stephanie Kramer, was of particular influence. She felt the atmosphere of Grebel was one of non-competition and genuine support for one another, and this is why she truly believes that there is room for everyone in the music business. No artist is ever completely the same, and she feels this allows each artist to find their own place in the industry.  She feels it is just as important to watch someone else perform as it is to perform yourself, and this is another experience Grebel offered her.

After completing her second degree, a Bachelor of Education at the University of Toronto, Mary-Catherine longed to return to the Kitchener-Waterloo area.  Since moving back, she has established herself as a respected singer performing in notable venues, such as The Jazz Room in Waterloo and The Registry Theatre in Kitchener. In 2014, Mary-Catherine went New Zealand, where she taught students vocal techniques, and was able to perform. She has also begun teaching, taking on pupils in her own private studio, as well as creating the programs Jazz in the Schools, and a jazz day camp, Jazz for Adults. In 2017, Mary-Catherine plans to release her first debut album, which is going to explore the varied aspects of her voice. It will be an authentic representation of who Mary-Catherine is. These different projects display the affection Mary-Catherine has for the region, and the community.

As a first year student she feels she stressed the fine details a bit too much. Now she knows that there is not a moment when as a musician you have “arrived”.  She believes one’s artistry is ever evolving and that’s okay. While you should strive to hone your technical craft, it’s even more important to be vulnerable and show true emotion.  She encourages all those pursuing an education to be focused on the future when planning their classes, as it will help guide them towards their goals.  Mary-Catherine is an example of how with dedication to your goals, it truly is possible to have a career you love, even your dream job!

Mary-Catherine Pazzano
Remote video URL

Vasana Abeysekera- Honours Music and English Literature, 2008

Vasana grew up in Nova Scotia, but decided to take a daring step and applied to school in Ontario. That’s how she ended up at the University of Waterloo studying Music! Vasana recalls upon her time at Grebel:

“I have such fond memories of Grebel. The supportive and kind atmosphere at Grebel had a tremendous impact on me during those formative years of university, and shaped me into a better person, and for that I'm very grateful.”

In her time as an undergraduate, she took clarinet in studio and graduated in 2008 with a Bachelor in Honours Music and English Literature. Vasana’s interest in the overlap subjects of Music and English followed her into graduate studies as she pursued a master’s degree in each subject. Doing a MMus Performance in Clarinet at the University of Toronto and MA in English at Dalhousie University.

Since then Vasana has moved back to her home province, and has put her education to good use. She has performed in many orchestras, bands, chamber ensembles, theatre productions and recitals. While living in Ontario Vasana also had the pleasure of being a part of the Kitchener Waterloo Chamber Orchestra. Her passion for music and her experiences performing have allowed her to become an excellent teacher.

Having started teaching in 2002, Vasana has over ten years of experience teaching clarinet. She has taught many different ages of people, both children and adults alike. Vasana is delighted to be able to share her passion with her students, regardless of their ages. She has also held teaching positions at the Conservatory of Music as well as at Long and McQuade. However, she has recently moved and will be starting to look for teaching positions in her new location. Vasana’s excellent experience, and passion are sure to make her students, wherever they may be, excited to learn.

Vasana Abeysekera

Alicia Turman- Joint Honours Music and German, 2007

As many do, Alicia Turman discovered that the program she was in was something she actually wasn’t interested in learning. She had been highly involved in music in high school, but once she came to university she focused on other subjects. “I spent the first semester in courses that weren’t really speaking to me and I thought to myself I have to take a music course next semester.” Once she had music back in her life, starting first with an interest in joining choirs, she felt complete again. From there, Alicia decided to switch her plans and became a joint music and German major, with a focus on vocal studio.

This decision to change ended up being a life-changing one, and Alicia reflects on the good memories she gained because of it. The small size of the department made it easy to know all her classmates, and to become a part of the music department family. Alicia remembers the efforts professors made to make classes a community as well. She felt the professors were building a community as if to say, "this is where you're supposed to be, we're here to support you". 

It was in this environment that Alicia discovered what she wanted to do after graduation. While being a teacher wasn’t always something Alicia had planned to do, looking back at her life, it’s something she feels was always meant to be. It was present in her personality and activities. During her undergrad, she even took private students to teach music. Upon graduation in 2007 with a Bachelor in Joint Honours Music and German, Alicia headed off to Western University to start her journey of becoming a teacher.

After graduating teacher’s college, Alicia had the opportunity to teach in Sweden. It was an International English school, which is similar in concept to the Canadian idea of French Immersion schools, “It’s a very different system, but they value music. Music is taught to everybody up until grade ten. So it’s not an optional course.” She ended up teaching music to a whole school of children. While you may be quick to assume that it would be difficult to teach to children whose native language is very different from your own, Alicia felt that the universality of the subject allowed students to understand despite any differences in language. She enjoyed being a part of a system where music was so highly valued; in contrast to the Canadian system, Alicia felt that the Swedish style of teaching music up until grade ten allowed students to be more well-rounded. Of the Canadian System she says, “You don’t always get to see that grade nine student who is great at music in grade twelve.” She has returned to Canada and is currently teaching in the Waterloo Region at a Catholic Secondary School, where she teaches music. Alicia loves what she does, she gets to see a side of students most teachers often don’t. Subjects in the arts need a unique safe space to allow for creativity and the innate vulnerability that students are required to show.

Looking back on her undergrad Alicia, like most, wishes she would have practiced more. Hoping other students can learn from her example, she encourages students to take some risks with their courses. From the experiences she has had, she also emphasizes the importance of exposing yourself to as many tunities as possible. “The music world while quite big is also quite small, the connections you make in university will last you a lifetime and they will come in handy.” Alicia’s experiences allow her to be amazing teacher, and her passion for her job is exactly what students deserve.

Alicia Turman

Amanda Kind- Honours Music, 2006

Amanda Kind graduated with an Bachelors of Arts in Honours Music in 2006. She recalls her time at Grebel fondly. Amanda felt a pull towards the school and the region - she admired the diversity of both. Originally, from British Colombia, Amanda transfer to the University of Waterloo, she came for the arts management courses, but stayed in the region for a much different reason. Amanda fell in love with the arts community of Kitchener-Waterloo and the region has fallen in love with her as well. The courses she took have helped her create a solid foundation with which she has gone on to serve the community with projects like KW Glee club. She encourages those pursuing an education in the Arts to be as diverse as possible, because it will increase your employability and enrichen your experience, this is exactly what she is doing with her contribution to the music community.

Amanda co-founded the KW Glee Club after the show “Glee” grew an immense popularity. Amanda recalls in her youth having been a part of glee clubs, and she felt it would be such an amazing opportunity for the community and thus KW Glee Club was born! Since their first year, the size of the club has increased by three-hundred percent. They started out performing in Waterloo Mennonite Brethren Church, but now they have enough popularity to perform in theatre venues, even doing two sold out shows at the Centre at the Square accompanied by the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony. They have also performed on the uWaterloo campus in the Humanities Theatre. The group has even become large enough that they have created three sections: seniors, juniors, and Youth Pop Choir Class.

Amanda has really enjoyed being able to teach students music using pop songs and current music, rather than strictly the classics. She has always held a love for the genre, and Amanda recalls jamming out to Mariah before a classical performance while here at Grebel. She feels that this focus is something that really engages students, because it allows them to follow their own interests and to be able to connect music to their everyday life. Amanda also takes on private students aside from KW Glee, which allows her to focus on the individual. She works to enhance their natural ability and she is able to create a unique connection with the student.

There are plenty of exciting things happening for Amanda, not just for her students. She has been awarded the distinguished alumni award from Conrad Grebel University College, in 2017. This July she will be heading to the Boston Conservatory at Berklee College, where she will be taking a workshop on Vocal Pedagogy, which will allow her to grow even further as an instructor. Don’t worry she will be back in the region before long! KW Glee won’t be forgotten either, Amanda feels that with every year the club grows, improves and its future grows brighter. Amanda loves the wealth of opportunity that children have in the arts, in Waterloo Region, and she is happy to add to that list of opportunities to help children develop artistically.

Kathryn Ladano- Honours Music, 1999

For Kathryn Ladano becoming a Musician and Music teacher was never a question, she had started lessons at eleven and a natural affinity for the subject. Encouraged by her teachers, she knew this was the path of her destiny, and she began to plan how to get there. When it came time for Kathryn to start her post-secondary studies, she had originally looked at Wilfred Laurier but the school did not offer classes to students wanting to major in the Bass Clarinet, which is Kathryn’s main interest. She then inquired at the University of Waterloo where she was pleased to discover that she could not only study with her particular instrument, but an instructor there was actually able to teach Bass Clarinet specifically. Kathryn recalls, “Although it wasn’t my first choice it ended up working for the best”. She valued the flexibility of the program, which allowed her to shape her education to fit what she needed as well as what she was interested in learning about. Kathryn graduated in 1999 with a Bachelor in Honours Music. Since graduating Kathryn has gone on to accomplish many things, and take on a variety of roles with organizations like NUMUS and Wilfred Laurier University. Kathryn has also continued her studies, receiving a Masters of Bass Clarinet Performance form the University of Calgary and is nearing the end of her Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology at York University. 

First getting involved as a board member in 2007 and then coming back again as a board member in 2011, Kathryn has held every position possible at NUMUS. She currently serves as their Artistic Director, a role she was awarded with after her excellent work stepping in for a previous Artistic Director.

"This is my dream job", Kathryn says, "I just love to program great concerts." 

Bringing artists to the region and sharing new music gets her excited and she loves being able to bring this to the community. In her role, Kathryn has also created the one of a kind NUMUS Student Curator Contest, which gives young people interested in potentially becoming Artistic Directors themselves the opportunity try out the position. Contestants are asked to plan a sample concert and the winner will get to have this concert become a reality. This is an incredibly valuable opportunity for young artists to gain some experience in the field and Kathryn really enjoys working with young artist initiatives.

Kathryn is also highly involved in teaching; she teaches classes at Laurier, an ensemble, a group class, as well as private lessons. The moment a student starts to make discoveries about their own skills, the moments when they realize they really can do this are the ones she likes best. In her teaching, she brings her passion for music and particularly her passion for improvisation. The benefits of improvisation for musicians is the focus for her Ph.D., in a recent publication titled Free Improvisation and Performance Anxiety in Musicians Kathryn explains that the technique is beneficial for the skill of the musician and for their mental health as well. Kathryn is known for her own improvisation during performances, and she has brought this experience to the classroom. Teaching a group class on the topic, she was able to see how the students began to realize they had opened up a completely new world of music with improvising.

Her signature style of improvising is the basis of the latest album from Stealth, a duo that includes Kathryn and percussionist Richard Burrows. The album titled “Listen” released in 2015 was crafted by sorting through five full days of improvised recordings, of which the duo selected the best sections. Stealth is hoping to go on tour, and bring their unique improvisations to music lovers. “I like bringing something new with my performances,” Kathryn explains, performing for her isn’t just about being able to play the music she has created and loves. It’s about creating a new experience for the audience, and bringing something to them that they’ve never heard before. This desire to bring something new to her shows is what makes her stand out as an artist, in a world where many are after one sellable hit. No one is too interested in pushing the envelope anymore, but that is where Kathryn, both in her solo performances and with stealth is different.  Her successful improvisation distinguishes her from other performers. With a tour in the works, you would suspect Kathryn to be dedicated solely to Stealth, but that isn’t the case. She has a goal of releasing another solo album, and desires to continue teaching and being involved with NUMUS.  From the outside, looking in her ability to juggle so much is both incredible and inspiring.

For her hard work and success in the Kitchener-Waterloo Community Kathryn was awarded the Waterloo Region Arts Award for Music in 2016. It is a reminder of the hard work she has put into the community through her work at NUMUS among others. The Waterloo Region music scene would not be the same without her passion to explore improvising and new ideas, and her desire to bring amazing talent to the local scene.  Kathryn reflects on her time at Grebel, the 20th century music class she had taken, it had introduced her to contemporary music, and since then she hasn’t turned back. She continues to pave a new path for herself and other musicians, like her students, seeking something different and exciting.

Durrell Bowman- Joint Honours Music and Applied Studies Co-op, 1989

Dr. Durrell Bowman grew up in Floradale, took piano lessons as a child, and then began to sing in choirs, write keyboard-based songs, and so on while attending Rockway Mennonite Collegiate. He continued to excel in his education while a music major at Conrad Grebel University College and was the first and only University of Waterloo student to complete an Honours BA in Music and Arts Applied Studies Co-op with an option in Society, Technology & Values. 

His interest in music history and culture led to an MA in musicology at the University of Toronto, during which time he worked as a TA and RA and also sang semi-professionally in a number of church and community choirs. He was then accepted with a significant fellowship into the innovative musicology graduate program at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he completed his PhD. His dissertation, "Permanent Change: Rush, Musicians' Rock, and the Progressive Post-Counterculture," interpreted and contextualized the music of the Toronto-based, Canadian rock band Rush. 

Durrell has developed and taught 31 sections of 22 different university courses (especially ones on popular music and film music), written book chapters and journal articles, presented dozens of conference papers, contributed numerous program notes and reference articles, and developed websites and web content. He has published three books: Rush and Philosophy: Heart and Mind United (co-editor and three chapters, Open Court, 2011), Experiencing Rush: A Listener's Companion (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014), and Experiencing Peter Gabriel: A Listener's Companion (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016). His book chapter, "Be Sharp: The Simpsons and Music," is forthcoming in a collection about the TV show (McFarland, 2018-19).

He also completed a Certificate in Computer Applications Development at Conestoga College and a Master of Library of Information Science (MLIS) at Western University. In addition, he has been a Visiting Scholar at Grebel, done cataloguing and collections internships in its library, and worked on composing a higher-education-themed concept album, called The Tower.