Music Builds Community at UWaterloo

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Students at the University of Waterloo are an incredibly diverse group, with interests spanning math, health, engineering, science, environment, and arts. Many of these students have spent hundreds of hours of their life learning a musical instrument and, instead of giving up their love of music while at university, they have found a collective place to express it. The orchestra@uwaterloo is a full-sized symphony orchestra whose players are students, staff, faculty, and alumni of Waterloo.

“Music plays a large role in many of our students’ lives before they come to Waterloo, and the orchestra is a perfect example of how we build community on such a large campus,” explained Associate Provost Chris Read. “Having an orchestra on campus that is open to anyone allows students to continue their musical passion. It is a place for those to connect that might not ever interact outside of the orchestra.”

“The orchestra@uwaterloo has given me an amazing opportunity to expand my performance practice in a new setting and it has assisted in my growth as a musician,” reflected piccolo player Tyler Reidy. “Orchestra@uwaterloo will definitely be one of my most memorable musical endeavors I've pursued throughout my undergraduate studies!”

Photo of Fall 2021 Orchestra

Founded 12 years ago by professors Anna Lubiw and Romy Shioda alongside conductor Erna Van Daele, the orchestra has been run by volunteers and operated by an advisory council. May 2017 marked a change in this organization, when the Conrad Grebel University College Music Department at UWaterloo assumed leadership of the orchestra.

“The new relationship with Grebel gives the orchestra a better chance of long-term survival, since it will no longer depend on individuals,” remarked Lubiw. “A Music Department is a proper home for an orchestra!” On top of her role as Computer Science professor, Lubiw has been a driving force behind the orchestra since the beginning, devoting hours and hours of time to its operation, as well as playing violin in it every term.

“We are thrilled to welcome the orchestra@uwaterloo as a Music Department ensemble!” announced Music Department Chair Laura Gray. “It is a great fit and the timing is right. Like our other six department ensembles, the orchestra@uwaterloo is inclusive so we already share a common mission to enrich both student life and the life of the broader community.”

The support from Grebel's music department – financially, administratively, promotionally, and in fundraising – will help to ensure the viability of the ensemble for years to come. As an official department ensemble, now students can either participate as an extra-curricular activity or receive course credit. They will have access to Grebel practice rooms, and can learn about studio courses and other musical opportunities.

“Erna Van Daele has been the music director of orchestra@uwaterloo since 2004 and has carried this 70 musician orchestra through many auditions, practices, concerts, and competitions,” noted Read. “She has worked tirelessly to ensure that it stayed true to its simple yet effective mission: to provide a quality musical experience for our players and audiences. She will be greatly missed.” Van Daele ended her appointment in 2017, and Daniel Warren has been named the new Music Director of the orchestra.

Daniel Warren conducting

Warren is a highly celebrated conductor and musician, bringing experience, expertise, and vision to his role. He served as resident conductor of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony for fourteen years and more recently as creative advisor and conductor for Orchestra London Canada. As a conductor and as a trumpet soloist, Warren has recorded both on CD and in live television broadcast. He has toured extensively with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Canadian Chamber Ensemble throughout the world. “Members of the orchestra will enjoy working with him,” added Gray. “Dan is a great successor to Maestro Van Daele because he is keen to maintain the character and quality of the ensemble, its experiential role for the musicians, and its mission to the community. He understands that the same excited vibe among members of the orchestra is shared by the audience – for many it is their first experience of a classical-music concert.”

“I so wanted to work with orchestra@uwaterloo because of its history of high-calibre music making with a unique cross section of musicians from many educational disciplines,” said Warren. “The structure of the orchestra, now newly-aligned with the music department at Conrad Grebel will provide opportunities not only to learn and perform great orchestral repertoire, but will also be a vehicle for composition students reading sessions, conducting students workshops, as well as concerto and aria reading sessions. I'm also excited to receive input from the excellent faculty members and administration so that this ensemble can function as an integral part of the life at Waterloo and the wider community.”

Conrad Grebel University College is home to the Music Department at the University of Waterloo. The College teaches music theory, composition, history, ethnomusicology, church music, jazz, popular music and culture, and offers vocal and instrumental studio instruction individually and in ensembles. In 1977, the Music program became an official department, offering an Honours Arts degree in Music.