Reach for the stars
Some Juno award winners from Saskatchewan
Joni Mitchell spent her teen years in Saskatoon, and soared to fame as a singer-songwriter around the English-speaking world. Most Saskies know her songs by heart — she’s right up there with Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. Her many awards include the Juno in 2008 for Producer of the Year, the Juno in 1975 for female vocalist of the year, at least eight Grammy Awards, the Canadian Walk of Fame, and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Buffy Sainte-Marie is probably Canada’s most renowned Cree singer-songwriter, revered internationally as an outspoken advocate for her people, campaigning for social justice through her songs. She was born on the Piapot reserve in the Qu’Appelle Valley. After her parents died, relatives named Sainte-Marie dubbed her “Buffy”, and brought her up in Massachusetts. She wrote such songs as “Up Where We Belong” and “Until It’s Time for You to Go”, and won a galaxy of important awards including Canada’s Juno.
Connie Kaldor is a Regina-born singer-songwriter, known for her lusty voice and raucous sense of humour. A theatre graduate of the University of Alberta, she performed with Theatre Passe Muraille, The Mummers and 25th Street Theatre. Since 1981 she won three Junos for her children’s albums, and has produced fourteen albums, one musical and three award-winning kidlit books.
Colin James of Regina, a rock and blues singer-songwriter, won the Juno award several times, and did a command performance before Queen Elizabeth. Most recently he won a Juno in 2019 in the Blues Album of the Year category for “Miles to Go.”
Dead South (Regina), a lively four-man acoustic bluegrass group who call themselves modern hillbillies, won the Juno in 2018 for traditional roots album of the year, and two Western Canadian Music Awards as “breakout artist of the year” and “roots/duo group of the year” in 2018. Burton Cummings Theatre in Winnipeg described their style as “frontier recklessness, whiskey breakfasts and grizzled tin-pan showmanship.” Their instruments are cello, mandolin, banjo and guitar. They have performed in Amsterdam, Cologne, and in England. One of them, Danny Kenyon, has a day job as structural engineer; among his accomplishments are work on Mosaic Stadium and the support for Scotty the T-Rex at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum.
Saskatoon native Susan Pesklevits Jacks moved to B.C. as a child, and appeared on the Canadian TV teen show Music Hop. In 1988 she and husband Terry Jacks and Craig McCaw formed “the Poppy Family”, and had several hits. One sold nearly four million copies, reaching No. 1 in Canada, and No. 2 in Billboard. They won a Gold leaf Award (formerly Juno) in 1970.
Jess Moskaluke was a Juno award winner in 2017 for Country Album of the Year and has had ten Top 10 hits. In 2017 she was the first female country music singer with a song in the Top 5, and her single “Cheap Wine and Cigarettes” reached Platinum status for its genre. Her website says she was the first Saskatchewan resident to be named the Canadian Country Music Association’s Female Artist of the Year
The Sheepdogs of Saskatoon shot to rock star fame when they appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone in 2011, after more than 1.5 people voted for them in a contest, and they landed a contract with Atlantic Records. Their favourite genres are seventies-rock, soul and blues. The four won Junos in 2012 and 2013 for best single, and in 2014 for video. Again, in 2019 they were nominees for a Juno for “Changing Colours” (Rock Album of the Year).
Jake (Jacqueline) Leiske was a member of Farmer’s Daughter (three female singers), which won a Juno in 1998 for best country group, and the Canadian Country Music Association award in 1997.
[cbcmusic.ca, personal websites, internet]
Other singers who spring to mind
Cree Summer Francks, actress and singer, is American-born but was raised on the Red Pheasant Reserve. Her father is Don Francks, actor and musician. She has done voice-over for over one hundred animated characters in video games, TV cartoons, animated films and commercials.
Jen Lane of Saskatoon, a veteran folk/roots songwriter, was nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award for roots solo artist in 2017, and she has appeared on many television shows across Canada.
Lizzy Munson, born in Saskatoon, cellist and singer, recently performed for three years with Cirque de Soleil in “Ka” in Las Vegas. She sang and danced in such venues as the Calgary Stampede grandstand show. In 2016 she won the Calgary Stampede Talent Search – an annual Canada-wide competition, and played backup for Shawn Mendes at the Junos and for Michael Buble in Alberta.
Megan Nash of Regina was nominated for the 2109 Album of the Year Juno award in the contemporary roots category. Her albums include Seeker, Deer Head, Snowbank, and Song Harvest.
Jason Forrest Plumb of Regina is a singer-songwriter who was the lead singer for The Waltons. Now he performs with a backup band, The Willing. He has his own record label, Soccermom Records.
Kyle Riabko, is a singer, guitarist and composer born in Saskatoon. He appeared on Broadway in Spring Awakening, and Hair, as an actor on film and television, and in solo gigs in New York, Los Angeles and Saskatoon.
Lorraine McAllister Richards was a Saskatoon-born pop singer and actress who sang with Ken Peaker’s dance band in Saskatoon, and others across Canada. She sang for troops in South Korea, on CBC radio and TV productions in Toronto and Vancouver, with Theatre Under the Stars, and hosted her own TV show.
Rosie and the Riveters, a Saskatoon-based all-female quartet plus drummer sing a retro blend of gospel, folk and 1940s music sprinkled with a soupcon of modern feminism. Their bouncy music won them a place on the American top ten folk music charts for seventeen weeks in 2018, and a social action award.
Theresa Sokyrka was born in Moose Jaw, but moved to Saskatoon. She shot to national fame as the first runner-up in the second season of Canadian Idol.
Jeffrey Straker, singer/songwriter/pianist of Punnichy and Saskatoon, has played at folk festivals, folk clubs and even the Saskatoon Symphony. He calls his style folk roots with a pop twist.
Suzie Vinnick of Saskatoon is a roots and blues singer-songwriter who often appears on CBC. She was nominated for three Junos, and won the Canadian Folk Music Award.
Colter Wall of Swift Current performed his song “Sleeping on the Blacktop” on the soundtrack of an Oscar-nominated film, Hell or High Water, with Rolling Stone magazine called him “one of 21 country artists to watch for.”
[Personal websites; First Nations Drum, 14 March 2011; Wikipedia. For a splendid article on Saskatchewan bands in 1970, see: https://www.psychedelicbabymag.com/2018/01/a-coffee-house-for-sponge-people-rise.html ]
Musicians with First Nations roots
Brad Bellegarde was born and raised in Regina, and is a Nakota/Cree member of the Little Black Bear First Nation. He is known in genres varying from traditional pow-wow to hip hop, for his singing, drumming, dancing, and costume design.
Eekwol (Lindsay Knight) is a rapper from the Muskoday First Nation. A graduate of the U of R and the U of S, she did a masters in indigenous music, and taught native studies at the U of S. She won best hip hop/rap album at the 2005 Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards and was also nominated for other Aboriginal awards.
Blackstone Singers are well-known in North America as a pow-wow group. They have won three major awards for best pow-wow in 2013, 2011, and 2017 for their albums Celebration of Life, Lonely Memories, and Live in Alexis.
Don Freed is a folksinger with Saskatchewan roots, whose meeting with Johnny Cash in Nashville spurred him on. Freed was in his forties when he discovered his Metis relatives. It propelled him in a new direction, helping Aboriginal kids connect with their own culture.
Tom Jackson, renowned singer, actor, humanitarian and activist from One Arrow reserve, is well known for the Huron Carole, his annual series of Christmas concerts. Some of his albums won Juno nominations and he has sung on the folk music circuit. His TV credits include North of 60, Star Trek, Law & Order, Shining Time Station, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. His films include The Diviners, Skinwalker, Cold Pursuit, Deadfall, Mee-Shee: The Water Giant, and Grizzly Falls. His song-writing, in the album Ballads not Bullets particularly, delivers messages with social clout, and he helped spark about $200 million worth of donations for food banks and disaster relief. Honours showered on him include the CCMA Humanitarian Award 1996, the Queen’s Jubilee Medals 2002 and 2012, the Juno Humanitarian Award 2007, Gemini Humanitarian Award 2007, and the Governor-General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement 2014.Jackson was the Chancellor of Trent University from 2009 until 2013, and has received honorary degrees from ten universities. He was designated an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2000.
Andrea Menard of Saskatoon is a Métis singer/songwriter, actor, keynote speaker, trainer, retreat host, and advocate for “rematriation” and reconciliation. A star in the Netflix series, Blackstone, Andrea is a five-time Gemini award nominee, a fifteen-time music award nominee, and has produced a TEDx Talk, “Silent No More.” She has recorded four award-winning albums, produced a symphony show, written and starred in two television programs, has performed for royalty, prime ministers, governors-general, residential school survivors, families of missing and murdered Indigenous women, and sang her song “Peace” to the world’s NATO generals.
Buffy Sainte-Marie: see Juno award winners.
Joey Stylez/Joseph LaPlante is a rapper born on the Moosomin First Nation but raised in Saskatoon. In 2011 he was nominated for a Juno, for his CD Black Star, awarded “best pop CD” at the Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards.
Winston Wuttunee, recording artist, songwriter and comedian, storyteller and teacher, learned different instruments while studying for a music degree at the U of S. Wuttunee’s awards include the Canadian Aboriginal music award in 2002; best Aboriginal recording in 2003; best documentary in 2008; plus nominations in other categories.
Jacob Faithful and his son Jarron Gadwa are members of Young Spirit, a Cree band nominated for a Grammy in 2019 in the Indigenous Music Album category. They got to go to Los Angeles for the ceremony.
[Eekwol: wikipedia. Faithful: Global News 14 February 2019. Freed: CBC News 20 jan 2019 and other sources. Jackson: http://tomjackson.ca/2011/09/biography/. Wuttunee: http://www.portraitsofthenorth.com/portrait/winston.html ]
And the band played on …
Other contemporary bands making soundwaves across the nation or continent.
The Age of Electric is a hard-rock band from Lanigan and Regina: Todd and John Kerns, Ryan and Kurt Dahle. Their song “Remote Control” hit No. 9 on the Canadian singles chart. They were nominated in 1998 for a Juno as best new group.
The Deep Dark Woods are an “alternative country” band from Saskatoon. One of their songs made CBC Radio 2’s list in the Great Canadian Song Quest in 2009. The group are signed with a Canadian and an American record company.
Don Freed acquired fame in Saskatoon in 1960s coffee houses. Since then he has hobnobbed with people like Murray McLauchlan and Johnny Cash, and for a time hooked up with Joni Mitchell. He discovered his native roots when he found out he was descended from Gabriel Dumont. Now he teaches song-writing to Aboriginal kids, and calls his group Don Freed and the Kids.
Hart-Rouge, a folk group from Willow Bunch, comprises siblings Paul (husband of Connie Kaldor), Michelle, and Suzanne Campagne. After their original group Folie Avoine folded, they formed Hart-Rouge with sister Annette, performing songs in English, French and first Nations languages.
Folk duo Kasy & Clayton of Glentworth, Sask. have been written up in Rolling Stone, the Georgia Strait and elsewhere, and interviewed on national CBC radio. They have produced five albums. Clayton Linthicum, whose home town is Saskatoon, sings and plays electric guitar, and his cousin Kacy Anderson does vocals and plays acoustic guitar. They perform with a dummer and bassist.
Kick Axe is a heavy metal band formed in Regina in the 1970s. It achieved some fame in the 1980s, disbanded for a while, and adopted the name Kick Axe in 2004. Its original members included George Criston, Larry Gillstrom, Raymond Harvey, Brian Gillstrom, and Victor Langen.
Jack Semple of Regina moved to Toronto and rose to national acclaim when he won a Much Music guitar contest. He received Gemini nominations in 1999 and 2000. He and his band still perform across North America.
The Northern Pikes, a Saskatoon rock band, were inducted into the Western Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2012. Original members were Jay Semko, Bryan Potvin, Merl Bryck and Glen Hollingshead. They were active from 1984 to 1993, and since 1999.
One Bad Son was a Saskatoon rock band before moving to Vancouver. With a “kitbag” of albums and singles, they were listed as “one of the top ten Canadian bands of 2013 and 2014”, and hit the Canadian rock charts about six times.
Reignwolf is an indie/blues/rock band headed by Jordan Cook of Saskatoon, with Stacey-James Kardash and Joseph Braley. First called “Seven Deadly Sins”, they adopted the name Reignwolf after moving to the U.S. Reignwolf was hailed as one of “ten new artists you need to know” by Rolling Stone magazine in January 2014.
The group Solstice of Saskatoon, who call their genre “vocal jazz”, have been a musical fixture in Saskatoon for forty years. Currently they comprise five women and three men singers, plus a keyboard and saxophone player.
Wide Mouth Mason, a Saskatoon band that formed in 1995 was nominated for best new group at the 1995 and 1998 Junos. Their album “Nazarene” went gold in Canada. Lead singer was Shaun Verreault, lead guitarist and vocalist.
[Band websites, Wikipedia]
World music …
Radio host Patricia Pavey’s list of world music performers living in this province
3M2C, Saskatoon’s Latin band: three Mexicans, two Canadians plus a Bosnian and a Brazilian, serve up a spicy mix of Latin rock and pop.
Oral Fuentes Reggae Band (Saskatoon): A mixture of Reggae with a Punta Rock/Latin/Afro fusion. Members come from Belize, St. Lucia, Ghana, Nigeria, Seattle, Victoria and Saskatoon.
Bandja (Regina): Latin/African with vocals, guitar, bass, saxophone and percussion
Andino Suns (Regina): Latin folk-rockers from Chilean families.
Circling Over Shannon (Saskatoon): Contemporary Celtic mayhem, playing fiery jigs and reels, heartfelt Celtic songs and moving airs and ballads.
Del Sur Al Norte (Regina): A South American Folk/Latin Dance band; multicultural, multi-generational (ages from ten to fifty), they play steel drums, pan flutes, guitar, accordion and percussion.
Karraganna (Maple Creek): Global indigenous rhythms using didgeridoo and percussion.
Minor Matter (Saskatoon): Orchestral folk; multi-instrumentalists playing bassoon clarinet, glockenspiel and ukulele.
Oye (Regina): A Latin band that plays hip-hop, salsa, cumbia, folk, rock, jazz and funk.
Whiskey Jerks (Saskatoon): Defying genres, this group’s music can be described as Klezmer/gypsy/folk/jazz with a Prairie twist. Instruments include violin, clarinet, accordion, vocals, guitar, drums and upright bass.
[Patricia Pavey, host on Radio CFCR, Saskatoon)
The golden baton
Some well-known classical and concert music groups
Since homestead days, Saskatchewan’s talented musicians have entertained and charmed audiences in informal settings such as schools, churches — and later — concert halls. The music departments of the universities in Regina and Saskatoon have long fostered the professional careers of budding musicians. The result is a rich medley of ensembles, choirs and orchestras in the province today performing in a variety of venues. [List in progress]
Amati Quartet, also called the University of Saskatchewan Amati Quartet, performs classic string quartet pieces on priceless seventeenth century instruments crafted by the Amati family in Italy. In 1959 the university purchased these instruments – two violins, a viola and a cello -from Stephen Kolbinson, an early Kindersley homesteader, who sold a half section of land to buy them. (The Amati violin is considered to be as important as the Stradivarius.) The quartet made their international debut at the Amati 500th Festival in Holland in 2005, and performed in Rome and Cremona, Italy in 2006. In Saskatchewan they performed before the Queen, the premier and the lieutenant-governor in 2005, and on many other special occasions.
The Gala Trio of Saskatoon is an ensemble of three musicians with a broad repertoire, including classical, jazz and musical theatre. Its members include Arlene Shiplett, who plays French horn in the Saskatoon Symphony, calliope at the WDM, and with the International Brass Quintet. She teaches at Usask. Gaye-Lynn Kern studied at Usask, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, and the Mozarteum. She teaches in her own studio, adjudicates across Canada, and is involved in local theatre. Audrey Bayduza teaches music theory, plays the organ, and is an active accompanist. She holds a Master of Music degree in theory and an ARCT in piano performance. See their website at: www.galatrio.weebly.com
Half of Regina’s “Hummingbird Crossing”, the Chang and Mrazek duo, sing “traditional duo harmonic lines” with acoustic accompaniment. They play bluegrass, bluegrass-gospel and folk, and self-arranged pieces from various genres. Helen Chang plays many acoustic instruments including fiddle (violin) and mandolin; and composes. She’s a former member of the Regina Symphony Orchestra, plays keyboard including church organs, and has an ARCT in classical piano. Tim Mrazek is a multi-instrumentalist / composer who collects non-bowed stringed instruments such as guitars, banjo, and the Chinese zhongruan. He also plays dobro and slide guitar. He reached ARCT level in classical guitar and has a double major in music education and guitar performance.
Pile of Bows String Quartet, a string ensemble based in Regina, performs “classical, rock, pop, … jazz, and some mash-ups.” Their witty name is a pun on Regina’s original name, Pile of Bones. In groupings of various sizes the group performs well-known popular songs and classical pieces at corporate events and weddings. Pile of Bows has a website and a Facebook page.
The Prairie Chamber Choir, formed in 2015, calls itself “Regina’s newest semi-professional chamber choir.” Their special niche is to present choral works by prairie composers, promoting choral art music through performance, presentations and recording projects. Conductor Melissa Morgan originally spearheaded the group’s formation as the Prairie Lecture Choir for a choral project. Their eighteen members are diverse, representing teachers, professors, students, and even computer specialists. They have a Facebook page.
Prairie Virtuosi (Saskatoon) is a classical chamber orchestra founded in 1997, drawing upon the wealth of musical talent in the province. Their bi-annual concerts often feature talented Saskatchewan soloists and ensembles, including the Saskatoon Children’s Choir, and their concerts have been recorded and broadcast by CBC Radio.
Regina Symphony Orchestra plays more than thirty concerts a year over thirty-nine weeks, to combined audiences totalling over thirty thousand. They have performed with ballet and opera companies and a youth orchestra, and are regularly broadcast by CBC. In its many incarnations since its founding in 1904 by Scottish homesteader Frank Laubach as the Regina Philharmonic Society, the RSO has called itself the Orchestral Society, the Regina Philharmonic and Orchestral Society, and the Regina Choral and Orchestral Society. In 1924 it joined the Regina Male Voice Choir to become the Regina Philharmonic Association in 1924, later the Regina Symphony in 1926. Its numbers expanded to seventy in the 1960s. Darke Hall was home to the RSO from 1929 to 1970, but they now perform at Saskatchewan Centre of the Arts (Connexus Centre). Prince Charles is the orchestra’s patron. – [www.reginasymphony.com, Wikipedia]
Four times a year, Saskatoon Chamber Singers fill the lofty nave of Knox United Church with glorious song, directed by James Hawn. They are a mixed-voice choir of between twenty-eight to thirty-five singers performing classical, international and Canadian compositions. Membership is by audition. This choral ensemble was formed in 1977 by former members of the U of S Greystone Singers, whose musical director Robert Solem became theirs too. They sang at the Learned Societies conference in 1979, and for productions by the Saskatoon Opera Association and Gateway Players. Repeatedly they have lit up the airwaves on CBC Radio as well.
Saskatoon Children’s Choir began singing together from 1996 to 2000, when they sang in youth choir festivals in Moose Jaw and Battleford. They represented Saskatchewan on Canada Day in 1988 at the National Arts Centre. Since then they have performed and/or competed in Spain, France, Austria, and the Czech Republic. Some of their tours supported worthy causes such as the struggle to ban land mines. They have performed with the band Barenaked Ladies, before the Queen, on CBC airwaves, and with the Nylons in South Africa, Germany and Italy. They also appeared in the operas Carmen and The Magic Flute in Saskatoon.
Saskatoon Choral Society was formed under the name Saskatoon Oratorio Society in 1953 by Victor Kviens, then director of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra. Participants don’t have to audition, they just have to love singing. Their repertoire ranges from sacred to secular. It includes folks songs, Broadway tunes, spirituals, operettas, standard and modern selections arranged in two, three, four and five-part harmonies. They have a website.
Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1927, although similar orchestras were formed in 1909, 1913, and 1924, before the SSO adopted its current name in 1937. The SSO’s first music director was Arthur Collingwood (1931-1947). Its first venue was Convocation Hall at the U of S, and then the Adam Ballroom in the Bessborough Hotel, the gorgeous but doomed Capitol Theatre, the U of S Gymnasium, and now the Centennial Auditorium ( TCU Place). The host of celebrity artists it has featured in past decades include the Irish Rovers, Anne Murray, Bruno Gerussi, Anton Kuerti, Jon Vickers, Pinkas Zukerman, Amanda Forysth, Maureen Forrester, Guy Few and Ian Tyson. The SSO has teamed up with the U of S Department of Music to present a medley of forms of choral productions, and with ballet and opera companies of national renown. CBC Radio regularly broadcasts its performances. The orchestra currently has about sixty members, and its current music director is Mark Turner.
In 1976 forty young musicians joined together to form the South Saskatchewan Youth Orchestra (SSYO) under the sponsorship of the Regina Symphony Orchestra. This award-winning orchestra now has fifty members from various parts of southern Saskatchewan. Members audition to join, and enjoy the opportunity to rehearse, perform and travel with other music-minded performers. Historically, many later joined the Regina Symphony Orchestra, the National Youth Orchestra of Canada and other professional orchestras across the country.
The University of Regina Orchestra directed by Dr. Alain Perron performs a wide spectrum of orchestral styles. Composers whose works they have performed include Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms and Tchaikovsky, Rossini, Rimsky-Korsakov, Respighi and Stravinsky. The Orchestra is open to musicians of the Music Department, other students who play orchestral instruments, former students and other musicians. Auditions may be required. They perform a full concert in the University Theatre at the end of each semester.
Saskatoon’s Willoughby-Widdershin ensemble features guitarist Walter Hofmeister and harpist Chris Lindgren and family. Their performances range from traditional European, including baroque and Renaissance, to modern folksy music. Using vintage and contemporary, voice, wind and string instruments, they alternate in mood between romping and sublime. Hofmeister is a sessional lecturer in music at the U of S.
Sources: Canadian Encyclopedia, concert programs, orchestra websites]
Musicians par excellence
Some celebrated classical musicians and singers from Saskatchewan
Murray Adaskin headed the U of S music department 1952-66, and was composer in residence until 1972. He studied music in Toronto, New York and Paris, conducted the Saskatoon Symphony and was violinist with the Toronto Symphony. He was Saskatoon Citizen of the Year in 1969, and received the Saskatchewan Arts Board lifetime award for excellence.
Neil Chotem, formerly of Saskatoon, was a composer, arranger, conductor, concert pianist and musc educator. After serving in the RCAF in World War II, he moved to Montreal. He did a number of records, and appeared on radio, television, in concerts and a film, and taught at universities and conservatories.
Arthur Collingwood was the first chair of the music department at the University of Saskatchewan. having come to Canada from England, he took charge of the Conservatory of Music in Regina, and conducted the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra.
Robert Fleming was a composer, pianist, organist and teacher born in Prince Albert; he studied with his mother and Lyell Gustin in Saskatoon, and later at the Royal Conservatory of Music in England. In the 1940s he taught at Upper Canada College (a prestigious school in Ontario) and later was composer at the National Film Board from 1946 to 1958, and music director until 1970. He then taught music at Carleton University, Ottawa.
Pianist Garth Beckett, born in Eston, studied with Gustin and played with the Saskatoon Symphony, then studied in England and Italy. In Saskatoon he and Boyd Mcdonald formed a duo (1966-79), playing with major orchestras, and serving on the University of Manitoba faculty of music 1967-76. They performed New York and in many European cities. Beckett headed the piano department at Wilfrid Laurier University from 1976 to 1996. McDonald, pianist, composer and teacher, was born in Tuberose, and studied with Adaskin, Gustin, and leading musicians in Paris.
Operatic tenor Emile Belcourt was born in Laflèche. After studying pharmacy at U of S, he switched to opera in Vienna, appeared at Covent Garden and Sadler’s Wells in England, and at Edmonton and Seattle in such operas as Boris Gudonov, die Fledermaus, and Tristan and Isolde.
Russell Green, Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, prior Dean of Acadia Russell Green, Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, prior Dean of Acadia University, and pianist for Queen Elizabeth before coming to Canada. Trained at the Birmingham School of Music and other prestigious places in England, he had highly developed musical skills. Green held five degrees from England, and was an extensive composer for voice, choral, orchestra, small and large ensembles. He was a pianist, organist, teacher, choir conductor, and conductor for small and large ensembles, and organist and Choral Director for Knox United Church. Green formed the Russell Green Singers in Saskatoon, where he had a studio. He wrote thousands of compositions, some now preserved in the University of Saskatchewan Archives.
Lyell Gustin was an early pianist and teacher who came to Saskatoon in 1912 after studying music in Quebec. After further studies in Saskatoon, Chicago, New York and London, in 1920 he opened a studio in Saskatoon, and mentored several renowned musicians including Robert Fleming and Neil Chotem. His former home is now a mecca for musicians and music-lovers.
David Kaplan taught at the U of S music department for forty years and was appointed a member of the Order of Canada, Saskatchewan Order of Merit, Saskatoon Citizen of the Year. He also received the Queen’s Jubilee medal.
Ethel Leuning (nee Codd) of Saskatoon began singing in light opera in Canada but graduated to grand opera in Chautauqua, New York, appearing in her first concert in Cologne, Germany. She appeared in cities throughout North America
Tania Miller, first female music director (and conductor) of a major orchestra in Canada, was appointed to the Victoria Symphony Orchestra in 2003, and has been guest conductor for orchestras in Toronto, Seattle, Bern (Switzerland), Oregon, Hartford, Wroclaw (Poland), among others. Opera was an ‘early passion” in her life, and she has conducted opera productions in Ann Arbor (Michigan) and McGill, (Montreal). She grew up in Foam Lake, but was educated elsewhere.
William Rowson, conductor and composer, started studying violin at the age of three in Saskatoon. Now he is assistant conductor of the Vancouver and Stratford symphony orchestras. Works he composed have been performed at various venues across Canada, and he has worked with well-known celebrities such as Jane Arden and Chris Hadfield.
Concert pianist David Swan, originally of Saskatoon, became artist in residence at Ware Academy of Music in Markham, Ont, specializing in contemporary music. He has won gold medals in theory and piano teaching, and won the Eckhardt-Granatté and CBC talent competitions. He has performed with the Montreal, Calgary, Quebec, Saskatoon and Winnipeg symphony orchestras.
Famous tenor Jon Vickers of Prince Albert was an international opera star. A scholarship to the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto launched his spectacular operatic career. Major roles such as Samson, Otello, Tristan and Peter Grimes took him to London, Milan and New York. When he died in 2015, the New York Times praised his “colossal voice and raw dramatic intensity.” He was colossal in other ways too — he was known to have hefted stout sopranos above his head at parties.
Thomas Yu, a U of S graduate, has been called one of Canada’s “most accomplished musicians.” Among honours he has received is the Cliburn International Amateur Piano competition, awarded to the world’s best amateur piano player.
[Canadian Encyclopedia, musicentre.ca; StarPhoenix; Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan, Wikipedia. Yu: SSO concert program, November 2019]