This week we celebrate International Women's Day, and we want to recognize some amazing women in Toronto's east end. As a music school that endeavours to bring music to young children, we appreciate that these fine women are working to make East Toronto a place where classical music is healthy and strong. Meet the women who are breaking the glass ceilings, challenging gender-controlled roles, and filling gaps in the classical music scene in our corner of the city.
Alexandra Bourque, Conductor
In a field of music that has long been male-dominated, Alexandra doesn't back down from the gendered stereotype and carves out her own path. This French-Canadian musician found her first love in the violin before pursuing a Masters of Music in conducting at the University of Toronto. A true community leader and advocate of the uniting power of music, Alex is the current conductor of Toronto Community Orchestra, a symphony orchestra comprised of amateurs, music teachers and professional performers who meet weekly at Pape and Danforth. Don't miss their free year-end concert on May 8th at Eastminster United Church! (Photo credit: Jeremy Perron)
Grace Law, Music Blogger
Grace has been quietly teaching strings classes in Toronto's public school system for over 20 years, and in the last 12 years, she's overhauled the strings program at her Toronto high school. More recently, Grace launched her blog, smartmusicteacher.com, to share the resources she's developed. It's a wonderful, concise and extremely useful resource for anyone who teaches strings in the classroom, but it's not just a reference guide. Grace is setting out to redesign the landscape of classroom music by bringing continuity to the teaching of strings through her new techniques and publications, and her system is getting results. Her students don't simply learn to play twinkle in her class; by the end of their fourth year in her program, they're playing complicated student concertos and Mozart quartets. We're not the only ones who are noticing what this pedagogue is doing for classroom teaching. In April, Grace will be a featured as a workshop clinician at the Ontario Strings Association's Spring String Conference. For a window into how Grace gets such effective results from her students, visit her website and sign up for her mailing list. (Photo credit: Grace Law)
Sharon Lee, Violinist
As a violinist, Sharon holds an impressive list of accomplishments, from holding the position of concertmaster in Toronto Concert Orchestra to being a member of Devah Quartet, an all-female string quartet of progressive rock music played on electric string instruments. Sharon is also the Artistic Director of Toronto Chamber Players and co-directs the cross-genre ensemble, Symphonic Aftermath (check out their upcoming concert at Jazz Bistro on March 22). East Toronto is home base for this multi-talented musician who has a hand in cultivating classical music all over the city. (Photo Credit: Richard Burdett)
Angela Park, Pianist
A resident of East Toronto's Greektown, Angela Park has a bursting record of accolades both in Canada and abroad. As a member of Ensemble Made In Canada, the piano quartet in residence at Western University, this pianist has an exciting 2018 nation-wide tour planned with a stop in Toronto on November 15. In March, Angela will perform an accessible concert for people with disabilities and their families in Markham, Ontario (find more information about that performance with cellist Rachel Mercer here). This summer, you can find Angela teaching and performing at several summer music festivals, including Music at Port Milford, a wonderful music festival for high school students located near Kingston, Ontario. (Photo Credit: David Leyes)
Elizabeth Polese, Soprano
Hailed by the Globe and Mail as "powerful and engaging", this power-house soprano currently makes her home near Toronto's Gerrard India Bazaar. With performances with the Kingston Symphony Orchestra, Opéra de Montréal, and competitions in Italy, you may have trouble finding her Next up for this emerging soprano includes a Brott Opera appearance in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte in Hamilton. Elizabeth will join Opéra de Montréal’s young artist program, l’Atelier Lyrique, for the 2018/19 season You can read more about her accolades on her website. You'll want to keep your eye on this rising star- we're already claiming her as our own musical force in East Toronto. (Photo Credit: Samantha Gaetz)
Alison Porter, Director of Lovenotes School of Music
Alison is the owner and director of a music school in Leslieville that specifically caters to young emerging musicians. Lovenotes School of Music specializes in teaching music to kids ages 0-5 using Suzuki inspired curriculum and age-appropriate group classes (check out their summer camps here). Alison is also a founding member of the folk trio Dirty Dishes, who just returned from their home concert tour of Alberta. In case you didn't think she was doing enough to encourage the enjoyment of music, Alison recently launched the highly successful Lovenotes Concert Series, which showcases local musicians in daytime concerts for babies and their adults. And guess what? All the concerts take place in East Toronto! (Photo Credit: Emily D Photography)
We're proud to claim these fearless females as our own East Toronto trail blazers. We can't wait to see what's next for classical music in our end of this great city!
About the Author:
Rebecca Lane is the director, founder, and owner of Upper Beaches Music School. She teaches at the school on Saturdays, but most days you can find her chasing after her three young children, one of whom is in the Suzuki violin program at UBMS.