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Western University Be Extraordinary The Campaign For Western

All together now, let's make music

An interview with Dean of Music Betty Anne Younker

May 7, 2014

All together now, let's make music
Dean of Music Betty Anne Younker: "As any musician will tell you, music builds your ability to work as a collective – in a band, quartet, ensemble or orchestra – and resolve problems."

A musical thought composed by Londoners in 1903 launched what is now known as the Don Wright Faculty of Music at Western. While the school has earned a noteworthy reputation in the past 100 years as a top Canadian school for music education, composition and performance, Dean of Music Betty Anne Younker says more is yet to come.

Q. When students enrol in the music program, what do you want them to learn?
A. I want them to experience as many opportunities as possible to grow musically and personally.

Whether they want to teach, compose or perform, I hope students breathe musical life and inspiration into our culture.

Q. Why is music education important and relevant today?
A. Music creates habits of the mind – expanding your creativity, stretching your skills to learn new pieces, rehearsing to perfect your performance and thinking critically to solve challenges – which are necessary skills in many other professions.

As any musician will tell you, music builds your ability to work as a collective – in a band, quartet, ensemble or orchestra – and resolve problems.

Q. What sets Western’s music program apart from other places?
A. Going back decades, we have built a strong tradition of being a leader in music education in the country and of preparing young musicians to teach.

Our vocal, choral, woodwind and orchestra programs are known for their excellence – as is our expertise in early music, jazz pedagogy, composition, production and post-production training.

The breadth and depth of our musical program and scholarship, plus our talented alumni, contribute to a reputation as one of the best music schools in North America.

Q. During the Be Extraordinary campaign, what are your priorities?
A. For our students to learn, compose and perform at their best, they need spaces that allow musicianship to flourish. Right now, they’re in rooms that limit their musical training and education, and affect their ability to work together and perform.

To provide a better environment for music teaching and learning, we are renovating and expanding our home, nearly doubling our current space.

When the construction is completed, our students will have additional practice rooms, learning studios and recital spaces with improved acoustics and better air quality. These changes are all part of what’s needed for creative music-making and better learning experiences. (Go to the Music website for more detail on the building project.)

We’re also looking at an improved space for our library, which contains one of the richest music collections in North America. A better physical setting will keep our musical scores, audio recordings and rare books accessible and safe for future generations.

Offering a rich music program means we need to recruit the best students from across the country. More donor-supported scholarships and bursaries will bring promising musicians to Western, enhancing opportunities to create music together.

Q. How would you like alumni to be involved in the Be Extraordinary campaign?
A. Most of all, I hope they feel proud of their student experience and their alumni connection to Western.

When I meet alumni, I want to know what they think we’re doing well and what we can do better. They are our greatest advocates, so I need to hear their perspective.

They are also our greatest supporters. I encourage them to give what they can to improve our facilities, educate our students and build our community.

Whatever they do, they affect the next generation of music makers.


This article appeared in the Spring 2014 edition of Impact Western
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