What's Happening at Music?

Music Prof in top 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women

Music professor and gospel powerhouse Karen Burke recently received the honour of being named one of the top 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women. She is profiled in the 2016 edition of the book 100 ABC Women, which highlights leadership contributions of Black Canadian women across the public and private sectors, from government, social and community organizations to finance, law, health, education, entertainment and the arts. The publication was launched at a gala event June 16 featuring the Hon. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, as keynote speaker.

Widely recognized as a community builder dedicated to elevating gospel music and singers in Canada, Burke is a renowned performer, choral director, composer and producer. She co-founded and directs the Juno Award-winning Toronto Mass Choir, a gospel choir that has been touring and recording in Canada since 1988. An authority on gospel music history and performance practices, Burke developed Canada’s first post-secondary gospel music curriculum when she joined York’s music department. She is the founding director of the 100-voice York University Gospel Choir, which has been hugely popular with students and audiences alike since it launched in 2005.

Gospel music at Toronto Jazz Fest

Eight alumni of the York University Gospel Choir will take the stage as part of Professor Karen Burke’s Juno Award-winning Toronto Mass Choir for two free concerts at the end of June. The choir headlines the Jesus in the City kick-off event at Yonge-Dundas Square on Saturday, June 25 and sings at the TD Toronto Jazz Festival‘s Nathan Phillips Square mainstage on Sunday, June 26 at 12:30pm.

“Gospel is so dynamic and soulful, and the Toronto Jazz Festival is a really fun show for us,” said theatre grad Christoph Ibrahim (BA ’14), who’s been singing with the TMC since 2012. “Those jazz fans are totally receptive – they’re up on their feet and clapping their hands along with us.”

“Some students like Christoph love their York University Gospel Choir experience so much, they’re eager to continue performing after graduation,” said Burke, the York choir’s founding director.

Burke’s colleague Corey Butler, course director for the YU Gospel Choir and music director for the TMC, shares Ibrahim’s appreciation of the city festival atmosphere. “I love what [playing festivals] means for the gospel music community, especially in a city as diverse as Toronto,” he said. “It’s a chance to share this uplifting music with the wider community.”

Faculty artists transform marathon performance into CD series

Motzart: Sonatas and Variations for Piano and Violin ~ Vol. 1 CD Cover Art

Shortly before his untimely passing in September 2015, York University music professor, violinist Jacques Israelievitch, finished recording the complete catalogue of Mozart violin and piano sonatas with his colleague, Professor Christina Petrowska Quilico. The first disc in the six-CD set will be released June 10.

The project grew out a of a record-breaking seven-hour performance by the two frequent collaborators in May 2014 at Toronto’s Gallery 345. Their professional partnership had begun in 2008, when Israelievitch joined York’s Department of Music after 20 years as concertmaster of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. The artists reprised the Mozart sonatas in five concerts at York during the 2014-15 season, recording on location before each performance.

“Jacques was an inspirational musician and friend,” said Petrowska Quilico. “I will always remember the fun we had rehearsing and recording. What a great way to make music!”

The series is being released on the Fleur de Son (FDS 58034) label and distributed by Naxos. Volume 1 features Mozart’s Sonatas in E flat major, K. 380; B flat major, K. 454; and A major, K.526; and “Six Variations on a French Song”, K. 360. The recordings will be available on iTunes and from amazon.com, as well as other digital service providers and retailers.


Dan Kanter visits York University Dan Kanter (BFA 2007), musical director and lead guitarist for Justin Bieber, visited his aluma mater York University. He recently participated in York University's this is my time campaign and he shared how his time at York University has helped his career.