A Day in the Life of SJC Students

Experience the life of students living in St. John's College at UBC

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Adventures in Canadian orchestral music!

Over the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to work with some wonderful local classical musicians–composers and performers alike–in reading sessions hosted by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and the Victoria Symphony, our province’s two largest professional orchestras. For up-and-coming Canadian composers, these sessions present a rare chance to hear their work realized by professional orchestras. For audiences, they present an equally-rare opportunity to experience orchestral music that’s a little closer to home than the usual 19th-century German music (e.g. Beethoven, Brahms, and Mendelssohn) typical of the medium.

Victoria Symphony composers with maestra Tania Miller. That guy 2nd to the right looks awfully smug.

All of the composers selected for these events were both living and local–a rare combination for classical concerts. And all of their music had strong ties to the present time and place. For example, the Victoria Symphony readings featured a piece called “Northwest Passage,” composed by New Westminster native Brian Garbet, that evoked a haunting British Columbia landscape with low, plaintive strings mimicking the sound of fog horns and soft, metallic percussion conjuring up images of the icy coastal waters. On the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s program, Riley Koenig’s piece “Imagine” evoked the spirit of film score composers like John Williams and Danny Elfman — a sound that any of us who were children in the 1990s will find very relatable and be hard-pressed not to associate with magic and adventure (and possibly dinosaurs). My own compositions on these programs were inspired by various pop-fiction genres: steampunk, 1930s pulp sci-fi, and contemporary Neil Gaimanesque fantasy. I’ll leave it to you to imagine how these things translate into instrumental music.

Vancouver Symphony program. I might get the award for “2nd-best title”?

The idea that orchestras should specialize in old music is a relatively recent one, originating in the mid-20th century when contemporary composers tended to gravitate towards an avant-garde aesthetic. While this aesthetic produced some intriguing music, it also alienated many listeners and performers, who sought solace in the works of the 18th- and 19th-century masters. Now that living composers once again seem to be writing music with the potential for wide appeal, only time will tell if more professional orchestras will follow the lead of groups like the VSO and promote “locally-sourced” classical music. If the quality of the other pieces on these programs was any indication, they would be wise to do so.

-Nicholas Kelly


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It’s the time of the year again to admire those beautiful orchid displays, take photos, attend free orchid classes and purchase plants for your collection from the various orchid vendors. VanDusen Botanical Garden (http://vandusengarden.org/) held the annual orchid sale and show event in March. The show featured beautiful displays of orchids, artistic entries.

If you love orchids, don’t miss out on the next show and all the orchid societies in Canada! As follows shows the links of some orchid associations.

~Giselle Tian

Orchid3 Orchid1 Orchid2 Orchid4 Orchid5 Orchid6 Orchid7 Orchid8 Orchid9

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Iron Chef SJC: PhD Team

Teams and helpers

Teams and helpers

Two teams.

Ten competitors and three helpers.

Twenty six hands working for five unbiased judging mouths.

A fierce competition in a friendly atmosphere, where creativity and flavour combination are required: this is THE IRON CHEF.

This year, the Masters students (Minoru, Devra, John and Emily led by Chantal, in red) faced the PhD students (Bei, Astrid, Dawood and Mike, led by Guillaume, in orange) to impress the unsparing judges: Chef Clarence Tay, Assistant Principal Sandra Shepard, Dr. Anna Kindler, Dr. Pawel Kindler and Principal Henry Yu.

The judges

Those judges…they’re so judgey.

Participants had two hours to prepare an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert from a selection of ingredients and were evaluated on the presentation, the taste and the compatibility and match between all three items.
My first thought when I saw all six dishes on the judges table was: “Lucky judges, they are about to taste really amazing looking and smelling food, but boy, I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes: deciding which is best will surely be a difficult task.”

After providing us with very detailed, useful and professional advice on why dishes were indeed amazing, and what could be done to improve them, the SJC conclave deliberated for a long time and made their choice: the Winners are ….. the Masters students.

Master's team dessert

Masters team dessert

So congratulation to Chantal and her team, and also a BIG THANK YOU to Assistant principal Ian Okabe for the whole organization of this event, to the office for designing and providing us with these amazing aprons, to Paola, Kathrin and Warren for helping the two teams and being our liaison with the kitchen and Henry (from the kitchen staff), to Jake and Yaseen for the media coverage, to Liqing for the pictures and to everyone in the audience for coming and sharing the joy, stress and fun of this event.

One thing is certain: SJC is full of talented cooks!!!

Looking forward to the next cooking competition.

P.S.: Chantal: I WILL have my revenge!

PhD team entree

PhD team entree

PhD team appetizer

PhD team appetizer