Research showcase

December 15, 2015

Research rhapsody


In June, Dr. Allan Gilliland received MacEwan University’s first ever Dr. Sherrill Brown Distinguished Research Award. “Granting this award to someone from the performing and visual arts,” said Allan, in the spring issue of M Alumni News, “shows students that the fine arts are truly valued by the university.”

His research work—which he calls “dots on page”—only truly comes to life when it’s performed. “Performances are my version of dissemination,” he says.

The Music department program chair, assistant professor and section head of Composition is also one of Canada’s most well-respected composers. He has served as composer in residence for the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and his compositions have been performed by the New York Philharmonic brass section, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Alberta Baroque Ensemble and, in January 2015, the St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra.

“To see something I wrote performed and to take a bow on the stage of Carnegie Hall was probably the highlight of my career,” says Allan.

Allan shared his work is at the World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles convention in San Jose, California. While there, his pieces, Kalla and Dreaming of the Masters were performed by the University of Saskatchewan band and the New Edmonton Wind Sinfonia, respectively. Allan composed Kalla with help from the Centre for Arts and Communications research fund.

“It’s a big deal at this convention to have two pieces performed by two different ensembles,” he says. “I have written a lot of band music—it’s very popular in the U.S.—so I’m hoping to get more American bands interested in my music.”

Though he enjoys composing all genres, Allan says it’s his pieces for solo performers that really give his music legs. When soloists include his work in their performances, other artists become interested and request commissions from Allan. Right now, he has about two years’ worth of composition ahead of him—and it’s been that way for over 10 years.

“My music seems to travel on its own without having to work too hard to get it out there,” he says. His website, as well, attracts artists and groups, which is how he came to have his double harp concerto performed in Russia. “That’s the internet at its best—when people come to me totally out of the blue.”

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