News & Events


Musical storytellers

October 22, 2018 | Arts & Culture
Emilie LeBel remembers the exact moment she received the phone call.

“It was really exciting! I was sort of in shock. My mom happened to be in the room, and she instantly started asking me when she could tell people,” laughs Emilie, an assistant professor in MacEwan’s Department of Music. It was the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) on the the line, offering Emilie the position of affiliate composer.

The orchestra officially announced Emilie’s appointment in early August, and her mother’s excitement about the news was justified – the TSO considers the role “the most significant and prestigious opportunity for an emerging composer in Canada.”

And while the position provides a rare chance for a composer to create original pieces for a professional orchestra, Emilie is also excited about the positive impact the role will have on her teaching.

“This residency is an incredible opportunity to tie my professional artistic life with my teaching life,” she says. “I love that MacEwan is really focused on hiring professors who have real-world experience. When I go to Toronto, I’ll bring back thoughts on what’s actually happening in the music industry right now. That’s the world my students will be walking into when they graduate.”

Emilie is teaching composition, orchestration and theory classes this semester, and is enjoying the opportunity to foster her students’ curiosity, interests and creativity, while also being immersed in her own creative process with the TSO.

“I joke with students that teaching composition is cultivating their inner weird,” she says. “It's helping students find what speaks to them and their unique aesthetic, while also giving them the hard skills and musical tools to do that well. It’s a combination of head and heart.”

Emilie is now putting the finishing touches on her first piece for the TSO, which the orchestra will practice in November and perform in January. She anticipates hearing the piece performed will be both “exhilarating and terrifying,” but it’s that emotional experience that fuels her love for composition.

“The world we live in right now has many beautiful aspects, but also many challenges, and it’s our role to reflect, in our own artistic language, what we see around us. Composers are musical storytellers.”

Read more stories about the innovative work of MacEwan’s faculty members:

Get MacEwan University news delivered to your inbox.
Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter