Aimee Copping is a musician, educator, composer and producer and the executive director and founder of the Blackball program, launched in Toronto’s Regent Park in 2015. Its mission is the free-of charge delivery of electronic music tools and teaching to at-risk individuals and prison inmates. Now in its sixth year, Blackball has reached hundreds of community members across the province. A federally incorporated non-profit, Blackball has received major funding from the Ontario Arts Council and Musagetes.
In 2016, Aimee Copping began a four-year collaboration with Pros and Cons, a songwriting and recording project for prison inmates. She established a dedicated music production space inside a federal penitentiary, Grand Valley Institution For Women in Kitchener, and mentored inmates in songwriting, vocal technique and music production. She produced two Pros and Cons albums, Undisclosed Location in 2018 and, in 2020, Private Town.
In 2017, Aimee was engaged by singer-songwriter Arlene Bishop to write arrangements for and conduct a 30-voice choir for her live album, Together Tonight. In 2019, Correctional Service Canada commissioned Wellspring, a summer-long creative writing workshop for Grand Valley’s LGBTQ+ inmates. Aimee Copping has also collaborated with Girls’ Rock Camp Guelph and Art Not Shame, and is a consulting member of the Upper Grand District School Board’s Safe, Equitable & Inclusive Committee. Her four-part audio documentary on the history of electronic music, Synths Always, broadcasts on University of Guelph’s radio station CFRU FM through August 2021. She records and performs as Transstar. Laurie Brown of CBC Radio q says the debut Transstar EP Famous Door is “like landing on another planet.”
annais is a musician and multimedia social practice artist from the Coachella Valley, CA, interested in working alongside underserved communities and communities of color in imagining and engaging ideas of collective future realities through improvisation, sound and play. her most recent pursuits include developing community experimental sound, voice and body exploration classes in her hometown and helping facilitate community programming with the Wyld Womxn Collective. she has worked with numerous arts organizations that focus on community engagement, arts activism, arts programming, education, and collaboration (such as Arts for LA, CalArts, Wyld Womxn Collective, Equal Sound LA) as an artist, program developer, arts curator, marketing manager, facilitator, councilmember, and more. she holds a BFA in Musical Arts from the California Institute of the Arts with a minor in Digital Arts and her current research focuses on the value of co-developed, co-designed musical, intergenerational, accessible, and delightful playgrounds in low-income and at-risk communities. feel free to get in touch with her: [email protected].
Ann Westbere is a PhD Candidate in the Critical Studies in Improvisation Program. She holds a MA in Sociology, a MA in Political Science, and a BA Honours in Music and Political Science. Her graduate research focuses on the interrelationships between improvisation, creative arts, and society. As a saxophonist, her musical repertoire includes a range of genres and styles, with improvisation transcending across all of them. As one of the founding students of the U of G Music Peer Helper Program, Ann has always had an interest in various teaching and learning styles along with ways to facilitate engagement in learning environments. Ann has been attending and participating in events held by the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation for several years. As a graduate student in the Critical Studies in Improvisation program, she has taken a diverse range of courses in that field and is continuing her research.
Ben Finley is a performer-composer specializing in acoustic bass and electric bass (in multiple tunings and with effects). He grew up on a music festival farm, witnessing many ecosystems of music making. The seeds of co-creative agency were sewn; Ben aims to cultivate music that embraces the unique individual life experiences of its participants. This often manifests through improvisation, text, the human voice, electro-acoustic worlds, learning from the biosphere, and exploring multi-stylistic compositional frameworks. Ben founded and facilitates the Westben Centre for Connection & Creativity’s international/multi-generational Performer-Composer Residency. He is a graduate of the Performer-Composer program at CalArts, and is a current PhD candidate of Critical Studies in Improvisation at the University of Guelph, studying music festivals as sites of environmental and existential stewardship. www.benfinley.ca
Bob Wiseman began writing and performing while still just a zygote. Later, taking on a coat of fur and several lengthy whiskers, it became clear this was not Bob, but Bob’s dog. Soon after, Bob was advised to get real about his bio. Okay: “So simple, so brilliant.” —Guy Maddin. “I know who Bob Wiseman is.” —Odetta. “My worst piano student.” —Pearl Schneider.
Brent Rowan is a professional community musician. As a Guelph-based saxophonist, Brent performs in a wide variety of musical collaborations, including 2009 and 2015 Juno-nominated Eccodek, Big Bands, smaller jazz combos, and creative music ensembles. Brent has performed and recorded all across Canada, the UK, and Germany, and at music festivals in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and London, England to name a few. He has released three recordings of his own compositions; It’s About Time (2006), IZ (2012), and Where is Local (2016). Brent composes and arranges music for many of the groups he directs. He is the founding director of the Guelph Youth Jazz Ensemble and the New Horizons Band for Guelph. Brent teaches in the Community Music Program at Wilfrid Laurier University. He is also a clinician and adjudicator at music camps and festivals throughout southern Ontario, specializing in saxophone and improvisation concepts. Brent holds a Master of Arts in Community Music from Wilfrid Laurier University, a Bachelor of Music from Humber College, and a Bachelor of Mathematics from the University of Waterloo.
Carey West is a vocalist and educator whose professional experience motivates her research. She is interested in questions surrounding voice, agency and improvisation. Her MA thesis focused on best practices and liberatory experiences during extended vocal techniques and sound singing workshops. Her Ph.D. research continues this inquiry with an eye on using vocal improvisational pedagogy as a musical model to inform legal processes where testimony is required. She is also interested in the work of teachers as influential cultural agents and the work of musicians as public pedagogues. Carey has enjoyed several high profile performances including, Roy Thompson Hall, live broadcast on CBC RadioOne, and Young and Dundas Square. Her recording projects have enjoyed support from the Ontario Arts Council and Factor and she has held a residency at the Rex Hotel and the Cameron House in Toronto. She continues to perform and record and her latest album Made of Clay was released in the fall of 2017. Carey was the Event and Outreach Coordinator for the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation from 2017–19.
Cathy Nosaty is a musician, composer, musical director and teaching artist. She began her musical training at age three as a classical pianist and her love of creative collaboration led her to work in dance, theatre, scoring to picture and community-engaged arts. Over the past thirty-eight years Cathy has created scores for over one hundred theatre productions across Canada: her work has been heard on international stages with Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes, Manitoba Theatre For Young People and DynamO Théâtre. Cathy has scored a dozen documentary films including The Motherload for CBC Doc Zone and was Assistant Conductor/Keyboard 1 for the Toronto company of Jersey Boys. As a passionate teaching artist, Cathy has worked with programs at the Canadian Opera Company, Massey Hall/Roy Thomson Hall, Tapestry Opera, the Royal Conservatory of Music, TDSB/Prologue for the Performing Arts, Children’s Peace Theatre and Princess Dance Productions. Cathy led community choirs for Community Arts Guild’s Unfolding and Moving Parts for Fujiwara Dance. Cathy has been nominated for five DORA awards and for the 2020 Louis Applebaum Composer Award – Music For Young People. She is a member of the Toronto Musicians Union Local 149 and the Screen Composers Guild of Canada. As of September 2021, she is a University of Guelph M.A. candidate in Critical Studies in Improvisation.
David Lane hails from Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. He studied music and music education at St. Francis Xavier University and the Memorial University of Newfoundland respectively. David taught music, physical education, and special education for three years with the Kativik Ilisarniliriniq (school board). David’s interest in international development brought him to Guelph for the first time in 2009 where he completed an MSc in Rural Planning and Development at the University of Guelph. David’s graduate research focused upon participatory and community-based development initiatives in Uganda.
Following a brief stint as an education researcher in Ontario, David returned to Nunavik, where he worked as a recreation development advisor for the Kativik Regional Government. David returned to Guelph in 2015 where he worked as a research, evaluation, and planning consultant with Harry Cummings and Associates. David’s consulting experience has taken him from coast-to-coast in Canada and has included multi-national research initiatives including field work in East and West Africa, and the Philippines.
David continues to work as a part-time research strategist focusing on equity and inclusion initiatives at the Waterloo Region District School board and is excited to be part of the IICSI program.
Erwan Noblet is a French vocal explorer passionate about the infinite power of the human voice. He is a singer, voice teacher, actor, and free vocal improviser. As a performer, Erwan collaborated in various artistic projects, recorded two EPs under the name of Layenn and co-written “Concert Room,” a theatre piece about the impact of hormones in a musical journey. In 2019, he graduated from Shenandoah University with a Master of Music in contemporary voice pedagogy, where he taught Circle Singing classes. As a voice teacher, he owns his voice studio, works with professional French artists, and collaborates with musicians’ platforms such as Trempolino (Nantes, Fr.). In 2021, he started his Ph.D. at the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation, reflecting on increasing human connection in academic settings and decolonizing the curriculum through free vocal improvisation. He recently studied with mentors such as Bobby McFerrin, Rhiannon, Robert Sussuma, and Jorge Parente. www.erwannoblet.com
Emmalia Bortolon-Vettor is a guitarist and multidisciplinary researcher who is entering their first year of the MA program in Critical Studies in Improvisation. She has a BA in psychology from Ryerson University and a Major in Music from the University of Guelph. Emmalia’s MA research aims to prototype an elementary school music curriculum that benefits the developing person; supplying skills in collaboration, emotional regularity, and self-awareness. Outside of research, Emmalia has recorded and produced multiple albums that have received national praise. Her current musical project is Bonnie Trash. Alongside her sister and co-creator of the group, Bonnie Trash blends Northern Italian folklore with creative research to present modern horror stories. Emmalia’s work in the local arts community includes coordinating the Girls Rock Camp Guelph chapter, live music and theatre curation, and live sound engineering.
Erin Felepchuk is a singer-songwriter and poet, who is currently in their second year of the PhD program in Critical Studies in Improvisation. Erin has an MA in Music and Culture from Carleton University and a Bachelor of Music from Carleton University. From 2010 to 2016 Erin worked and performed as a singer-songwriter and released four albums. In their PhD work, Erin examines autistic culture and improvisation, and autistic stimming as an embodied cultural practice that has aesthetic value and is at the core of community-making strategies. Stimming refers to repetitive sensory practices in which autistic (and other neurodivergent) people engage, often to regulate emotional states, to cope with external sensory stimuli, or for the purpose of self-expression. As an autistic person, Erin views their own stimming as inseparable from their creative practice, as well as similar and inextricably linked to their consumption of musical and artistic forms.
Jemma Llewellyn is a community-based arts practitioner and Post-Compulsory Education teacher from Wales, UK. She has worked in formal education settings and youth arts organizations, with children and young people from the ages of 6 to 25, including ESL students, and students with additional and complex learning needs, in China, England, Wales, and Canada. Jemma’s PhD research, practice, and scholarship focuses on addressing human rights issues by providing an artistic platform where youth voices are amplified and the practice of adult allyship is modeled through improvisation and collaborative mentoring. It is her belief that to make real social change in the world we need to address the transhistorical hierarchy paradigm between children/youth and adults, through youth-led dialogical participatory practices.
Whilst living, working, and studying in Canada, she has had the privilege of working on a language revitalization and drama project, with Coast Salish peoples, on the West Coast of Canada. Through this project, she discovered a deep connection to Indigenous ecologies, ceremonies, and language, all of which are inherent in the complex history and legacy of Welsh culture. Jemma is committed to the process of decolonization, anti-racism, and anti-oppression which are foundational to her personal values, projects, and partnerships.
Canadian drummer and percussionist Joe Sorbara has spent more than two decades developing a reputation as an imaginative and dedicated performer, composer, improviser, organiser, writer, and educator. Sorbara is equally comfortable playing jazz, free improvised music, indie rock, and chamber music, but is most at home when playing them all at the same time. He has played and recorded with Ken Aldcroft, Jared Burrows, Anthony Braxton, Nikita Carter, François Houle, Germaine Liu, Evan Parker, Allen Ravenstine, Clyde Reed, and Friendly Rich, among many many others. Sorbara is currently developing a book for a post-pandemic Toronto-based sextet. Other projects under his own name include a Vancouver-based quartet and the woodwinds-and-percussion trio, The Imperative.
Joe is a long-time student of master drummer Jim Blackley. He holds an Honours Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music from York University in Toronto and a Master’s degree in English from the University of Guelph where his work focussed on critical improvisation studies, literary and cultural theory, and pedagogy. He is currently studying toward a PhD with the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation. Joe has worked extensively as a workshop facilitator and guest lecturer and has taught for twelve years in the School of Fine Arts and Music at the University of Guelph.
Judit Csobod is an enthusiast of music cultures, a supporter of socially and politically involved arts, and a veteran fan of free improvised music and punk. Over the years she has been involved with various alternative organisations across Europe. One example is a long association with the Mediawave Festival in Hungary, where she served in various functions, among others as program curator, international network representative, and festival coordinator. Another example is the Doek collective in Amsterdam, Holland where Judit was involved in starting a collective community calendar for the local creative music scene. She was also a part of the independent record label Barefoot Records in Denmark, Copenhagen as label and project manager. Judit is now working on a research project investigating the changing political horizons of improvised music scenes in Europe. Her research interests include institutional critique and alternative institutions, social ecology, old and new forms of radicalism, sub- and countercultures and related social movements, and anarchist philosophy and practices.
Lucy Bilson is a designer, researcher, and educator working at the periphery of contemporary graphic design practice. In addition to operating an independentstudio, Lucy’s creative practice explores the interdisciplinary space between design and art, often using her work to contest the boundaries of contemporary practice.
Lucy recently curated Articulating Legibility, an exhibition at the Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery which explores the implications of illegibility in works from the permanent collection. She was recently selected as the 2021 City of Waterloo Artist in Residence, through which she is engaging the community in an arts practice which investigates the importance of green spaces within the urban environment. Lucy is also currently working on a 650 square-foot site-specific permanent installation in collaboration with Waterloo Public Library which will be installed in the new Eastside Library Branch. The installation is a graphic work which encourages visitors to look outwards to the surrounding landscape and consider their relationship with the environment through the lens of stewardship.
Much of Lucy’s work crosses disciplinary boundaries, flouting convention and prescribed media in favour of exploring questions about placemaking and disciplinary issues through practice-based research. Lucy has a Master of Design and Graduate Diploma in Curatorial Studies in Visual Culture, in addition to a Bachelor of Design (Hons), from York University and is a first year student in the Critical Studies in Improvisation PhD program at the University of Guelph. lucybilson.com
Michael F Bergmann is a techno-optimist and enjoys exploring novel technological approaches to storytelling, performance, and play. His research and creative practice aim to apply the principles of improvisational techniques and critical discourse to human-robot and human-AI interactions and communication with the goal of fostering empathy. Their mediums of engagement include theatre, dance, installations, robots, video games, virtual and augmented reality, and exploration of the metaverse. His physical being is mostly located in Toronto and is a faculty member in Performance at The Creative School at Toronto Metropolitan University, where they teach and conduct research through their Technological Research in Performance Lab (TRiPL) tripl.ca
Michael received his MFA in Design from the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale University and held an Eldon Elder fellowship there. They are a member of IATSE Local ADC 659 and continue to design when possible. Michael is a founding member of Synectic Assembly, an arts collective for projects organised in response to questions about artificial intelligence and algorithmic culture.
Drummer and composer Nick Fraser has been an active and engaging presence in the Toronto new jazz and improvised music community for over 25 years. He has performed with a veritable “who’s who” of Canadian jazz and improvised music and with such international artists as Tony Malaby, Kris Davis, William Parker, Roscoe Mitchell, Marilyn Crispell, Anthony Braxton, Donny McCaslin and David Binney. A JUNO award winner, he was also awarded a 2017 Chalmers Arts Fellowship.
Nick’s recorded works as a leader include Owls in Daylight (1997), Nick Fraser and Justin Haynes are faking it (2004), Towns and Villages (2013), Too Many Continents (2015), Starer (2016), Is Life Long? (2017), Zoning (2019) and If There Were No Opposites (2021). For ten years, he co-led the group Drumheller, who released four critically acclaimed recordings. Other projects that occupy him regularly are Peripheral Vision, Eucalyptus, Titanium Riot, The Brodie West Quintet, Mark Godfrey Quintet, Ugly Beauties (with Marilyn Lerner and Matt Brubeck), and the Lina Allemano Four. Nick has performed on over 100 commercially released recordings. Recently, he has worked with the Calgary-based Decidedly Jazz Danceworks as musical director for their productions of Juliet & Romeo (2017) and Mimic (2018).
Nick’s MA research proposal for IICSI is focused on the philosophical underpinnings of his work, particularly around conceptions of embodiment in Deleuze and Merleau-Ponty and how these relate to improvisation and music pedagogy.
Shaghayegh Yassemi is a film director and a performance artist. She earned a Bachelor’s and a Master’s in Theater from Soore University of Tehran. In 2015 she moved to Montreal and finished her second Master’s, this time in Film Production, at the Concordia University. From that date on she has been going back and forth between Canada and Iran to make her artworks. She started her PhD in Critical Studies in Improvisation at the University of Guelph on 2020. She is particularly fond of architecture, the surrounding environment, and the way it communicates with people. For now she is researching how a performance art piece or a piece with performative characteristics can create an experience of poetry.
Sophie Brown is a harpist from South Wales. Having studied with Mary Stephens and Rhodri Davies, she bridges a space between classical technique, improvisation, and integration of electronic and vocal elements. Sophie completed a BA and MA in Music at Durham University, culminating in a thesis on the history of the harp and its gendered associations over time. Sophie was selected for the Global Undergraduate Awards Summit in Dublin 2019, for an essay which brought together Kantian philosophy and musical improvisation. Sophie’s PhD research continues to examine the synergy between Kant and improvisation, which offers novel insights on the nature of knowledge, learning, and creativity. Sophie is on the collaborative International Development PhD program, and will be working with a community partner in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Her project involves engaging young people in arts-based participatory action research.
Steve Donnelly is a live artist from Wales. His work explores and combines his interests in improvised play, performance studies, contemporary and historical uses of social space, popular culture, belief, and the commons.
Through playful research, interactive performance, place-making, and protest, Steve has collaborated with diverse audiences, communities and creative partners throughout the UK. Originally training as a devising performer, Steve’s work has grown to incorporate divergent approaches to exploring public space and the commons, including; devising, producing, and performing live art; touring site-responsive theatre and pervasive games; and organising grass-root campaigns and award-winning community spaces.
His research interests include; Infinite Play as Improvisation; critical walking, psychogeography, and vernacular speculative practices; and the use of humor in art. You can connect with Steve via donnells[@]uoguelph.ca, on Instagram (@biod.en), or on Twitter (@StDonnelly).
Critical Studies in Improvisation program graduates
Reza Yazdanpanah (MA, Critical Studies in Improvisation) is an Iranian musician who is a teacher, improviser, performer, and composer. Since 2009, he has been a music faculty member at the University of Guilan, where he has taught Persian classical repertoire, Radif, and Improvisation on tar and setar (Persian plucked chordophones). Me, Myself, and I; Reza et Moi, Tamashay-e- Saba, Eshq Amad, and Goshayesh are his recorded compositions and improvisations based on folkloric, traditional, and classical Persian music. In 2016, focusing on children’s music education, Reza established his private music school (Yazdanpanah Music School) in Shiraz with his brothers. His recently published book is Shur-e-Tar, a comprehensive guide for both music educators and self-teaching students. Since 2019, Reza has been a grad student at the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation (IICSI) at the University of Guelph. His research interest is creating improvisational games for children as social practices in order to equip them for their future lives.
Marcela Echeverri (MA, Critical Studies in Improvisation) is a musician, anthropologist, and improviser currently based in Guelph, Ontario. She is a bass player who has played with bands in Colombia and Estonia. Her Master’s projects concerned themselves with the use of sound recording methodologies as a means to produce and present research findings on the intermingling of agencies. She is interested in exploring the possibilities of improvisation in the context of education and community-building.