Ann Westbere is a second-year PhD student in the Critical Studies in Improvisation Program. She holds a Masters of Arts in Sociology, a Masters of Arts in Political Science, and a BA Honours in Music and Political Science. Her graduate research focuses on the interrelationships between the arts, improvisation, 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. Now, as a graduate student in the Critical Studies in Improvisation program, she is taking a diverse range of courses in that field.
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
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.
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.
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.
Canadian drummer and percussionist Joe Sorbara has spent nearly two decades developing a reputation as an imaginative and dedicated performer, composer, improviser, organiser, writer, and educator. He lives with his family in Toronto, having recently returned from two years in Vancouver where he received a warm welcome from many of the west coast’s most adventurous musicians.
Sorbara is a highly inventive musician who has played and recorded with the AIMToronto Orchestra, Ken Aldcroft, Jared Burrows, Anthony Braxton, François Houle, Evan Parker, Allen Ravenstine, Clyde Reed, and Friendly Rich as well as with many of his own projects including Never Was, Swamp People, The Imperative, Other Foot First, Reliable Parts, My Misshapen Ear, and the Imaginary Percussion Ensemble. He 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.
Sorbara is a long-time student of master drummer Jim Blackley. He has worked extensively as a workshop facilitator and guest lecturer across Canada and teaches in the Music Department at the University of Guelph. 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 he is now is now enrolled as a PhD candidate through the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation. His main research interest is in the area of creative music pedagogy.
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.
Marcela Echeverri is a musician and anthropologist currently doing her Master’s degree in Critical Studies in Improvisation at the University of Guelph. She is a bass player who has played with bands in Colombia and Estonia. Her Master’s project concerned itself with the use of sound recording methodologies as a means to produce and present research findings on human’s relationship to technology. The project was presented in the form of an interactive sound installation featuring recordings made by Marcela in the Tallinn Centre for Biorobotics. In addition to her academic work, she has been involved in education with non-profit organizations such as CISV and De Vrolijkheid, leading summer camps and music workshops, respectively. She is interested in exploring the possibilities of improvisation in the context of education and community-building.
Mohammad Reza Yazdanpanah is an Iranian musician who is an improviser, performer. and composer. Since 2009, he has been a music faculty member at the University of Guilan, where he taught Persian classical repertoire, Radif, and Improvisation on tar and setar (Persian string instruments). Tamashay-e- Saba, Eshq Amad, and Goshayesh are his recorded compositions based on folkloric, traditional, and classical Persian music.
In 2016, focusing on children’s music education, he established his private music school (Yazdanpanah Music School) in Shiraz with his brothers. His recently published book is called Shur-e-Tar (published by Mashahire Honar) which is a comprehensive guide for both music educators and self-teaching students, and is gear toward the elementary level. “Elementary Instruction of ‘Tar’ with a Glance on Various Approaches toward Radif,” is a peer-reviewed paper about this book that was published by the International Journal of Arts and Commerce in 2014. (Vol. 3, no. 4, pp. 133–43.)
Since 2019, he has started working at the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation (IICSI) at the University of Guelph. His research interest is creating musical improvisational games for children as social practices in order to equip them for their future lives.
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.
Steve Donnely 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
Instagram @biod.en, or Twitter @StDonnelly