Keynote Presenters 2018

Wendy Nielsen

Wendy Nielsen (Canada)

Following a long and distinguished career as an opera and concert singer, Wendy  Nielsen is now Associate Professor Teaching Stream and Head of Voice at the University of Toronto. In addition to her duties there, she is the Head Vocal Consultant for the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio Program. Her own career was launched as a member of this training program. Wendy made her Metropolitan Opera Debut as Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte in 1996. Subsequently, she sang numerous roles there including Countess in Nozze di Figaro, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, and Micaela in Carmen. Later in her career she undertook the roles of Tosca, Ariadne, Vitellia in Clemenza di Tito, and Samuel Barber’s Vanessa among others. She has performed world wide with opera companies and orchestras working with such conductors as James Levine, Kurt Masur, James Conlon, Mario Bernardi, Charles Dutoit, Richard Bradshaw, and Ivan Fischer. She has been the Artistic Director of the St Andrews Summer Opera Workshop for nearly twenty-five years and has fostered the program into becoming one of the top of its kind in the country.

The development of a voice teacher
Voice teaching is brain and body training. It is a collaborative act between teacher and student. One of the great challenges of the art form is peeling away shackles of physical/emotional tensions while layering on the details of language, style and physical energy that are required. The student must learn to send the right cues from the brain to the body to reproduce a sound that is free and expressive. I believe that it is my role to be the visual and aural mirror for the student. I reflect back to them what I am hearing and seeing so that they can make the necessary adjustments. I must be fully present but not to the point where the student is afraid to attempt something in fear of judgment. I often say to my students that they need to ‘parent’ their voice well. They need to provide the basics to sustain it while allowing it to freely develop its personality in a safe and supportive environment. I strive to create a studio where they’re free, and encouraged, to express themselves, both in singing and conversation. I am there to assist in the development of a personal ‘owner’s manual’ for their singing and artistry.

Wendy Nielsen 2

Watch Wendy talk about why she loves to teach, and what it’s like to listen back to her own singing technique. Watch Wendy participate in the Canadian Opera Company’s TEDTalk, How to build an opera singer. Based in Toronto, Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio is Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals. Wendy is joined by Liz Upchurch (vocal coach), Jennifer Swan (kinetics coach), and singers Danika Lorèn and Iain MacNeil.

Follow Wendy on her Lake Diva blog.

Stephen Clift

Stephen Clift (UK)

Stephen Clift is Professor of Health Education in the Faculty of Health and Social Care, Canterbury Christ Church University, and Research Director of the Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health. He has worked in the field of health promotion and public health for over twenty-five years, and has made contributions to research, practice and training on HIV/AIDS prevention, sex education, international travel and health and the health promoting school. Stephen’s current interests relate to arts and heath and particularly the potential value of group singing for health and wellbeing. He is one of the founding editors of Arts & Health: An International Journal for Research, Policy and Practice and Honorary President of the Singing Hospitals International Network.

What have we learned from two decades of research on singing and wellbeing?
In this presentation I want to look back over the last twenty years of research on singing, health and wellbeing.  This period has seen a remarkable growth in scientific research exploring the contribution that regular singing, especially in groups can make to health.  The research has explored the value of singing in relation to an increasing range of health issues, and has become more robust and experimental.  The growth has been sufficient to support a number of recent systematic reviews.  This body of research has served to demonstrate fairly conclusively what musicians and singers have known intuitively for centuries, going back at least to William Byrd, and his remarkable couplet: ‘Since singing is so good a thing, I wish all men would learn to sing.’ (1588)  There is also a growing understanding of the processes and mechanisms through which singing gives rise to a sense of personal and social wellbeing and can impact positively on physical functioning and health. The presentation will then focus on the value of singing for people with respiratory illness, in particular chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): the skills required of group facilitators; appropriate techniques and repertoire; the ways in which singing serves to improve patterns of breathing, and the techniques to assess outcomes for wellbeing and health.  I will conclude the presentation by considering what further research is needed on singing, wellbeing and health, and the practical challenges of promoting the wider implementation of singing for wellbeing and health in the context of health and social care systems.

Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health

Watch videos produced by the Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health that capture its work researching the potential value of music, and other participative arts activities, in the promotion of wellbeing and health of individuals and communities. Listen to podcasts from visiting presenters at the Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health.


Essi Wuorela (Finland)

Finnish soprano, Essi Wuorela, began her career in 1994 with a solo-cd that was widely acclaimed and sold gold in its first year. Following this strong debut, she worked as a solo artist, hosting two television programs and performing as a freelance musician with various recording projects. In 1999, Essi graduated from the Pop & Jazz Conservatory, Helsinki, as a certified music teacher. Today, she maintains a small private voice studio and works as a clinician for voice and choir workshops internationally. As a collaborative artist, Essi has been a member of the internationally-renowned vocal ensemble, Rajaton, for the past 21 years. With tours throughout the world, Rajaton has recorded 18 albums and has enjoyed collaborations with major symphony orchestras with Abba, Queen, and Beatles programs. Essi is also a member of the EVA trio, a Finnish folk-fusion ensemble (voice, cello, and kantele) which released a new EP, Ilta, in January 2018 in anticipation of a Canadian tour. Essi has also served as editor for a children’s song album (Otava Publishing House) created in conjunction with a Rajaton recording.

Finding my voice: One singer’s journey (so far!)
A conversation with Essi Wuorela (Rajaton, Finland) facilitated by Jennifer Moir (Western University, London, Canada)
Essi Wuorela will share her personal journey from childhood chorister to professional member of renown Finnish vocal ensemble, Rajaton, who recently celebrated their 20th anniversary! A sabbatical year has provided the opportunity to reflect on a singing career rich with learning from travel and collaborations with other gifted music makers and educators. Essi will discuss her thoughts on authentic expression, her experience of traversing the continuum of diverse music styles, and her ongoing growth as an artist and educator.

Jennifer Moir is a highly-respected conductor, educator, and adjudicator with a growing international reputation. Under her direction, choirs have won national and international awards through the CBC Choral Competition, The Choral Olympics, Linz, Austra, Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, Wales and have been broadcast on CBC Radio. Jennifer is the founder and Artistic Director of The Kaleid Choral Festival (kaleidoscope of voices) that has hosted internationally-renowned vocal groups Rajaton (Finland), Black Umfolosi 5 (Zimbabwe), Cadence (Canada), and FreePlay Duo (Canada). Through this festival and regular programming, Jennifer has commissioned over 60 new works by Canadian composers. At Western University, Jennifer conducts Les Choristes (women’s choir) and The Chorale (mixed choir), has a voice studio, and teaches Vocal Methods and Choral Techniques. In Spring 2015, Jennifer was awarded a Community Service Learning grant to develop an experiential learning course,  “Community through Choral Art” in which students performed in an innovative production of R. Murray Schafer’s music drama, The Spirit Garden.

Aida Swenson (Indonesia)

NOTE: Unfortunately, Aida is unable to share her Keynote Presentation due to unforeseen circumstances.

Aida Swenson is one of Indonesia’s strongest forces of choral music development. As founder and conductor of the world-renowned Indonesian Children and Youth Choirs Cordana, her choirs have gathered international recognitions and awards and have performed in major cities in the United States (2007 ACDA Convention Miami), Germany 2012 Musica Sacra, Marktoberdorf), Poland, Japan, Switzerland (2016 European Youth Choir Festival, Basel), Philippines, Singapore, Denmark (2008 IFCM Symposium Copenhagen), France (2010 Polyfollia), Canada (2011 Festival 500), China (2015 IFCM Choral Expo, Macau; 2015 Taipei International Choral Festival), and other Asian countries. A graduate of the Westminster Choir College, Aida conducts workshops nationally and internationally and is a frequent adjudicator for international choral events. She is Chairperson of the Foundation for the Development of Choral Music in Indonesia and a member of the Board of Advisors for the Institute of Church Music. Aida has spent many years traveling throughout Indonesia creating and leading choirs in provinces, giving masters classes, and training choral conductors. She is a pillar of change, of progress, and of energy in her mission to achieve irrefutable quality in choral music throughout Indonesia and around the world.


Watch videos of Indonesian Cordana Youth Choir at Festival 500 (2011) in St. John’s, NL Canada. We are really looking forward to welcoming Aida (and, hopefully, her singers) back to our province for the International Symposium on Singing and Song II.

Rampai Aceh      Toki Tifa      Jesus Nit


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