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Research grant aids creation of new musical compositions

USask supports new music, community organizations.
Dean McNeill, head of USask’s Department of Music and the artistic director of the Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra (SJO), stands at the head of the SJO for their concert in December 2023.

SASKATOON — Funding from the University of Saskatchewan (USask) has sparked the creation of innovative artistic work for an organization with deep ties to the institution. 

With support from the Office of the Vice-President Research (OVPR), a concert took place on March 9 performed by the Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra (SJO) in support of the Ukrainian Museum of Canada. 

Dr. Baljit Singh (PhD), USask’s Vice-President Research, said research and creativity in the arts goes hand-in-hand and is of integral importance to USask’s research, scholarly and artistic work mission. 

“Artistic innovation is something to be celebrated by institutions like USask, and we need to continue fostering new artistic works in our community,” he said. “USask is home to some of the country’s most talented artists across many fields, and supporting their creativity makes the university a stronger and more diverse place.” 

The social justice-themed concert, titled A Kolomyika Fantasy, featured musicians from USask as well as many USask alumni and top professional musicians from across Western Canada. Some special compositions for the concert were also developed by USask faculty and alumni, delving into Ukrainian musical tradition as their muse. 


Dean McNeill, the artistic director of the SJO and the head of USask’s Department of Music, lauded USask for its support of the arts in the community. 


McNeill said it’s impressive to see how much more can be accomplished in the fine arts with funding initiatives like this. He said the SJO would likely not exist in its current form were it not for support from organizations like USask being involved in the artistic community in various ways. 

“Wearing both hats, as a faculty member and as artistic director of the SJO, does help me make these university/community connections,” McNeill said. “In this way I can often create win-win scenarios in which I’m able to forward some on my own artistic and research artistic aspirations as a faculty member and at the same time serve and develop the community in artistic and social justice-forward ways.” 

The concert also received support from other organizations in Saskatoon and across the country, including arts-focused groups SK Arts, the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra and the Canada Council for the Arts. 


For McNeill, continuing to find avenues for the artistic community and USask to support each other is an exciting prospect to reflect and act on. 


“I think the university always has been and continues to be very interested in connective tissue that links its faculty, students, programs, and physical space to the various communities within which it resides,” McNeill said. 

“This concert was not only a fundraiser ... It is one of many examples of our fine arts faculty doing important work within the university and connecting said work out into the community in important, substantive and impactful ways.” 

This concert can be viewed on the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra’s Concert Stream platform, with all proceeds from this concert supporting the Ukrainian Museum of Canada. 

— Submitted by USask Media Relations