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OISE Convocation 2016: New fellowship a dream come true for Gabriela Farias


Above, Gabriela Farias conducting with the Young Voices Toronto Choir.

With aspirations to begin a musical theatre company, graduating student Gabriela Farias credits part of her unique approach to musical direction to OISE's commitment to social justice and a unique and valuable scholarship. 

At OISE’s convocation on June 16, Master of Teaching student Ms. Farias will cross the stage as the first recipient of the Vernon Douglas McCaw Memorial Fellowship.

Founded by Dr. Elaine Keillor, wife of the late Vernon McCaw, the $1,000 fellowship provides a community-based experiential learning opportunity that brings together theory and practice in music education.

“When I found out I had been chosen, I was surprised and elated. I screamed a typical soprano scream - half sung, half scream,” she said with a laugh.

There’s good reason for Farias’ jubilation.

Incredible opportunity

As part of the award, Farias has had the opportunity to conduct with artistic director of Young Voices Toronto, Zimfira Poloz – someone Farias has long admired. “Working alongside her has been a dream of mine…She is an absolute expert, a master in the art of singing,” Farias said.

Specifically, selected applicants from those enrolled in OISE’s Master of Teaching program, attend weekly rehearsals of the Young Voices Toronto (a children’s choir-in-residence at the Faculty of Music & OISE) throughout the season. 

“This experience has been absolutely invaluable and I am so utterly grateful,” said Farias. “The lessons that I have learned from observing and collaborating with Zimfira are ones that will serve me for the rest of my career in music.”

'Would be delighted'

For Dr. Keillor, the chance to make such a meaningful impact in a student’s life is most rewarding.

“My late husband would be delighted to know that Gabriela Farias, the inaugural recipient of the Vernon Douglas McCaw Memorial Fellowship, found her passion to be educating through singing,” Dr. Keillor said.

Lens of equity

As for the impact of OISE on her work, Ms. Farias said her social justice studies play a major role in her approach.

 “The way I address my rehearsals and lessons is through the lens of equity,” she explained. “I am continuously adapting and reacting to the needs of each of my students and my pedagogy will continue to evolve with the goals of inclusion and social justice in mind. My OISE experience has been invaluable in this regard.”

Read below to learn more about how the Vernon Douglas McCaw Memorial Fellowship and Ms. Farias’ education at OISE have impacted her life:

OISENews: What are your professional plans after graduation?

“I’m going to continue on with Young Voices Toronto in the capacity of rehearsal coordinator. I am so grateful to be able to continue in a creative musical space with incredible mentors who inspire me and who I can continue to learn and grow from.

This summer I will be music directing for a performing arts program in Brampton. It is the best job in the world! I get to make musicals with the most incredible youth and supportive staff. As a music educator, it is a privilege to be able to teach music through a variety of venues and I will continue to pursue the diverse opportunities that are available whether through choirs, musicals and beyond!”

OISENews: Talk about your education and experience at OISE. How has it impacted your life?

GF: “OISE has broadened my perspective on issues of equity, diversity and social justice. My research focused on ‘Music from a Culturally Relevant perspective’ and certainly this topic was influenced through the messages of inclusivity which were evident in every course at OISE. The way I address my rehearsals and lessons is through this lens of equity. I am continuously adapting and reacting to the needs of each of my students and my pedagogy will continue to evolve with the goals of inclusion and social justice in mind.”

OISENews: What or who inspired you most during your time at OISE?

GF: “There were many wonderful professors, but one stands out – Mary Reid. I had the privilege of taking her courses in both years of the MT program. Mary has the unique combination of being personable and relatable while also effortlessly executing an incredible high calibre of pedagogy. Her classes are impeccably prepared and move in a way that keeps every single student engaged, three hours feels like 30 minutes – it’s remarkable! I still refer back to my notes from her classes, they are gold. No one ever missed Mary’s classes and if you did, you weren’t scolded by Mary, but by your peers who were quick to remind you of the masterpiece of a class that you missed.”

OISENews:  What do you hope to accomplish in your future career?

GF: “I hope to open up my own musical theatre company. I want to create art with youth. These types of after school programs were fundamental to my own education growing up. I hope to give students the opportunity to imagine, create and collaborate in a creative space with caring educators who are also talented artists themselves. I think the team building and collaborative nature of theatre creates the perfect environment for inclusivity to take place. Every child brings with them a unique skill set and it is my responsibility as an educator to nurture and develop these talents- what better way than through theatre?”

Special thanks
Gabriela Farias would like to extend the following message:

“I want to thank the incredibly supportive and talented staff at Young Voices Toronto. Zimfira Poloz, Tracy Wong, Sheldon Rose, Brenda O’Connor, Bettina Stebner and Shannon Charnock. They graciously took me under their collective wing and patiently guided me through this wonderfully fulfilling experience. I have learned so much from every single one of them. I also have to thank Leslie Stewart-Rose for encouraging me all along the way and being an incredible support. And of course, a very special thank you to Dr. Elaine Keillor.”


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