Art Song Lab

Where Poets Composers & Poets Come Together

Contralto, Lynne McMurtry

Lynne McMurtry has been a key player in  Art Song Lab since 2012. We're so excited to have her joining again for #ASL2018.

Apply today to write for a truly amazing contralto!

Described as “a force of nature” (Toronto Star) and “an actress of immense talent” (Opera Canada), contralto Lynne McMurtry is happiest when rehearsing powerful words set to evocative music, which is why she loves Art Song Lab.  Recent opera performances include Mistress Quickly in Verdi’s Falstaff with Calgary Opera and Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro with Opera Lyra.  In the concert realm she dreams of singing more of Das Lied von der Erde (Mahler) and the Alto Rhapsody by Brahms, both of which she performed with orchestra recently.  She teaches at the State University of New York College at Fredonia and is a Founding Faculty Artist of the Vancouver International Song Institute.


Pianist, Rachel Iwaasa

If you love the piano, new music, collaborative music making, or amazing people, then you are going to LOVE Rachel Iwaasa! We're thrilled to have Rachel coming back this year for #ASL2018.

Apply today for your chance to work with a sublime pianistic artisan!

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Hailed in the press as a "keyboard virtuoso and avant-garde muse" (Georgia Straight) with the “emotional intensity” to take a piece “from notes on a page to a stunning work of art” (Victoria Times Colonist), pianist Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa has performed as soloist and chamber musician in Canada, the United States, the Netherlands and Germany. Known for bold and innovative concerts, Rachel combines her warmth and curiosity to touch the hearts and minds of audiences, whether she is playing Beethoven and Schumann or Ligeti and Saariaho.

One half of the flute/piano duo Tiresias with Mark McGregor, Rachel has also performed with Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Judith Forst, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw and Richard Reed Parry of Arcade Fire. Rachel has appeared for Muziekweek Gaudeamus, Music TORONTO, Vancouver New Music, Music on Main, Redshift, the Western Front, the Victoria Symphony, the Aventa Ensemble (Victoria), CONTACT contemporary music (Toronto), New Works Calgary, Groundswell New Music (Winnipeg), and Vancouver Pro Musica. Rachel has a shameless passion for contemporary music, and has performed numerous premières, including pieces written especially for her by Rodney Sharman, Jeffrey Ryan, Jocelyn Morlock, Emily Doolittle, Alexander Pechenyuk, and many other Canadian composers. Rachel’s debut solo CD, Cosmophony, piano music inspired by the cosmos, was released in 2010 on Redshift Records. Praised by the Vancouver Sun as “brilliant” and “unforgettable” and nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award, Cosmophony features the Canadian premiere recording of George Crumb’s Makrokosmos, Volume II and no less than nine commissioned works by Canadian composers.


Rachel is one half of the flute/piano duo Tiresias with Mark McGregor. Their debut CD, Delicate Fires, was nominated for a 2008 Western Canadian Music Award. Delicate Fires was produced with the generous assistance of the Barbara Pentland fund, and features the first commercially released recordings of her Sonata Fantasy for solo piano and Trance for flute and piano. It also presents the premiere recordings of works commissioned by Tiresias from Canadian composers Rodney Sharman, Jennifer Butler, and Jocelyn Morlock. Tiresias’s sophomore recording was double CD released in 2013: Trade Winds, showcasing the works of BC composers Jean Coulthard, Paul Douglas and Christopher Kovarik, paired with Halos of the Moon, exploring Japanese-Canadian hybridity in music with works by Toru Takemitsu, Jo Kondo, Eliot Weisgarber, Anthony Genge, Derek Charke, Hiroki Tsuromoto and Kara Gibbs.

Rachel’s major teachers were Jane Coop, Menahem Pressler, and Robin Wood. She holds a Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of British Columbia, a Master of Music from Indiana University, and a Bachelor of Music from the University of Victoria, where she earned the Victoria Medal as the top graduating student in Fine Arts. She was also a two-time recipient of the prestigious Annual Grant from the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) for graduate studies at the Hochschule für Musik "Hanns Eisler" Berlin. Other awards include numerous grants from the Canada Council, the BC Arts Council, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and the Alberta Heritage Foundation. Rachel is a founder of the Queer Arts Festival, regarded as one of the top 5 festivals of its kind worldwide.

Soprano, Robyn Driedger-Klassen

It's our pleasure to have Robyn Driedger-Klassen joining us for the first time this summer for #ASL2018.

Apply today to work with this incredible soprano.

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At the age of sixteen, Robyn Driedger-Klassen discovered that singing came more naturally than her attempts on the piano at Bach Preludes and Fugues.  She won a few competitions in those early days and after a few years of dilly-dallying in other university programs, she decided that music was the only career for her so, she  undertook the voice performance program at UBC with vigour.

Robyn has done lots of performing in lots of places.  She loves the costumes and grandeur of opera and adores the personal and intimate side of recitals.

Several years ago, Robyn was hired by the Turning Point Ensemble to do a work for voice and ensemble by R Murray Schafer entitled Arcana.  Faced with singing Egyptian hieroglyphs, Robyn found herself first at a complete loss, but soon fully enjoyed unravelling the mysteries found on the page.  Schafer witnessed her successful performance and since then, Robyn has thrown herself whole-heartedly into performance of contemporary vocal repertoire.  Some of her favourites have been: a fully-staged performance of Libby Larsen’s Try Me Good King, the final words and letters of the wives of Henry VIII;  Kaaija Saariaho’s Lonh, for soprano and electronics that make lovely bird sounds; Jake Heggie’s At the Statue of Venus, a woman’s inner monologue as she waits for a blind date; Brian Current’s Inventory, a complicated piece about a woman’s relationship with shoes; David McIntyre’s On the Road to Moose Jaw, a soaring song about a prairie drive; Leslie Uyeda’s White Cat Blues, a set of songs written for her with poems by Lorna Crozier; and Perruqueries, a commissioned set of songs about wigs from the weird and wonderful minds of Jocelyn Morlock and Bill Richardson.  This is an exciting time to be working with North American composers and Robyn is thrilled to make their songs come alive. However, she will always make time to sing Mozart, Schubert or Richard Strauss!

Robyn is on the core faculty of the Vancouver International Song Institute, and is also pleasantly surprised to find herself Head of Voice at the Vancouver Academy of Music. Robyn loves books, geraniums, hikes, canoes, cups of tea and a clean house.  Robyn lives with her husband and two vocal critics under the age of five. She can bake a wicked loaf of bread and in recent times, has learned a considerable amount about monster trucks, fast cars and dinosaurs.

Pianist, Marguerite Witvoet

It's our pleasure to announce that Marguerite Witvoet will be joining our performers for a second time at Art Song Lab 2018!

Don't miss the chance to work with Marguerite and all our amazing performers.

Apply today:

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With a rich musical palette and an adventurous spirit, Marguerite Witvoet lays claim to a diverse range of musical territories. As a pianist, vocalist, composer, sound designer, music director/conductor and vocal coach, Marguerite has gained a reputation across Canada as a versatile and creative musician.

An active player in the development of new opera and musical theatre, Marguerite has conducted the world premieres of several new Canadian operas and assisted in the development of numerous others, with companies such as Autumn Leaf Performance, The Banff Centre, Modern Baroque Opera Company, Pro Musica, Restless Productions, Tapestry New Music Theatre, The Vancouver Playhouse and Vancouver New Music. No stranger to theatre, she has also worked with the Arts Club, Belfry Theatre, Canadian Stage, Chemainus Theatre, Shaw Festival and Toronto Operetta Theatre.

Ms. Witvoet regularly performs as a solo and chamber artist, and has made numerous recordings with CBC, frequently interpreting works by established contemporary composers such as John Cage and Georges Aperghis, commissioning new works by Canadian and international composers and performing works of her own composition.

In 2002, Marguerite was nominated for a Jessie Richardson Theatre Award for Significant Artistic Achievement for musical composition and arrangement. Her first venture into sound design was deemed "outstanding" by critics and audiences alike, and was nominated for a Jessie Award in 2003 for Best Sound Design. Since then, artists of all disciplines have sought her out for creative collaborations.

Marguerite lends a compassionate approach and a critical ear to her work as a vocal coach and piano teacher for both professionals and amateurs. Working with a combination of intuition, keen observation, years of musical training and a wealth of performance experience, she inspires students to develop their own unique voice as artists and creators.

Recent projects include conducting a 2016 production of White Wines, Radio Play in 3 Acts, composed by Dorothy Chang, and composing and music directing for Th'Owxiya: The Hungry Feast Dish, for Axis Theatre in June 2017. Upcoming projects include music directing a December 2017 workshop of Leslie Uyeda's Your Breath, My Breath: Dialogue for a Mother and Daughter and playing in the Arts Club remount of Onegin, by Veda Hille and Amiel Gladstone.

Marguerite is a member of AFM, SOCAN, CMRRA and SCGC, and currently teaches in the Bachelor of Performing Arts program as well as conducting Beginning Choral Ensemble at Douglas College. She also teaches individual voice and choir at Studio 58, Langara College. For over ten years, Marguerite was faculty vocal coach at the International Advanced Voice Workshops at the Banff Centre.

Singer, Will George

We're thrilled to have Will George coming back for another year at Art Song Lab. This will be the 7th installment of #ArtSongLab, and this will be Will's 6th time!

Don't miss the chance to work with Willl, and all our amazing performers...

Apply today:

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Will George is a versatile performer, equally at home in the world of classical, musical theatre, and pop music.

He has performed leading roles with many international musical organizations, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City Operas, and festivals and concerts in Canada, Hong Kong, Finland, England, Sweden, Germany, the Philippines, and Carnegie Hall.

An active recitalist, Will is co-founder and Artistic Director for Erato Ensemble, and has been featured in a solo recital for Japan’s NHK network television. His CD, “Dew-drops on a Lotus Leaf”, a collection of songs by composer Marga Richter, was released on the Redshift label in 2014. “EAST,” with guitarist Michael Strutt, followed in 2017. Other recordings include “Geometrics” by L.Warde and Brent Michael David's “Viola Jokes”, with acclaimed violist Melia Watras.

A specialist in contemporary music, Will has worked closely with many respected composers, including Michael Tippett, Barry Truax and Marga Richter. He recently received rave reviews for his performance in Peter Maxwell Davies’ “Eight Songs for a Mad King” with Nu:BC Ensemble.
In addition to his classical work, Will also has years of experience singing popular music - rock, jazz, soul and country. He is well known in town as a singer-songwriter, and is the lead singer of the roots-rock band Horse Opera. The band released their debut album in November 2017.
Will received his Masters of Music degree from the University of Southern California, where he was honored as Outstanding Graduate from the School of Music. He currently lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Also a composer, Will's songs and vocal chamber works have been performed and commissioned by such organizations as New Music New York, Erato Ensemble, Vancouver International Song Institute, Holy Rosary Cathedral, and The Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies. His cantata "The Virtues" was nominated for a 2005 Pulitzer Prize in Music. Mr. George is the recipient of multiple ASCAPlus Awards, and is an Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre.


Guest Poet, Jordan Abel

It delights us to no end to see our ASL Alumni going on to do amazing things.  In 2012, Jordan Abel attended Art Song Lab as a poet participant. His work in erasure poetry, unknown to the composers present, gave his collaborative partner a whole new way of seeing the way a poem could influence their music, and set the precedent for many innovative collaborative approaches to follow. It was for his most recent book of poetry, Injun, that he received the 2017 Griffin Poetry Prize.

We're thrilled to announce that Jordan Abel will be the Guest Poet for Art Song Lab 2018. He will present a public workshop designed to speak equally to poets and composers, and participants will have several opportunities to connect personally with Jordan throughout ASL.

Find out more about Jordan at, and listen to his ASL 2012 collaboration with composer Emilie LeBel, "the place of scraps..." on our recordings page.

Jordan Abel is a Nisga'a writer from BC. Currently, he is pursuing a PhD at Simon Fraser University where his research concentrates on the intersection between Digital Humanities and Indigenous Literary Studies. Abel’s creative work has recently been anthologized in Best Canadian Poetry (Tightrope), The Land We Are: Artists and Writers Unsettle the Politics of Reconciliation (Arbiter Ring), and The New Concrete: Visual Poetry in the 21st Century (Hayword).  Abel is the author of The Place of Scraps (winner of the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize), Un/inhabited, and Injun (winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize).

Guest Composer, Rodney Sharman

We're so fortunate to have a wonderful community of composers and poets who value and support the work Art Song Lab is doing. Throughout ASL's history, Rodney has been an active and engaging member of the art-song community. A renowned Canadian composer with an international career, he's attended many of our concerts and open rehearsals, and taken part in our community discussions on the state of art song in our contemporary culture.

We're thrilled to announce that Rodney Sharman will be the Guest Composer for Art Song Lab 2018. He will present a public workshop on collaboration and his own experiences writing art song, and participants will have several opportunities to connect personally with Rodney throughout ASL.

Find out more about Rodney at, and listen to his interview on our "How To 'Art Song'" page.

Rodney Sharman is Composer-in-Residence of Early Music Vancouver’s “New Music for Old Instruments”. He has been Composer-in-Residence of the Victoria Symphony, the National Youth Orchestra of Canada and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, as well as Composer-Host of the Calgary Philharmonic’s New Music Festival, "Hear and Now". In addition to concert music, Rodney Sharman writes music for cabaret, opera and dance. He works regularly with choreographer James Kudelka, for whom he has written scores for Oregon Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet and Coleman Lemieux Compagnie (Toronto). Sharman was awarded First Prize in the 1984 CBC Competition for Young Composers and the 1990 Kranichsteiner Prize in Music, Darmstadt, Germany. His score for the dance-opera From The House Of Mirth won the 2013 Dora Mavor Moore Award for outstanding sound design/composition (choreography by James Kudelka, text by Alex Poch Goldin after Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth). 

Co-Director, Michael Park

Michael Park is an accomplished composer and pianist with a keen interest in speech, humour, and collaboration. His music aims to give audiences an experience beyond the realm of traditional concert-going. Heralded for his innovative projects, his Ted Talk, Experiencing Disease Through Musichas been described as moving, haunting, and an amazing translation of the disease. Michael’s compositions have been performed in Vancouver at the Sonic Boom Music Festival and the Songfire Festival of Song, as well as concerts presented by Music on Main, the Erato Ensemble, and pianist, Corey Hamm. His music has been presented in Winnipeg by Flipside Opera and the Contemporary Opera Lab, and in New York by Opera On Tap. An accomplished pianist, Michael’s experiences with improvisation and multi-disciplinary collaboration led him to studies in composition. He regularly performs his own works, as well as those of his colleagues and continues to collaborate with a wide variety of artists, including dancers, poets, visual artists, and musicians. He also sits on the board of directors for Vancouver’s Redshift Music Society.

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Co-Director, Alison d'Amato

Alison d’Amato is a dynamic and versatile musician, committed to performing and teaching in the full spectrum of solo and chamber music genres. She is actively involved in creating new approaches to chamber music in colleges and conservatories, and has developed several projects that explore interdisciplnary collaborations among artists. A valued member of several pioneering organizations in addition to Art Song Lab: she is Artistic Co-Director of Florestan Recital Project and co-founder of the Vancouver International Song Institute (VISI). In 2011, she joined the faculty at Eastman School of Music as Assistant Professor of Vocal Coaching. In all these activities, Alison is dedicated to energizing the relationships and communication inherent in music and bringing students’ love of music to the forefront of their projects. As both a pianist and teacher, Alison enjoys a variety of engagements that includes interdisciplinary projects with musicologists, composers, writers, and dancers.

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Zoe Dagneault

Zoe J. Dagneault currently studies English Literature at Simon Fraser University. She is also enrolled in SFU's The Writer's Studio. Zoe's work explores wordscapes varying from Buddhist robot romances to emo-techno-pastoral portraits. Most recently, her altru-eco-feminist contemplations have refocussed with the birth of her daughter, Violetta. Zoe lives and writes in East Vancouver.

Dubravko Pajalic

Dubravko Pajalic graduated from the Music Academy, Department of Musicology and Music Journalism, University of Zagreb, Croatia. He also studied Archival Studies and Informatics in Croatia, Austria and in Canada. He music studies include: the flute, guitar, choral conducting (Emil Cossetto, Jon Washburn) and composition (Stanko Horvat). Since arriving to Canada he has been conducting community and church choirs, and regularly attends music workshops. Dubravko’s compositions take on the format of a “bricolage" - works influenced by a diverse range of things and themes available (for example: a current mood or a mind-set ; or, simply a subconscious reflex to melodic material).

Karen Garry

Karen Garry is a Visual Artist and Storyteller who moonlights as a poet when no one's paying attention. She began self-publishing at the age of 14 and has since carried many a title from the mundane to the remarkable and has marvelled at the destinations one can arrive should they continue to put one foot in front of the other.  She has made 'zines, panned pizzas, illustrated books, drawn comics, sold groceries, taught Art and English, had international art shows,  pre-visualized animated scenes in 3D, storyboarded sequences for cartoon movies and is currently in the process of writing her first picture book.  She's fluent in three languages, has travelled a fair bit of the world and wants humans to help save the bees and keep the polar bears afloat.  When's she not trying to convince people to stay up past their bedtimes, she can usually be found on her bicycle, at the beach or strumming the strings on her classical guitar. She currently resides in Vancouver, BC, and thinks it'd be great if there were never another tanker blocking the view.

Eve MacGregor

Eve is a poet and lapsed software engineer. For Art Song Lab 2015 she co-created the piece "Song for Shed Bird" with Colin McMahon. Her work gravitates toward finding emotional access to sites of inaction or stasis. She is currently at work on a long poem set in the great pacific garbage patch.

Mark Bondyra

Mark Bondyra is a writer and designer who lives in Vancouver. He is a recent graduate of SFU’s The Writer’s Studio and is working on a collection of short stories. In his free time he climbs mountains.

L Matthews

Leigh (L) Matthews is a bisexual, queer, vegan, feminist, immigrant writer living in Vancouver, BC. Her first novel, The Old Arbutus Tree, was published in 2013, followed by the first two novels in the All Out Vancouver series: Don't Bang the Barista! (2014) and Go Deep (2016).

The All Out Vancouver series is a contemporary take on the genre of lesbian pulp fiction. Set in East Vancouver, the series follows the lives of a medley of queer characters and offers all the fun, frolics and drama of classic pulp fiction, but none of the death, denial or heteronormativity.

L took part in Art Song Lab 2015, and her work featured at Queerotica as part of the 2015 Queer Arts Festival. Her poetry and journalism has appeared in Hobart Pulp, Driftwood, Aesthetica, PUSH, and elsewhere.

When she's not at the beach with her pup, L works as a medical copywriter focusing on nutrition and public health communication. She is a qualified nutritionist with an interest in food security, nutriepigenetics, and intersectional vegan feminism, and published her first non-fiction title (Eat to Beat Acne) in 2015.

L is fond of real ale, border collies, tea, and crumpets.

Jordan Key

Jordan Key is currently pursuing his PhD in composition at the University of Florida under Professor Paul Richards. Previously, he studied and taught at The University of Arizona, where he earned his Master of Music degree in Composition under Professor Daniel Asia. Jordan earned his Bachelor's degrees at the College of Wooster in Ohio under composer Jack Gallagher. Jordan has had a number of works performed. Significant are recent performances by internationally renowned organist Pamela Decker of his "Chorale Suite for the Crucifixion of Christ," the Vancouver Art Song Lab of his "Dream Season's Done," the Charlotte New Music Festival of "The Vision of Cataclysm" for flute quartet and percussion, and his work with the Florida Players at the University of Florida on theatrical music for Melancholy Play by Sarah Ruhl. Jordan's interests in early music, bagpipe music, and modern organ repertoire give his music a distinct contrapuntal and harmonic flare that is both rhythmically diverse and melodically compelling.

Judith Penner

Vancouver writer and editor Judith Penner has co-authored several books, been a journalist in the UK and Canada, and written for film and radio. She continues to work as an editor and to write poetry and short fiction. Her work has appeared in The Capilano Review online, Geist magazine and other periodicals, and at Song Room, writer/composer collaborations curated by David Pay and the late Tom Cone. Why is the World as Crunchy as a Diamond?, a book of prose/poems, will be ready this year.

Katherine Chan

Katherine is an earnest interlocutor and a fierce thinker who is endlessly interested in the conversation of art and impact, topics surrounding gender and sexuality.

Her writing focuses on poetry, prose, and art reviews. Having lived abroad in Berlin for the last two years pursuing a master’s degree in English Literature, she is currently researching for her thesis project specializing in temporality and queer studies. Connected to the independent art scene in Vancouver, she is the Gallery Associate at Untitled Art Space located in the DTES, where she assists in curation, public relations, and install processes for art shows. She is also a regular contributing writer at Sad Mag, a print and online publication on Vancouver’s independent arts and culture.

A fan of collaboration and meaning­making, she is constantly in the pursuit of meaningful work with artists, creatives, to generate impact. 

Nebal Maysaud

Nebal Maysaud was born in 1995 in Alexandria, Virginia. Born son of two Lebanese bakers, he did not grow up in a musical family but has found music on his own. His music is a convergence of Lebanese tradition, faith, queer liberation, and contemplation of our current society. He is not afraid to portray the suffering of those who are often silenced and firmly believes in the power of music to express the voices and needs of the oppressed, particularly among those with diverse gender identities and sexual orientations. His music is influenced by many different artists of various traditions, including Vaughan Williams, Khalil Gibran, Arvo Part, Walt Whitman, Mahmoud Darwish, Guillaume de Machaut and J.S. Bach.

Nebal also has a huge interest in Religious Studies and is usually not afraid to integrate that into his music. Finding multiple ways to speak the mysticism of the universe to his audience. He emphasizes openness in his religious works, asserting that everyone, regardless of sexual or gender identity, class standing, or religious belief or lack thereof (including those outside the Abrahamic tradition), are open to the grace and mercy of the divine.

Nebal Maysaud has composed for a number of ensembles and won numerous awards, including the Alexandria Choral Society Carol Competition, where the Alexandria Choral Society performed his A Capella work, Winter Dusk in concert. Nebal was also a recipient of the first Kluge Young Composer’s Competition, in which his work, O Great Mystery, was performed in concert by the Alexandria Symphony. Nebal has was taught under famed Wind Band composer Mark Camphouse during high school before entering the studios of Joanne Metcalf and Asha Srinivasan. He is currently a composition student in the studio of Prof. Andrew Cole at the Lawrence Conservatory of Music in Appleton, WI.