Music professor earns top award

Rena Sharon shares the "enigma of music" with students, audiences alike

by Bruce Mason staff writer

Rena Sharon, a renowned pianist and mentor, is the recipient of the top award in the university's largest faculty, the Dean of Arts Award. The award recognizes the Music professor for her success at the keyboard, in the community, and in the lecture and recital hall.

"For 25 years I've been fascinated by the enigma of music," she says. "The relation between organized sound and transcendent states is ubiquitous in human cultures throughout history. It suggests intrinsic qualities which act powerfully on the body and mind in ways yet to be understood."

To those who suggest music is a decorative diversion she points to a quote on her office wall in which Einstein credits classical music for the Theory of Relativity.

Sharon's field is collaborative piano studies. One of the foremost chamber musicians in Canada, she began her life in music at the age of eight in her native Montreal.

She regularly performs with the world's most distinguished musicians in venues such as the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and the Ford Centre in Toronto. She is also heard frequently as a recording artist and guest on CBC national radio. Considered a "a national treasure" among critics, she consistently earns reviews for "exquisite music-making...the deep compassion of her precision in perfectly conceived readings." Another of her musical passions is the art of song, a subject of many of her public lectures.

"The combination of music and poetry is complex and creates a language of its own," she says.

Sharon is artistic director of two student-oriented organizations--the Song Circle, an innovative performance company for singers and pianists and the Young Artist Experience, an intensive chamber music camp for teens with a strong interdisciplinary program of arts, science, and philosophy.

UBC's $5,000 Dean of Arts Award, established by an anonymous donor, is equal to the Killam Teaching Prize and recognizes exceptional contributions by Arts faculty in at least two of the fields of teaching, research, administration, public service and performance.

It is presented in the name of a living professor emeritus who has made a significant contribution to Arts at UBC. This year it is named for Music Prof. Emeritus Robert Rogers.

"I'm delighted that a former colleague is also being honoured, particularly since he gave so much as a mentor and counsellor," says Sharon.

"Music is hugely competitive and although I teach eight hours a day it is essential to reach back into your own fatigue to find extra time and energy when students face a difficult challenge," she says. "The payoff is those you coach to Carnegie Hall concerts and Canada Council grants."

"In teaching there is a small miracle, a moment of transmission to someone with a need to know," she says. "The pleasure of hearing new freedom and insight in their music-making is truly addictive."