Composer inspired generation

Life was intertwined with Vancouver and UBC

One of Canada's most prolific and honoured composers, Jean Coulthard, died recently at age 92.

A member of UBC's School of Music from 1947-73, she was the first composer from Canada's West Coast to achieve national stature and international recognition.

"To tell her story is to tell the history of UBC and Vancouver," says Educational Studies Assoc. Prof. William Bruneau who is writing two biographies of her.

During his many conversations with her, Bruneau says Coulthard recognized and valued her long association with UBC, which provided her with financial, artistic and intellectual support.

"This Splendid University" was the title of her address to Congregation in 1988 when she was presented with an honorary degree.

She was the second person to be hired in UBC's School of Music after founder Harry Adaskin.

Coulthard studied at London's Royal College of Music with Ralph Vaughan Williams.

She took compositions for criticism to many 20th-century giants including Schoenberg, Bartók and Aaron Copland.

In 1988, on her 90th birthday, UBC celebrated her donation of manuscripts, recordings and other material to the Library.

"She took special care to make music for her community," says Bruneau. "There's scarcely a Canadian music student who has not met her work." Coulthard composed in every genre: a full-length opera, four symphonies, concertos and numerous shorter works for soloists and orchestra, sonatas for virtually all instruments, and hundreds of keyboard, choral, and vocal works. She completed her latest sonata a few months before her death.

"She was very grateful to UBC for providing her with an opportunity to educate and influence an entire generation of composers," says Bruneau. Among those who studied with her are Chan Ka Nin, Michael Conway Baker, David Duke and Sylvia Rickard.

"Above all, she was a person of precision, balance and grace--traits that also came through in her music,'' he adds.

Coulthard is survived by her artist daughter, Jane Adams, and her granddaughter, Alexa.