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UVic music appointment takes Marion Newman full circle

Critically acclaimed mezzo-soprano joins university as assistant professor at school of music
Marion Newman says she’s excited to be returning to her roots after more than 24 years in Toronto. VIA UNIVERSITY OF VICTORIA

It will be a homecoming of sorts for Marion Newman when she joins the University of Victoria as a music professor this July.

Newman, a critically acclaimed mezzo-soprano and the host of CBC Music’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera, will help shape future music talent as an assistant professor at UVic’s school of music.

Newman said she’s excited to be returning to her roots after more than 24 years in Toronto.

“To be hearing more of my own language, to be able to attend ceremony more often — I’m very excited about that,” said Newman, who has Kwaiguilth, Stó:lo, English, Scottish, and Irish heritage.

Her move back west was precluded by the realization she was being increasingly invited to teach at master classes and to apply for academic jobs.

Newman even applied for one just to better understand the process, she said.

“It made me get my CV together and understand what it is to be interviewed,” she said.

When the opportunity at UVic came up, she went for it.

A particular draw for her was the fact that her brother, Carey Newman, is in the faculty of fine arts as UVic’s impact chair in Indigenous art practices.

“My brother and I have for years been talking about ideas that we’d like to make happen with visual arts and music,” she said. “With him literally across Ring Road, now I will be able to do that and make things come true in the university setting.”

UVic school of music director Alexis Luko said she’s thrilled with Newman’s appointment. “Given her perspective, local connections and international reach, she’s positioned to have a profound impact on artistic and cultural life in Victoria,” she said in a statement.

Newman received a bachelor of music in piano performance from UVic in 1993. But her musical chops and connection to the region started far before that.

She grew up going to the Victoria Conservatory of Music and made her orchestral debut at the age of 16, playing Mozart’s Piano concerto K. 488 in A Major with the Victoria Symphony.

As she prepares for her move to Victoria, Newman said she’s excited to build new partnerships with the conservatory where she first discovered her love of singing, as well as leading opera companies in Western Canada.

She will continue to perform in her new role and host Saturday Afternoon at the Opera from the CBC studio on Kings Road.

In a statement announcing the hire, UVic said Newman’s addition to the school of music aligns with the university’s Indigenous plan where “Indigenous ways of knowing, being and learning are embedded into the university’s programs, systems and organizational structure.”

Newman puts it in a more straightforward term of phrase. “We’re being accessed for guidance in decolonization and [other] not very easy to figure out things.”

But she said she believes there’s opportunity for her to change UVic from a top-down power structure into “a circle where everyone’s looking in.”

For Newman, decolonization isn’t about “throwing out the old rules,” she said, adding that its more about providing opportunities for people to engage in the classical canon while being grounded in their own upbringing.

“I have always looked at that rep[ertoire], that poetry, that libretti from my own point of view,” she said. “Decolonizing really just means taking the time to make sure that everybody can find a path that helps them get there.”

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