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‘Energy and joy’

Choral professor celebrated by RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant awards

Campus and Community

By Mandy Cook

At this year’s RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant virtual awards ceremony, a Czech-born Newfoundlander will be one of them.

Dr. Jakub Martinec is also Memorial’s director of choral studies in the School of Music.

National award

It’s been seven years since Dr. Martinec and his young family chose their new home of St. John’s, N.L., for its vibrant music scene.

His significant contribution to the choral community and the university in that time is now being recognized on a national stage – and he couldn’t be more humbled.

“I will feel honoured and proud to be among such accomplished people, and it will build my confidence that I am having some success as a newcomer,” Dr. Martinec said about the award ceremony on Sept. 15. “I will always continuously strive to live up to this award to continue to be an example for others new to Canada and even those that aspire to be Canadians.”

The RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant awards is an annual event hosted by Canadian Immigrant magazine that recognizes outstanding work by immigrants who “have come to Canada and have made a positive difference living in the country.”

Past winners include CBC news anchor Ian Hanomansing and Canada’s 26th Governor General Adrienne Clarkson.

“The students are my primary motivators.” — Dr. Jakub Martinec

When asked what keeps his passion for choral music burning, Dr. Martinec says digging into all the layers of a piece never gets old. He also says exploring different works with his students is the ultimate motivator.

“Finding the challenges that exist within the framework of each musical score excites me, and I love watching my university students explore each piece for the first time discovering and uncovering meaning,” he said. “The students are my primary motivators. They inspire me to be the best teacher I can be.”

‘Deeper understanding’

“Dr. Martinec was the principle reason I choose to attend Memorial University,” said Greer Schatz, a graduate student in the School of Music. “He is highly skilled, always full of energy and joy, always challenging his singers to find a deeper understanding and connection to the music they are singing.”

In addition to teaching and conducting the successful Atlantic Boys’ Choir that he developed in 2016 – now the only provincewide choir of boys and young men in Canada, educating boys in five choral centres across Newfoundland and Labrador – Dr. Martinec has been making the best pandemic life. In fact, he says it’s been an exciting time to innovate.

The MUN Festival Choir rehearses for Requiem by Gabriel Fauré.
Photo: Greg Locke

For the fall semester, the choirs at Memorial will incorporate learning that would not otherwise be possible, he says. Guest clinicians and performers have been engaged, and choir members will participate in a world-wide virtual performance and create virtual performances of their own.

“As well, the Festival Choir is open to anyone across campus, and even open to members of the community,” Dr. Martinec said.

“This term we will be discovering Beethoven in a new and exciting way that explores artistic excellence in spite of disability and hardship. We will also be learning about diverse and world repertoire honouring the Black Lives Matter movement and we are excited about our virtual collaboration with Eastern Owl, an Indigenous-led, all-nations women’s drum group.”

‘Deep sense of community’

“Dr. Martinec has shared centuries-old choral traditions from the Czech Republic, in particular boy choir singing, with Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Prof. Timothy Steeves, a piano instructor in the School of Music and the father of a young chorister in the Atlantic Boys’ Choir and the National Boy Choir of Canada, of which Dr. Martinec is artistic director.

The National Boy Choir with Dr. Martinec conducting at the Sheraton Hotel in St. John‘s.
Photo: National Boy Choir of Canada

“It was wonderful to see how Dr. Martinec instilled in my son a passionate love of music and singing. The choirs created by Dr. Martinec give young men the opportunity to experience the joy of music-making and the deep sense of community that grows out of skilled and dedicated leadership.”

Major shift

For his part, Dr. Martinec says he is grateful for the welcome and opportunities that Canada has afforded him.

Moving from the Czech Republic to an entirely different community and culture and leaving family, friends, language, customs behind, was a “roller coaster of varied emotions” from excitement to anxiety, he says.

However, since moving to Canada, Dr. Martinec says he has had many learning and life experiences that have helped him build a new home and career in Newfoundland and Labrador’s music and university community.

“Through my research at Memorial University, I have had the gift of meeting citizens from across the province. So many have demonstrated kindness and support. To be recognized for my contributions here means a great deal to me.”

Everyone is welcome to join the Festival Choir conducted by Dr. Martinec. Contact him via email for more information.

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