‘The advantage here is the community itself’
Desautels scholar reflects on how U of M rejuvenated his passion for music
This summer marks the 10th anniversary of Marcel A. Desautels’ $20 million investment in the University of Manitoba’s music faculty—one of the largest gifts in Canadian history to a department, school or faculty of music. To celebrate, we’re taking a look at just a few of the students who have received a Desautels Scholarship over the last decade.
Stuart Sladden [MMus/12] is well aware of the difference financial support can make in creating a life in music.
“The week before classes started, I found out I’d be receiving a $10,000 Desautels Scholarship, over two years,” Sladden says. “I remember sitting there gobsmacked. My wife and I had just moved here; we were trying to figure out how we could pay for tuition and buy a house. It took away so much pressure.”
Eight years earlier, Sladden had completed his undergraduate degree at another university. Without substantial funding, he was commuting into the city, working, teaching and trying to fit in his studies.
Later, when his wife accepted a job in Winnipeg, he decided to pursue his master’s studies at the Desautels Faculty of Music.
“I’d squeaked by to finish my undergrad, but with my master’s at the U of M, I felt really engaged. They were vastly different experiences. The Desautels Scholarship allowed me to focus on my studies and my education.”
Sladden was thrilled with the world-class professors, the collaborative nature of the school, and the resulting opportunities.
“The advantage here is the community itself. You receive so much personal contact and attention from faculty,” he says. “There are so many more opportunities for exploration in music creativity.”
The experience altered the trajectory of Sladden’s career.
“Working in different contexts with the entire student body at your fingertips was exciting,” he says. “Those opportunities rejuvenated within me a passion for music that had been waning.”
Sladden is currently a doctorate candidate, focused on Canadian composer Alexis Contant. He performed his oratorio, Caïn, for the fourth time in its history last year. (Its premiere was performed for Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier in 1905.)
Contant was largely self-taught and consumed by teaching and family responsibilities. The irony is not lost on Sladden.
“Contant might be better known as one of Canada’s pioneer composers, instead of only being found in a paragraph in an encyclopaedia, if he’d had the type of support we did.”