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U OF M'S XIE, THE EXPERIMENTAL IMPROV ENSEMBLE, which is led by professor Gordon Fitzell, a newly elected member of the Royal Society of Canada // PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: GORDON FITZELL

Musician joins Royal Society of Canada’s prestigious ranks

September 11, 2018 — 

University of Manitoba composer and performer Gordon Fitzell has been elected a member of the Royal Society of Canada’s (RSC) College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists. The RSC is the country’s most esteemed association of scholars and scientists. Also being vaunted into this respected academy is president and vice-chancellor David Barnard, who has been named a Specially Elected Fellow by the Fellows of the RSC.

Election to the RSC is considered the highest honour an academic can achieve in the arts, humanities and sciences.

“I congratulate Dr. Fitzell and Dr. Barnard on receiving their honours. Their election is recognition of the tremendous accomplishments and leadership they have shown in advancing knowledge and scholarship in Canada,” says Digvir Jayas, vice-president (research and international) and Distinguished Professor at the University of Manitoba. “They are exemplary individuals and our academic community is proud they call the University of Manitoba ‘home’.”

Dr. Fitzell joins 7 current members of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists from the University of Manitoba, and Dr. Barnard is the first U of M president to be named a Specially Elected Fellow of RSC.


Dr. Gordon Fitzell

Gordon Fitzell.

Dr. Gordon Fitzell has been the recipient of numerous commissions, grants and awards throughout his tenure in the Desautels Faculty of Music. In 2011, for instance, he was presented with the Rh Award for Creative Works, and in 2015 he was nominated for a JUNO Award in the category Classical Composition of the Year.

Since 2009, Fitzell has been an Artistic Director of GroundSwell, Winnipeg’s premiere new music series, and he leads the eXperimental Improv Ensemble (XIE), a performance group dedicated to fostering interdisciplinary collaboration with partners both on and off campus. The group has performed at various events, most memorably, for his former student Luke Nickel [B.Mus. (Comp.)/11], at a fundraiser for Amnesty International. Fitzell had the group serve food to over 50 people while musically improvising using cutlery, food-processors, knives and food.

“This experience was extremely inspirational to me at the time,” Nickel says. “Dr. Fitzell taught us the fundamentals of event organization, but also the hard-to-teach capability to dream as big as our brains would allow us. I carry this sense of boundless possibility with me in my work as a festival director as well as into my own artistic practice.”

Musicians around the globe, including Grammy-winning artists, have commissioned Dr. Fitzell’s original works. His music has been performed on stages across Canada and around the world. A composer, performer, producer and concert organizer, Fitzell’s music has been reviewed in international publications such as The Globe and Mail, BBC Magazine, and The New York Times, which described a piece of his music thusly:

“The strange imaginary animals in Gordon Fitzell’s ‘Evanescence’ (2006),” the paper notes in 2007, “seemed to be from outer space. Mr. Fitzell uses electronic and avant-garde techniques, like running a wet finger around the edge of a glass, to create an eerie, throbbing, trancelike canvas, through which at one point a raspy cello line penetrates like the moan of an angry Martian.”

Dr. David Barnard
David Barnard stands in ARTLab. photo by Mike Latschislaw

David Barnard

For 40 years, Dr. David Barnard has worked in, and served the academic community in various institutions across Canada, making significant contributions to our society. On July 1, 2008, he became the eleventh president and vice-chancellor of the University of Manitoba and since that time he has led the institution to dramatically increase its research capacity by over 50% from when he arrived, resulting in discoveries that have had significant impacts on areas vital to us all, such has global public health and climate change.

Dr. Barnard uses his role as president and vice-chancellor not only to advance higher learning and knowledge, but also to effect positive change in our society, championing the principles of diversity and inclusion. In 2011, for instance, he was the first university president to apologize to Residential School Survivors for Canadian universities’ failure to speak out at the time.

He uses his voice to stand against racism in Winnipeg, to provide public engagement opportunities for climate change awareness, and to leverage funds for campaigns that address poverty and inequality in Manitoba and beyond. Under his leadership, the University of Manitoba is committed to advancing Indigenous achievement.

Dr. Barnard has also helped increase effective collaboration within and among academic institutions, serving the board of directors of Universities Canada. As the past chairperson and current member of the governance advisory committee, he has advanced Universities Canada’s mandate to help member institutions transform lives, strengthen communities and develop solutions to current world-wide problems, specifically through advocacy for research.


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