From Yellowknife to Honolulu and Montreal to Mumbai, Murray Nichol enjoys an active schedule of adjudicating, examining, and conducting master classes and workshops.More recently he has travelled to Bhutan and Cuba as an advisor to the Vancouver Biennale, an international arts organization that uses art in public spaces as a catalyst for engagement, dialogue, learning, and social action.
After his graduation from Brandon University with a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance, Mr. Nichol completed a Master of Music in Piano Performance at the University of British Columbia where he studied with Jane Coop, Rena Sharon, and Dr. Henri-Paul Sicsic. As an alumnus, he has contributed his time and expertise to mentoring undergraduate and graduate music students in the University of British Columbia’s Music Alumni Mentorship Program.
Mr. Nichol is passionate about working with young musicians, especially pianists.A well-respected teacher, he spent fifteen years at the Tom Lee Learning Centre where his students consistently won scholarships for their polished playing.He inspires pianists of all ages to imagine -- and achieve -- their best.
As a senior examiner for The Royal Conservatory, Mr. Nichol examines in both Canada and the United States. An MTNA Nationally Certified Teacher of Music, he is a member of the British Columbia Registered Music Teachers’ Association, the Music Teachers’ National Association, and the Canadian Music Festival Adjudicators’ Association.
Dr. Jim Sparks - Vocal
Dr. Jim Sparks is a teacher, conductor, and researcher from Vancouver, Canada. His recent positions include interim Director of Choral Activities at Boston University, adjunct Professor of Conducting at the University of British Columbia School of Music, and Lecturer in Music Education at Simon Fraser University, British Columbia. He is senior advisor for choral music for Music Mentors International and former teacher of vocal, choral, and ensemble music at the renowned Langley Fine Arts School (LFAS) in Langley, British Columbia for two decades. Jim has been chorus director for Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Brahms’ Requiem, Faure’s Requiem, Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms, Ryan’s Requiem for a Generation, and William Walton’s Henry the Fifth with the Vancouver Symphony and Maestro Bramwell Tovey. His recent choral season at Boston University featured performances of Verdi’s La Traviata, Poulenc’s Gloria, Holst’s Planets at Boston Symphony Hall, and a collaborative residency with renowned Latvian composer ?riks Ešenvalds. Jim is the recipient of the Professional Music Educator Award from the British Columbia Music Educators Association and the Healey Willan Award from the BC Choral Federation. For his research into Cross-Cultural singing, he received the Simon Fraser University President’s PhD Award in 2014.
In his roles as researcher, conductor, and educator, Jim connects active research with music learning, performance, and conducting. With support from the Canada Council, the Canadian Music Educators Association, the AIRS collaborative initiative, and Simon Fraser University, he has been a guest conductor and researcher in singing with four renowned international conductors: Alina Orraca in Havana, Cuba (Schola Cantorum Coralina); Joseph Muyale Inzai in Nairobi, Kenya (National Boys and Girls Choir of Kenya); Anatoliy Avdievski in Kiev, Ukraine (Veriovka Choir); and Helle Høyer in Aarhus, Denmark (Aarhus Pigakor Choir).
In addition, Jim has taught choral and orchestral conducting at the undergraduate and graduate level to students in Canada, the United States, and Brazil. He has enjoyed conducting residencies in Sobral, Brazil; Charente-Maritime, France; and Havana, Cuba, and has given presentations on his singing research in Canada, Kenya, Denmark, Estonia, France, and Brazil. He is on the panel of international adjudicators for the International Choral Kathaumixw in Canada, and continues to be in demand as an adjudicator, lecturer, guest conductor, and music consultant throughout Canada and abroad.
Olivia Blander - Band/Instrumental
Originally from Ottawa, Olivia Blander completed her Master of Music degree at Yale University in the studio of professor Aldo Parisot. She received her Bachelors degree from the Harid Conservatory (Boca Raton, Florida) where she studied with Canadian cellist Johanne Perron.
Olivia has appeared frequently as a soloist and chamber musician on CBC radio, including the nationally broadcast "Debut Series". She has been a participant in several major summer festivals including classes at the Banff Centre for the Arts, and the fellowship program of the Tanglewood Music Centre.
After returning to Ottawa from the U.S. in 2000, Olivia enjoyed four months working with the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra, and joined the Vancouver Symphony in September 2001. Aside from regular VSO performances she has appeared with local new music groups Standing Wave and the Turning Point Ensemble and has been featured in Vancouver series Music on Main, Vetta Chamber Music, UBC Noon Hours, Kits Classics and the VSO Chamber Players.
Olivia currently serves on the faculty of the VSO School of Music and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestral Institute.