Coffee with Wayne Strongman

Article Written by Stephen Bell – Marketing/Development @coffeescreative

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At Coffeeshop Creative we are not only passionate about designing and developing a unique web presence for our clients, but also sharing their stories. We are super excited to share another story in our new series of blogs – Grabbing Coffee. Today’s feature is the conductor, artistic director, musical advocate and coach, Wayne Strongman!  As we are designing the upcoming launch of his custom website, we recently caught up with Wayne in the beautiful Leslieville District in Toronto, at Te Aro Coffee.

 

Photo Credits: Gene Wu, Past productions: Dark Star Requiem, Binoculars, Governor General -Rideau Hall Photo: John W. Macdonald

 

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Tell us a little about your musical journey?

 

My musical journey began at piano studies in Ancaster, ON at the age of 6. Believe it or not, I fell in love with the mezzo voice of my playmate’s Mom. I just adored the singing! From that point on, I made it my dream and goal to discover/work in the musical industry.  I put myself through University of Toronto working 4 jobs: teaching, singing, accompanying and organ. Around this time, I also became the youngest member of Festival Singers under Elmer Iseler. As Toronto was just developing its diverse musical scene at this time, there were no conducting jobs available upon graduation, so I took on and established Tapestry Singers. I believe I found a niche in commissioning Canadian composers. It was my mandate to be an advocate of young composers’ desires to explore opera. I had become a producer/conductor/evangelist for new opera in Canada and abroad.

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Binoculars: – Richard Payne, composer/Joseph Maviglia, librettist – singers: Carla Huhtanen (foreground) and Jessica Lloyd Tapestry New Opera Works – Opera to Go (2006): 

 

How important is contemporary opera to the current Canadian classical scene?

 

Quite simply, contemporary opera is the “green growing edge” of an old art form, ripe for re-development. I strongly believe in the Canadian classical scene, as it appeals to younger sensibilities of immediacy in both content and delivery. We live in a difficult time for opera in North America. With many companies closing their doors or restructuring, it is filling the gap created by the demise of established regional opera companies. Younger generations need to be culturally aware of opera and the musical art form of singing and acting. Contemporary opera has the ability to convey many topics, be they political/social, personal and emotional. Today, composers and librettists and writers, have a wealth of topics and information to capture the attention of the musical scene today.

 

 

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Wayne Strongman receiving the CM Medal from Governor General Michaëlle Jean

Being a social advocate for music in the community, give us a highlight of your efforts to promote social awareness for music?

 

Let’s see… I would have to say my visit to Rideau Hall! As she was pinning the CM medal on me, Her Excellency, Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean said to me: “We have to talk about art as a vehicle for social change.” It wasn’t the first time I had been up close and personal with this amazing woman. We had sat together in the same room for performances of Elijah’s Kite (James Rolfe/Camyar Chai) two years previous, for families from disadvantaged neighbourhoods, who had all received a formal invitation from Rideau Hall to attend an opera about schoolyard bullying. These moments I will cherish and never forget!

 

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Krisztina Szabó  in Dark Star Requiem – Words by Jill Battson | Music by Andrew Staniland

Favourite musical moment in Toronto?

 

Arrgh! There are just too many to number, so I will make it short, but sweet!

1)Historical: Cleo Laine at Ontario Place; Mary Morison at Eaton Auditorium; Dame Joan at EJB;

2) Current: Stefan Vinke as Seigfried at COC; Peter Barrett in M’Dea Undone at Tapestry; Mary Lou Fallis singing “Bist du Bei Mir” for Walter Pitman and family at Ida’s funeral.

 

 

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Wayne and his beloved Bulldogs, Harley and Davidson – Photo: Gene Wu

Most importantly, favourite style or type of coffee?

Americano “with room”, no sugar.

 

 

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