Celebrating a Canadian Music Educator

By Wever, Diane | The Canadian Music Educator, Fall 2015 | Go to article overview

Celebrating a Canadian Music Educator


Wever, Diane, The Canadian Music Educator


Introduction by Mary Kennedy

University Masters of Music Education student Diane Wever documents the career of Dr. Earl Davey, a musician and educator with whom she studied and who had a huge influence on her both musically and philosophically. I encourage readers to submit articles on other Canadian music educators who have been important to them as mentors and teachers.

Prior to his retirement in May 2014, Dr. Earl Davey, Canadian music educator, conductor and academic administrator, spoke with the author about his career and his contributions to the field of education. What follows is an account of this interview.

Earl Davey grew up in Toronto, his family having immigrated from Northern Ireland when he was a small child. Although he grew up in an inner city neighborhood, Davey maintains that he received an excellent collegiate education, which included studies in French and even Latin. His many positive musical experiences both in school and private music settings led him to enroll in the Music Education program at the University of Toronto with the intention of becoming a high school music teacher. However, a year into his studies, Davey concluded that his passion for conducting outweighed his desire to be in the classroom. As he continued his studies he sought every available opportunity to develop his conducting skills. Davey followed his undergraduate degree with a Masters of Music Education, also at the University of Toronto.

Davey was subsequently employed as a choral director at Branksome Hall, a private girls academy just outside of Toronto. He remembers this time fondly, remarking that the girls were quite fine musicians, the chamber choir, especially, was capable of "lovely, subtle moments" in their music making.

Davey's second Masters program (this time a degree in Higher Education) brought him back to the University of Toronto where he researched the shift of advanced music education in Canada from a conservatory system to developing university programs. At the time (mid 1970's) there were relatively few Canadian universities with fully developed music programs. His task was to report on this "crisis in higher education." It was during this period that Davey began conducting the university's large chorus.

Early in 1979, Davey received an unexpected phone call from Lorne Watson, Dean of the Brandon University School of Music. Would Davey consider taking a position as the Head of the Choral Department? (Davey shook his head and laughed. He enjoys telling the story, a nod to the young man he once was.) "I had no intention of going. I was an inner city Toronto boy. What did I know about the prairies?" Watson was persuasive that Davey agreed to visit the school, all the while being straightforward as to what his eventual answer would be. However, upon his introduction to the School of Music, Davey was impressed by the caliber of the program and especially its faculty. He took the job - and stayed 21 years!

Davey's responsibilities grew to include becoming the Chair of the Music Education Department and Graduate Studies in Music, as well as serving on the University Senate and Board of Directors. Davey taught conducting, choral techniques, the philosophy of music education, the philosophy of aesthetics and, he directed the school's choral ensembles.

All students were required to be part of an ensemble on campus. Speaking about the quality of vocal singing Davey said, "It is the great democratization of art." A person may not be an outstanding singer alone, but in a group can learn to contribute to a wonderful sound. Davey recognized that the students in his ensembles were not all singers. In fact, many were instrumentalists, some training for solo careers, others on the music education track. Whatever their future goals were, Davey said that the "students lived and breathed music." As an artist/teacher he believed his role was to help them see and hear what was possible, to assist them in building their craft and participate in the process. …

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