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Robert Ambrose (Concert Band)

whistler festival adjudicator

Conductor Robert J. Ambrose enjoys a highly successful and diverse career as a dynamic and engaging musician.  His musical interests cross many genres and can be seen in the wide range of professional activities he pursues.  Ambrose studied formally at Boston College, Boston University, and Northwestern University, where he received the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in conducting.

Ambrose has conducted professionally across the United States as well as in Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan.  His interpretations have earned the enthusiastic praise of many leading composers including Pulitzer Prize winners Leslie Bassett, Michael Colgrass, and John Harbison. He has conducted over two dozen premiere performances including works by Michael Colgrass, Jonathan Newman, Joel Puckett, Christopher Theofanidis, and Joseph Turrin. In addition, a recent performance of Igor Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms under his direction has been given repeated airings on Georgia Public Radio. 

Dr. Ambrose is founder and music director of the Atlanta Chamber Winds a professional dectet specializing in the promotion of music by emerging composers as well as lesser-known works of established composers.  Their premiere compact disc, Music from Paris was released in 2009 on the Albany Records label and has received outstanding reviews in both Fanfare Magazine and Gramophone Magazine.

As a guitarist Ambrose has performed in dozens of jazz ensembles, combos, rock bands and pit orchestras. His rock band "Hoochie Suit," formed with members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, received rave reviews throughout the Chicago area.

Ambrose currently serves as Director of Bands, Professor of Music and Associate Director of the School of Music at Georgia State University, a research institution of over 50,000 students located in Atlanta, Georgia.  As Director of Bands he conducts the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, maintains a highly selective studio of graduate students in the Master of Music in Wind Band Conducting degree program, and oversees a large, comprehensive band program comprised of four concert ensembles and three athletic band organizations.  He lives in Peachtree City, Georgia with his wife Sarah Kruser Ambrose, a professional flute player and daughters Isabelle and Hannah.

Jeremy Brown (Concert Band)

whistler festival adjudicator

Jeremy Scott Brown is a renowned Canadian saxophonist, woodwind doubler, teacher, expert on the music of Henry Cowell and conductor. He is Professor of Music and the former Head of the Music Department at the University of Calgary. (1990-present) He has also been an Artist-In-Residence and a visiting artist/lecturer at the Banff Centre. In 2015 his recording of Wayfaring by Nova Pon was nominated as the Outstanding Classical Composition the Year by the Western Canadian Music Awards and in 2010, his CD solo recording of Canadian saxophone music, “Rubbing Stone” was nominated outstanding classical recording of the year. In 2014 he was awarded the inaugural University of Calgary Faculty of Arts Teaching Award. In 2009 he was conferred the title “Canadian Music Ambassador” by the Canadian Music Centre for his work promulgating music by Canadian composers, with more than forty works commissioned. In 2008, he was named an “Innovator of the University of Calgary” for his community outreach, and in 2007 was awarded the David Peterkin Award for his contribution to music education in Alberta by the Alberta Band Association. In 1999 he was awarded the University of Calgary Student’s Union Teaching Award for the Faculty of Fine Arts.

As a university teacher, his undergraduate and graduate students have won numerous national and international awards, scholarships and recognition. His university ensembles have been widely recognized for original programming and performing excellence; most recently the U of C Jazz Orchestra won the Outstanding Ensemble Award at the 2013 Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival and ten outstanding soloist awards at the 2014 Elmhurst Jazz Festival, Chicago Illinois.

He has recorded numerous records, including Scaramouche with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, (2003, CBC records) In the Company of My Soul (2003, Arktos Label), Ornamentology (lightblue records) Rubbing Stone (2010, Centredisc Label), The Lethbridge Sessions (2014, Centredisc Label) and The Verismo Jazz Quintet (2005). His inaugural recording of the wind band works of Henry Cowell with the winds of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra will be released in 2016 together with his forthcoming book, “The Wind Band Music of Henry Dixon Cowell” for Sourcebooks in American Music, the College Music Society. As a saxophone soloist he has appeared with many bands and orchestras including the Washington-Idaho Symphony, the National Youth Band of Canada, the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, the Red Deer Symphony, Festival Orchestra of the 2003 World Saxophone Congress (Minneapolis) the Okanogan Symphony Orchestra, Kensington Sinfonia and the Ottawa Symphony. He is also lead tenor saxophonist with the Calgary Jazz Orchestra.

Recently, his world premiere of The Orchid Garden for tenor saxophone by Andrew MacDonald with the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra (November 2015) was reviewed as “a dazzling display of classical discipline and agility combined with a jazz artist’s freedom and sense of exploration.” (Ottawa Citizen, Natasha Gauthier) He is the founding artistic director of the Rubbing Stone Ensemble, a new music ensemble based in Calgary and former conductor and founding artistic director of the National Concert Band of Canada (2002-2010). He is has been Artistic Director of the Calgary Wind Symphony since 1997, a 60 piece community band founded in 1955. In 2003, he co-founded Verismo, a Calgary jazz quintet whose inaugural recording garnered great critical acclaim and subsequently performed at the 2007 Montreal Jazz Festival.

Dr. Brown has written numerous pedagogical articles and in addition to his forthcoming book, was co-compiler and series editor of the inaugural Royal Conservatory of Music Saxophone Series (2014). This groundbreaking and comprehensive saxophone series includes graded repertoire, etudes, technical studies and orchestral excerpts and is used internationally.

His numerous articles are published in the Instrumentalist, Journal of Band Research, Journal of the World Association of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles, Saxophone Symposium, Canadian Band Journal, International Society for the Investigation of Wind Music and Canadian Winds. He is a currently a contributing editor to Canadian Winds.

Scott MacLennan (Concert Band)

whistler festival adjudicator

Dr. Scott MacLennan is the Music Director of the Kwantlen Polytechnic University Wind Ensemble, an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia teaching conducting, and Music Director at the Byng Arts Academy in the Performing and Visual Arts in Vancouver, B.C. As an in-demand guest conductor, clinician, and adjudicator, he frequently works with ensembles, schools, honour groups, and festivals in Western Canada. As an instrumentalist, he has taught at all levels from elementary to post-secondary and performed extensively on bassoon.
He holds a Bachelor of Music (1988) and a Bachelor of Education (1990) from the University of British Columbia, a Master of Music (2010) in Conducting (Wind Band) from Sam Houston State University, Texas, and a Ph.D. (2015) from the University of British Columbia. He studied conducting with Ken Hsieh, Morihiro Okabe, and Wayne Toews and participated in numerous conducting master classes given by Kazuyoshi Akiyama, Anthony Maiello, Ralph Hultgren, and Robert Ponto. Some of the other specialists he worked with are: Paula Crider, Ed Lisk, Eugene Rousseau, Tim Lautzenheiser, Sam Pilafian, Pat Sheridan, Lowell Graham, Robert Spring, Jan Van der Roost, Robert W. Smith, Allen Vizzutti, and Johan de Meji. With Johan de Meji’s endorsement, Dr. MacLennan conducted the Canadian premiere of his composition At Kitty O’Shea’s in March 2011.
His Ph.D. research involved studying students’ conceptions of ancillary movements (physical movements not necessary in the production of sound) in instrumental music performance. Dr. MacLennan’s teaching philosophy is based upon striving for musical excellence in performance as well as the education of the whole student through an embodied approach to teaching. Through this approach, music performance becomes so much more than just an intellectual appreciation of master works, but a re-examination of “music” as a vehicle for self and group meaning-making. Student engagement is increased through linking conceptual images of past experiences (physical and non-physical) with expressive musical qualities in the music being performed. As well, students become active participants in the decision-making process surrounding the subtle details of their artistic response, while the music director still holds overall artistic license of the music to be played.
Since 1997, he has conducted his award-winning ensembles in various locations throughout the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, China, the United States, and Canada. His ensembles have performed in such notable venues as Carnegie Hall, New York, USA, and Santa Maria della Pieta (Vivaldi’s Church) in Venice, Italy. As an active music educator, he has worked for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra to edit and draft curriculum for their VSO Connects (Secondary) program, chaired the BC Music Educator’s Association’s Conference Pulse 2006, and currently sits as a board member of the Chamber Music in the Schools Society, BC Band Association, and the Vancouver School Music Teachers’ Association.

Chee Meng Low (Concert Band)

whistler festival adjudicator

Chee Meng Low is Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Band at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, where he conducts the Wind Orchestra, teaches saxophone performance, conducting and musicianship skills. He is also involved with the Edmonton Saxophone Quartet, U of L Faculty Wind Sextet, Symphonic Winds of NSO Malaysia, and has performed as a soloist, chamber musician and guest conduct in North America, Europe and Asia. Under his direction, the U of L Wind Orchestra has performed at prestigious events and venues including Edmonton Winspear Centre, Calgary Rozsa Centre, Knox United Church Calgary, Alberta Music Conference, Canadian Cantando Festivals and many outreach concerts in the Southern Alberta. Recent solo activities include a concerto performance at the 2017 North American Saxophone Alliance Region 9 conference and a concerto performance with the Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra for their 2016/17 season.

Before joining U of L, Chee Meng served as the Assistant Communications and Planning Manager for the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra, developing the education & outreach programs, as well as implementing the daily operations of the orchestra. In addition to that, he also served as one of the saxophone instructors for the College of Music, Mahidol University, coaching private lessons, saxophone quartet and saxophone ensemble and serving the College as assistant to the Deputy Director for Academic and Research Affairs.

Chee Meng was a member of the International Committee, World Saxophone Congress (2006-2009), regional representative of the Asia Pacific Band Directors' Association (2007-2010), and current member of the North American Saxophone Alliance. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Alberta Band Association and the Lethbridge Community Band Society.

Chee Meng Low is a Yamaha Artist-Educator.

Wendy Grasdahl (Concert Band)

edmonton concert band

Wendy Grasdahl is a conductor, trumpet performer, educator and adjudicator. Her professional work encompasses teaching at university and college levels across Canada, military band work and private instruction.

As an officer in the Canadian Naval Reserve, Wendy has conducted military bands in Alberta, B.C., Ontario and Nova Scotia. She is in demand as a clinician and guest conductor for school programs, as well as summer music programs, including 12 years at the International Music Camp at the Peace Garden on the Manitoba/U.S. border where she received the Distinguished Service Award for conducting and promoting band in North America. Wendy received the Faculty Association Excellence in Teaching Award from the University of P.E.I., the City of Edmonton Salute to Excellence Citation Award in Arts & Culture in 2014 and in 2019 the Alberta Band Association “Vondis Miller Legacy” Award.

Having appeared as a trumpet soloist and in professional ensembles across Canada, Wendy is a founding member of the brass quintet “Five of a Kind”, and has played Solo Cornet with the Mill Creek Colliery Brass Band. She is the founder, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of Festival City Winds Music Society which is now in its 25th season.

Wendy currently teaches trumpet and is Director of Bands at Concordia University of Edmonton, and teaches at The King's University when needed.

She has adjudicated festivals at local, regional, and national levels in 8 provinces to date. Ms. Grasdahl holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music History from the University of Alberta, a Master of Music degree in Trumpet Performance and Pedagogy from the University of Calgary, and a graduate level Fine Arts Diploma in Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble Conducting and Literature from the University of Calgary.

Dr. Christopher Bianco (Concert Band)

edmonton adjudicator

Dr. Bianco brings a diverse background to the podium and to his students in the classroom. He has held positions at Libertyville High School in Libertyville, Illinois, Boise High School in Boise, Idaho, St. Francis High School in St. Francis Minnesota and Baylor University in Waco Texas. In those positions he was involved in all aspects of his students’ musical growth including Jazz Ensemble, Marching Band, Choir, Orchestra and Advanced Placement Music Theory.

He received a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. At Northwestern, Dr. Bianco played in virtually all of the concert ensembles including Don Owens’ Jazz I. While in the Chicago area Dr. Bianco maintained an active trumpet studio as well as holding the position of Artistic Director and Conductor of the Wilmette Community Band.

He completed his formal training at The University of Texas at Austin as a student of Jerry Junkin where he served as a teaching assistant for the conducting program, UT Wind Ensemble, Chamber Winds and Longhorn Band. He received the Doctor of Musical Arts Degree in Wind Conducting in December of 2004.

In addition to his work with Jerry Junkin, Dr. Bianco has studied, conducting with John Paynter, Kevin Sedatole and Steve Bolstad. His trumpet teachers have included Vincent Cichowicz, Ray Sasaki, Steve Bolstad, David Coleman and Vince DiMartino.

Dr. Bianco is President Elect of the Northwest Region of the College Band Director's National Association. Additionally, he recently completed a term as the Higher Education Curriculum Officer for the Executive Board of the Washington Music Educator's Association.

Christopher now holds the position of Director of Bands at Western Washington University. He resides in Bellingham, Washington with his wife Laurie and their daughters Sophia and Elena.

Dean McNeill (Jazz Band)

jazz band adjudicator

Canadian trumpet player/jazz composer Dean McNeill is grateful for the musical experiences he received early in life growing up in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, where he performed in many school bands, dance bands, commercial bands, the Edmonton Youth Orchestra, and, in the Edmonton All City Jazz & Concert Bands.

Dean has been Professor of Brass & Jazz at the University of Saskatchewan for the past 21 years over which time he has performed and adjudicated extensively throughout Canada, and, where he has lead many of his own professional music ensembles (e.g. on multiple CD projects, CBC Radio broadcasts, classical recital tours, and jazz combo tours and gigs).

Dean is honored to have received teaching and performance-based awards including the Saskatchewan Jazz Festival’s Special Recognition Award, Downbeat Magazine’s Student Arranger’s Award, University of Saskatchewan’s Student’s Union Teaching Excellence Award and Dept. of Music Dwayne Nelson Teaching Award. Dean is incredibly proud of his past students who went on to occupy positions in Canadian professional orchestras, jazz & commercial bands, and, who established careers as professional music educators.

As a soloist Dean has performed with many student, university, and professional music ensembles such as the National Youth Band of Canada, the Western Canadian Music Awards (Classical Showcase Concerts), Sweetwater Music Festival, and, at the University’s of Lethbridge, Alberta, Manitoba, Brandon, Washington, Auburn, SUNNY Potsdam, etc. Dean was recently featured as a performer on the Western Canadian Music Award’s award-winning CD O Music and on the WCMA-nominated CD Complete Rebirth of the Cool.

Dean is currently the Artistic Director of the Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra (saskatoonjazzorchestra.com), he has been a proud member of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra since 1998, he has coordinated of the Saskatchewan Jazz Festival’s Jazz Intensive music education camp and the International Music Camp’s Faculty Jazz Ensemble for many years.

Crediting much of his professional success to a combination of diligence, positive musical role models & wonderful music teachers, and, a healthy dose of dumb luck, Dean is honored to have shared the stage professionally with the likes of *Jon Balantyne, *Tommy Banks, *David Braid, Bobby Caldwell, Dee Daniels, *Phil Dwyer, *Mark Fewer, Guy Few, *Hugh Fraser, Wycliffe Gordon, *Kelly Jefferson, *Ingrid Jensen, *Michael Kaeshammer, *Alastair Kay, *Jens Lindemann, Bob Mintzer, *PJ Perry, *Campbell Ryga, Denzal Sinclaire, *Brad Turner, and Carol Welsman (*=Juno award Winners).

For more information please visit: http://artsandscience.usask.ca/profile/DMcNeill#/profile

Dinah Helgeson (Choral)

yeg choral

Dinah Lindberg Helgeson attended college at Pacific Lutheran University and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education. While at PLU, Dinah was member and soprano soloist with “The Choir of the West” under the direction of Dr. Maurice Skones. Dinah pursued graduate studies at University of Southern California where she studied with Dr. Rod Eichenberger. Dinah spent nine years as Head of Fine Arts and the High school Choir director at the International School Bangkok, Thailand.

Ms Helgeson taught vocal music in the state of Washington and Montana and was a familiar vocal/choral clinician and guest conductor. Dinah isin demand as a guest conductor and choral clinician across the United States, Canada, and Southeast Asia. She has conducted numerous All-State Choir festivals throughout the United States. Dinah lives in Washington State.

Carrie Tennant (Choral)

whistler festival adjudicator

Carrie Tennant is the Artistic Director and founder of the Vancouver Youth Choir. Carrie began her career as a high school choir, building a nationally recognized choral program at Maple Ridge Secondary School before deciding to pursue graduate studies in choral conducting in 2009. From 2009-2012 Carrie directed the Vancouver Chor Leoni MYVoice Choir and the Sarah McLachlan Youth Choir. In 2012, Carrie worked as the assistant conductor to Diane Loomer, and in that role, conducted Chor Leoni in several major performances. In January of 2013 Carrie was selected to succeed Diane as Artistic Director of EnChor.

Currently, on top of her work with Vancouver Youth Choir and EnChor, Carrie is the conductor of the award-winning Coastal Sound Youth Choir, and Associate Artistic Director of Coastal Sound Music Academy. Under Carrie’s direction, Coastal Sound has been featured on CBC Radio, and this summer will be the subject of documentary for Telus Optik TV. Repeated award winners at the National Music Festival, in 2013 Coastal Sound was awarded first place in the youth choir category at the ACCC National Competition for Amateur Choirs, and was chosen, along with Elektra Women’s Choir, to represent Canada at the 2013 Chorus America Conference. In 2013, Carrie founded the Vancouver Youth Choir. This season, the choir will be an Associate Choir of the Vancouver Chamber Choir and will perform with them at three season concerts.

Carrie is an Affliate Conductor with the Vancouver Chamber Choir, an Artist-in-Residence with the Vancouver School Board, and is a frequent clinician, adjudicator and retreat facilitator across Canada. A passionate advocate for building and sustaining community among BC choirs and conductors, in 2010 she helped found the "BC Choral Mentorship Project": a collective that brings together expert speakers/conductors with choral directors for master classes, discussion groups and lectures. In 2008, Carrie was the recipient of the BCCF Youth Achievement Award for distinguished support of choral music in British Columbia.

Carrie also tours, performs and records as a member of Vancouver-based indie-pop group, the Salteens (Boompa Records).

Andrea Ramsey (Choral)

whistler festival adjudicator

Dr. Andrea Ramsey enjoys an international presence as a composer, conductor, scholar, and music educator. Her teaching experiences range from work with adolescent and children's voices to high school and collegiate voices. She enjoys regular opportunities to conduct all-state and divisional level honor choirs, festival events at Carnegie Hall, and serves as a principal conductor for the Pacific International Young Women's Choral Festival in Eugene, Oregon. Before leaping into full time composing and guest conducting, Andrea held positions in music education and conducting at The Ohio State University and the University of Colorado, respectively.

An ASCAPlus award-winning composer, Andrea believes strongly in the creation of new works. Her compositions are available with traditional publishers and also through MusicSpoke, a digital sheetmusic marketplace. She enjoys residency collaborations with ensembles and festival choirs, some of which have included: the Allegro Choirs of Kansas City, Ithaca College, and the Crescent City Choral Festival in New Orleans.

As a scholar, she has presented for state, divisional, and national conventions of the American Choral Directors Association, the 6th Annual Symposium on Sociology in Music Education, as well as The Phenomenon Singing Symposium in St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada. She has co-authored articles published in the Choral Journal, as well as the Journal of Research in Music Education. A native of Arkansas, she has experienced in her own life the power of music to provide a sense of community, better understanding of our humanity, and rich opportunities for self-discovery.

2019 Festival Adjudicators:

  • Jennifer Lang (Choral)
  • Graeme Langager (Choral)
  • Benila Ninan (Choral)
  • Scott Leithead (Choral)
  • Mark DeJong (Jazz Band)
  • Gareth Jones (Concert Band)
  • Dr. Christopher Bianco (Concert Band)
  • Gerard Morris (Concert Band)
  • Dr. Gordon Brock (Concert Band)
  • Dr. Angela Schroeder (Concert Band)
  • Dr. Gerald King (Concert Band)

2018 Festival Adjudicators:

  • Ray Baril (Concert Band)
  • James Smart (Concert Band)
  • Wendy Grasdahl (Concert Band)
  • Christin Reardon-MacLellan (Concert Band)
  • Angela Schroeder (Concert Band)
  • Larry Gookin (Concert Band)
  • Essi Wuorela (Choral)
  • Elise Bradley (Choral)
  • Andrew Withington (Choral)
  • Katy Luyk (Choral)
  • Joel Gray (Jazz Band)

2017 Festival Adjudicators:

  • Ray Baril (Concert Band)
  • Shelley Jagow (Concert Band)
  • Gillian Mackay (Concert Band)
  • Fraser Linklater (Concert Band)
  • Angela Schroeder (Concert Band)
  • Jeremy Brown (Concert Band)
  • Elroy Friesen (Choral)
  • Dinah Helgeson (Choral)
  • Dean McNeill (Jazz Band)

2016 Festival Adjudicators:

  • Jeremy Brown (Concert Band)
  • Angela Schroeder (Concert Band)
  • Gary Green (Concert Band)
  • Gordon Brock (Concert Band))
  • Dennis Beck (Concert Band)
  • Allan McMurray (concert band)
  • Christin Reardon MacLellan (Concert Band)
  • Jerrold Dubyk (Jazz Band)
  • Graeme Langager - UBC (Choral)
  • Lisa Ward (Choral)
  • Scott Leithead (Choral)
  • Dominic Gregorio (Choral)

2015 Festival Adjudicators:

  • Don Owens (Concert Band)
  • Robert Taylor - UBC (Concert Band)
  • Brian Unverricht (Concert Band)
  • Wendy Grasdahl(Concert Band)
  • Craig Brenan (Jazz Band)
  • Scott Leithead (Choral)
  • Benila Ninan (Choral)

2014 Festival Adjudicators:

  • Allan McMurray - University of Colorado (Concert Band)
  • Robert Taylor - UBC (Concert Band)
  • Rodney Dorsey - University of Oregon (Concert Band)
  • Tom Staples - University of Lethbridge (Concert Band)
  • Joel Gray - MacEwan University (Jazz Band)
  • Kathleen Skinner (Choral)

2013 Festival Adjudicators:

  • Larry Gookin (concert band)
  • Dr. Mark Hopkins (concert band)
  • Don Owens (concert band)
  • Dr. Angela Schroeder (concert band)
  • Larry L. Schrum (concert band)
  • Scott Leithead (choral)