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Thomas Performs with the Edmonton Singing Christmas Tree Orchestra

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Thomas has been playing in the Edmonton Singing Christmas Tree Orchestra for the past 10 seasons. The 2019 Singing Christmas Tree was the last Singing Christmas Tree show after 50 years of Edmonton Singing Christmas Tree performances. After 5 sold out shows at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium in December 2019, the Singing Christmas Tree was taken down for the last time.

This talent-studded evening consisted of dancing Santas, ballerinas, Christmas classics, and most impressively – a 35-foot singing Christmas tree of 150 choir members.

The Singing Christmas Tree was Edmonton’s most inspiring and charitable Christmas event of the year. Every December, the Singing Christmas Tree raised funds in support of the John Cameron Changing Lives Foundation.


George Andrix Workshop and Canadian Music Concert

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Edmonton composer George Andrix wrote 10 Pieces for Violin and Piano, Exploring the 20th Century for the Emerging Violinist. These pieces have been a focus in our lessons for October and November, and on the afternoon of November 16 Thomas’  violin and viola students from his Edmonton studio as well as several of his students from the Augustana Conservatory of Music participated in a workshop with Mr. Andrix on his 10 Pieces for Violin and Piano. In the workshop we covered all 10 of the pieces, and students had the opportunity to work with the composer to refine their performances and hear some of the musical and pedagogical inspiration for the pieces.


That evening in celebration of Canada Music Week, the Schoen Duo Studio presented a concert of music by Canadian composers.  Featured composers included George Andrix, Violet Archer, Emilie Cecilia LaBel, Murray Adaskin, Charles Stolte, John Weinzweig and Paul Steenhuisen.  Performances were by Thomas and Kathleen Schoen, Dorothy Beyer on recorder and piano, and violin, viola, flute and recorder students from the Schoen Duo Studio and the Augustana Conservatory of Music.

Here is a short video of our performance of several of the 10 Pieces for Violin and Piano by George Andrix. To hear a recording of all 10 of the pieces click here.

Schoen Duo Amsterdam and Utrecht Research Trip

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I was very fortunate to travel to the Netherlands and visit Amsterdam and Utrecht from October 17 to 29. Kathleen and I researched and collected material for a program we are developing about Jacob van Eyck and his contemporaries. Jacob van Eyck was a carillon and recorder player in Utrecht during the Dutch golden age. We were able climb the tower of the Utrecht cathedral and see one of the carillons that van Eyck played. We heard a concert by the current carillon player on this carillon and also visited the church yard where van Eyck became famous for playing his recorder on summer evenings.

We were also able to have a walking tour of Utrecht with Jacob van Eyck scholar, Thiemo Wind. We gained wonderful insights into 17th century Utrecht and the music of the Dutch Golden Age, as well as much background of life and times Jacob Van Eyck.




In addition to this research I also attended workshops and masterclasses on creating and improvising divisions and diminutions, the kind of variation technique that van Eyck is known for, and a style similar to the variation of the La Folia by Corelli in Suzuki Violin Book 6.


I attended a masterclass and concert by the Spanish recorder player and specialist in baroque improvisation Vincente Parrilla. In the masterclass he worked with pre-professional students who were improvising and writing their own divisions on songs of the late Renaissance and early Baroque periods. His concert featured his own divisions based on the treatise of Ganassi from the mid 1500s in Venice.






I also attended a teachers’ day where the topic was teaching improvisation. While some of the discussion focused on improvising in historical styles, a substantial part of the day was devoted to free improvisation on any instruments. The keynote speaker for the day was Jostien Gundersen who teachers improvisation at the Grieg Academy at the University of Bergen in Norway.





I plan to explore many of the ideas I picked up in my own practice, but will also be working with some of the ideas and materials with students in lessons and classes in the coming while.

Thomas receives 25 year long service award from Augustana Faculty of U. of A.

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A long service award for 25 year of teaching at the Augustana Faculty of U. of A. was presented in absentia and received on Thomas’ behalf by 3rd year violin student in the B. Mus. comprehensive program, Abigail Milgate.

The award was presented by Ardelle Reis, Director of Music, with the following words:

It is an honour to have this opportunity to recognize our dedicated and innovative string teacher within the Augustana Conservatory, Thomas Schoen.
In evidence of his commitment to professional development and to the expansion of research horizons that inform his creative work, this award is presented in absentia. Thomas is, as I speak, on an airplane flying home from a research trip in Holland where he was investigating the 17th century Dutch composer, Jakob van Eyck. Abigail Milgate, a violinist in his studio and third year BMus comprehensive student will accept the award on Thomas’ behalf.
About Thomas: Thomas is an exemplary teacher, teaching students of all ages from early years to adult.
He is a Registered Teacher with the Suzuki Association of the Americas and was the 2018 recipient of the Teacher of Distinction Award from Canada’s Royal Conservatory of Music.
Thomas has had much pedagogical success with generations of students from the Camrose community; in particular, one conservatory alum, Ethan Harty, is the recent winner of the 2019 Canadian Grand Masters Fiddle Competition.
Thomas is the Director of the Alberta Summer Suzuki Institute in Edmonton, the largest teacher-training institute of its kind in Western Canada.

In line with the vision for future Augustana music offerings, Thomas’ pedagogical knowledge will be shared in the 2020 Winter Term in a special Augustana Conservatory professional development workshop in the Suzuki philosophy for pre- service and in-service music educators in our community and beyond.
As a performer, Thomas is very active, especially with the flute and violin Schoen Duo. Along with his musical and life partner Kathleen Schoen—also an Augustana conservatory instructor—the Schoen Duo travels the province with a mandate to make classical music accessible to one and all in K-12 school residencies.
Thomas’ extensive and diverse performance interests also embrace new music and composition. In July 2018 the Schoen Duo received a $10,000 grant from the Edmonton Heritage Foundation and the Edmonton Arts Council to create a piece of sound art. The River Crossing Soundscape Project premiered in late November last year: natural and human made sounds were recorded in the area, featuring musics of Indigenous peoples with a group of Cree drummers and singers from Maskwacis, alongside music of the Metis and European settlers.
We are proud of Thomas’ many and varied achievements and are grateful for his creative spirit, commitment, dedication and belief in what is possible with our university and community conservatory.
Please join Abigail and our music division as we celebrate the many miles traveled between Edmonton & Camrose through the 25 years of Thomas Schoen!

Ethan Harty wins 2019 Canadian Grand Master Fiddle Competition

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Ethan Harty began his violin/fiddle studies at the Augustana Conservatory of Music with Thomas Schoen in 2011.  From 2011 through 2014 he was a Suzuki violin student and mastered the skills and pieces in Suzuki violin books 1 and 2.  He loved fiddle music, but he and his mom practiced carefully to develop his aural, musical and violin playing skills following the Suzuki Method under Thomas’ careful instruction.

During his Suzuki violin years he also attended the Camp Calvin fiddle camp in St. Paul where he learned fiddling from Calvin Volrath, Mark Sullivan, and Daniel Gervais who became his ‘fiddle heroes’ and with whom he continued his studies.

When he was 12 years old, Ethan recorded an album of mostly traditional old time fiddle tunes titled “Steaming Strings” released in January 2015.  The album was recorded and produced by Ethan’s fiddle hero, Calvin Vollrath, at his home studio in St. Paul, AB.

Ethan has gone on to play in many festivals and contests.  Preparing for these events allowed him to set goals, advance and master skills and technique. Ethan has been awarded prizes in many of these competitions: Alberta Open Fiddle Champion 2016, Grand North American Old Time Fiddle Champion 2019, and a finalist at the CGM Fiddle Competition in 2017 & 2018 receiving the Ward Allen Memorial Trophy for Best Old Time Waltz at the CGM for both of those years.

When Ethan was invited to compete at the 2019 Canadian Grand Masters (CGM) Fiddle Competition in Abbotsford, BC, an invitational competition extended to the top fiddlers across Canada, he contacted Thomas Schoen to help him prepare for the contest. In his early studies Ethan’s mom remembers Thomas saying “if you learn only fiddle tunes you will be limited to only playing fiddle tunes, if you learn to master the instrument you will be able to play fiddle tunes and anything else you want.” It was this idea of mastering the instrument that brought Ethan back to Augustana to study with Thomas for the 2019 winter term.

Melding his studies with Thomas with diligent practice and his drive and determination to succeed, Ethan went on to become the youngest fiddle player (at age 17) to win the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddle Championship.

Ethan has recently completed recording his second album which will be released in the fall of 2019.

In addition to being an excellent fiddle player Ethan is also a blacksmith and certified Steam Power Engineer. To find out more about Ethan’s current activities please visit him at www.ethanhartyfiddle.com and www.ethanhartyblacksmith.com