Alumni of Note

Classic celebration

By Kris Foster

The idea for the Ritornello Chamber Music Festival first took shape in a pub in Budapest, Hungary.


photo by Deserae Evenson

“When I was studying at the Liszt Academy of Music, we would go to a pub down the street. In the basement people were drinking pints, smoking, playing cards and listening to a string quartet from the school play classical music by the likes of Beethoven and Bartok,” said pianist Jacqueline Woods (BMus’06), co-founder of the annual non-profit festival in Saskatoon.

“It was normal to hear that there,” she said of the informal setting showcasing the a style of music typically reserved for occasions of “restrictive formality.”

A few years later, Woods and violinist Carissa Klopoushak (BMus’04) were home in Saskatoon over the holidays. They had a coffee, got talking and decided to create Ritornello—Italian for “little return”—as a way to bring prairie musicians home to perform.

Four years ago when it was launched, Ritornello was the first chamber music festival in Saskatchewan; four years later, it is known for its fresh presentation of classical music performed by up-and-coming Canadian musicians in a non-traditional setting. “We bring a small group of musicians into a unique space and share our favourite classical music.”

The presentation is different and so is the reception, she continued. “It’s a little more accessible, and less formal. We are trying to build a new audience for classical music.” At Ritornello, the quiet palm claps of a traditional classical music concert have been replaced with “cheering, stomping, hollering and bopping along with the music,” she explained. “There is a special energy in the space. The audience wants to cheer. We take it seriously, of course, but it’s not as traditional.”

Moving into her fifth year organizing the festival, Woods has high hopes as she has seen year after year how “new listeners are shocked by how much they like the experience; innovative music in an innovative space.”

Part of its success, she continued, is that “Saskatoon is a city of festivals. We love the celebration of culture in this province. I am so glad to be home and to be from here and so proud of all the talent and high quality musicians in Saskatchewan. Why wouldn’t we have a chamber music festival? It’s an excuse to gather and appreciate.”

Ritornello 2013 will be held at the end of May.

Sound games = sound business

By Kris Foster

How do you go from playing drums on a cruise ship to being named to the Top Forty Under 40 list published by Business in Vancouver?


Photo credit: Goldtooth Creative Agency
Deus Ex: Human Revolution campaign images credit: Square Enix/Eidos-Montreal

Quite easily, actually, if you are Tyler Weiss (BEd’04) and have the idea and energy to start a full-service production studio and creative agency that specializes in marketing campaigns and trailers for AAA console video games.

“I played in a lot of bands during university and after graduating, I got work on cruise ships as a drummer. I went to Taiwan for three years and started a band, but I also did a lot of composition work,” explained Weiss from his recording studio at Goldtooth Creative Agency, the Vancouver-based company he co-founded with childhood friend Kody Sabourin in 2008.

From Taiwan, Weiss moved to Toronto to study sound engineering. “While I was there I always had it in my mind to move to Vancouver and start this company,” he explained. “I got a job working on the soundtrack for a video game trailer, then another and another.”

Those projects ultimately led to Goldtooth Creative Agency where Weiss is vice-president and audio director. Besides his leadership role with the company, his other responsibilities include all aspects of sound design. In the four years since its inception, the company has grown from six employees to 65, and offers full-service production and creative services for trailers, in-game cinematics as well as film, television and web production.

Company credits include top video game franchises like Deus Ex: Human Revolution, FIFA, NBA Live, Madden NFL and Resident Evil. The studio also designed album art for the band Splitting Adam that nabbed the company a Grammy nomination for Best Recording Package. The award, however, ended up going to David Byrne and Brian Eno.

As for landing a spot on the Top Forty Under 40 list, Weiss takes it in stride.

“I didn’t see myself as a business person. I just wanted to do cool stuff. But now that I do a lot more on the business side and realize how far we’ve come, it is easier to see it.”