Rena Sharon, Pianist
Born in Montreal, Canada, Rena Sharon began her life in chamber music at the age of eight. Her early studies were with Professor Dorothy Morton, and she continued her training at the Eastman School and Indiana University. Principal teachers were Menahem Pressler and Gyorgy Sebok, Janos Starker, and Joseph Gingold. Called “one of the finest musicians of her generation”, and a “national treasure”, she began concertizing throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe at the age of 19. In 1987 she was awarded “Best Pianist” diploma at the International Voice Competition of Rio de Janeiro. The Vancouver Sun described her as “By turns dreamer, adventurer, warrior, and wanderer… few pianists can match the deep compassion of her playing…Sharon captures it all”. Among Canada’s foremost chamber musicians, she has collaborated in recital with many distinguished artists including Ben Heppner, Steven Isserlis, Gary Hoffman, Scott St. John, Pamela Frank, Steven Dann, Kevin MacMillan, Richard Margison, Marina Piccinini, James Somerville, Lara St. John, Martin Beaver, James Ehnes, Susan Platts, Benjamin Butterfield, Wendy Neilsen, Brett Polegato. Recent performances include the Vocal Arts Society at the Kennedy Centre in Washington, DC, the Dalai Lama International Summit for Peace in Vancouver, Jazz at Lincoln Centre, Rockefeller University in New York City, and Ladies Morning Musical in Montreal. She was a mentor for the 2010 Banff Fall Artists Residency.
In addition to her concert schedule, Ms. Sharon also lectures extensively about Art Song topics and Chamber Music. “I Love Lieder”, her popular lecture/recital, is an introduction to the collaborative interaction of poetic and musical language in the Art Song genre. She has collaborated with Dr. Michelle Le Baron, Prof. of Dispute Resolution at UBC Law and has presented at the Whistler Summit on Collaborative Governance, the CRANE seminar for mediators, and the International Association of Collaborative Legal Professionals. Her interest in cross-disciplinary dialogue and Music/Science research interaction led her to produce an Exploratory Workshop entitled “Art Song Anima – ambiguities, authenticities, auguries” at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies at UBC in 2007. The meeting was a convergence of musicians, poets, musicologists, philosophers, composers, music neuroscientists, cognitive scientists, physicians, and music therapists. She has also presented at the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind, and the 2011 International Performance Science Conference in Toronto. She is a Co-Investigator in the current SSHRC MCRI: “Advancing Interdisciplinary Research in Singing” for which Dr. Annabel Cohen ( UPEI Dept. of Psychology) is the Principal Investigator, and a collaborator on a SSHRC SRG held by Dr. Eric Vatikiotis-Bateson which includes studies in gesture cognition in Art Song performance.
As an advocate of innovative performance genres for Art Song, Ms. Sharon created a company of singers and pianists in 1994 called The Song Circle, for which she developed a genre called Art Song Theatre which has drawn reviews such as, “if lieder are ever to gain a larger audience, this is the way to do it. What a revelation.” From 1994-2004 Song Circle performed hundreds of recitals, lectures, and theatre works in venues such as the CBC, Festival Vancouver/Musicfest, the Vancouver International Writers Festival, The Seattle Chamber Music Festival Winter Series.
In 2006 Ms. Sharon assembled a Canadian team of singers, collaborative pianists, and song scholars to create the Vancouver International Song Institute, a groundbreaking project hosted at UBC for the interdisciplinary research, study and performance of Art Song and other song genres. VISI highlights the study of song as a global fundament of human expressivity and a gateway to related studies in the humanities and sciences. Now in its 6th year, VISI is regarded as an international nexus of innovation in the Art Song realm. Ms. Sharon continues to preside as Artistic Director, and its distinguished faculty has included Graham Johnson, Susan Youens, Margo Garrett, Cameron Stowe, Tracy Dahl, Carol Webber, Kenneth Griffiths, Benjamin Butterfield, James Taylor, Scott McCoy, François LeRoux, Rosemarie Landry, J. J. Penna, and a large group of renowned performers, poets, composers, researchers, and scholars. VISI also hosts the month-long SONGFIRE Festival of Song, with over 30 concerts, lectures, and workshops for the public.
Through a collaboration with the UBC Department of Theatre and Film, VISI 2011 saw the launch of SONGFIRE Theatre, featuring the world’s first professional ensemble and programs for creation, training, and performance of Art Song Theatre works, co-directed with Professors Robert Gardiner, Tom Scholte, Gayle Shay (Vanderbilt) and with David Walsh (University of Minnesota), and other distinguished experts.
Ms. Sharon is also the Artistic Director of the Young Artist Experience, at UBC, an interdisciplinary summer program for teens combining intensive chamber music studies with explorations in other arts, sciences, humanities, and social responsibility. Its faculty is comprised of UBC music faculty and associates, and the Infinitus Ensemble, with guest faculty and visiting artists including Martin Beaver, Amanda Forsyth, Anton Nel, Scott St. John, Yegor Dyachkov, the Borromeo Quartet. Workshops facilitators have included University of Michigan Professor of Environmental Law Dr. Edward Parson, UBC Professor of Astrophysics Dr. Jaymie Matthews, UBC Professor of Genetics Dr. David Ng. YAE has collaborated with the Peace It Together, a film-making project for Israeli, Palestinian, and Canadian youth, and is linked to Artsway Healtharts Society, which brings music to palliative and hospital environments.
In 2005 and 2006 Ms. Sharon traveled to Rwanda for concerts and teaching at the Kigali Music School, National University in Butares, and performances in collaboration with Rwandan artists, under the auspices of the Canadian Consulate. The experience was chronicled in the Canadian literary journal “The Walrus”. “A Pianist in Rwanda” was written by Deborah Kirshner.
Currently the Professor of Collaborative Piano Studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, she is a recipient of the UBC Dean of Arts Award for teaching, research, and community outreach. She is a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies in 2011-2012.
Prof. Sharon is well-known to CBC radio audiences for interview and performance broadcast, and has recorded for Marquis, Finlandia, Atma, Brava, Summit, Sono, CBC-5000, and Boston Records.