Profile by Petra Cegielny and Stewart Prest, submitted 2012
When people study classical music, their teachers give them pieces to study and to perform. Nick Howells’ experience was no different through much of his Bachelor of Music program at Augustana, but after he completed his degree, he was asked to compose a piece of music himself.
“Milton [Schlosser] was really interested in my background, my aboriginal heritage, and he suggested writing something that reflects that,” said Nick. The Métis musician from Cremona accepted the challenge. Fast forward one year and Nick listened to Milton perform the premiere of his piece, Crowfoot, in the Faith & Life Chapel. The piece then made its international debut in the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, Japan.
That experience in many ways epitomizes Nick's own experience at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus, a time dominated by daunting challenges and rewarding relationships.
Many of the connections he forged with friends and the faculty at Augustana he has maintained to this day. "I come from a small town, and the size of the community on campus was really appealing to me. I think there were only 900 students or so when I arrived, so you could really get to know almost everyone on campus.
"With class sizes so small, you really get to know professors on a personal level. I've been able to continue those relationships, and in a lot of cases they've become my friends."
At the same time, the challenges were real, though each was an opportunity to learn. “You don't always meet with success, but when you are able to accomplish what you're trying to do, there's an enormous satisfaction.”
Having Crowfoot performed stands out as a special memory. “It was a tremendous experience to have my music performed like that,” says Nick.
Nick now has his own studio in Red Deer, where he teaches music theory and composition, along with piano. He also sings and plays keyboard in one of Red Deer’s local rock bands. Even so, he still finds time to work on his own compositions. “I’ve got a recital’s worth of music written,” Nick smiles. “Now it’s just a matter of learning to play it properly.”
Once he does, Augustana might be treated to another world premiere.