Sandra Joy Friesen is a dynamic and versatile pianist maintaining a career of performance and education with a wide range of repertoire from classical to contemporary to modern improvisation. As an ambassador of Canadian music, she has performed in many countries, most recently Germany, France and the United States, and with orchestras in North America. She was invited by the Association for Canadian Studies in Mexico and in Brazil to represent the University of Alberta and Canadian composers in solo piano recitals. The recording projects she has been involved in feature solo and chamber music by Canadian composers, including Earth Songs (works by Stephen Chatman), which received a 2010 Western Canadian Classical Music Award. She currently collaborates with Dance Conspiracy (Jen Mesch) in Edmonton, and with studio artist Werner Friesen in performances that integrate music with visual art. She has toured through various parts of Canada, the United States and in Mexico, and given chamber recitals in concert societies, institutes and universities through Canada, the United States, England, Austria, Poland, Germany, and Slovenia.


Between 1992 and 2007, she was a faculty member of the music departments at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and Trinity Western University (Langley, BC), and music director for a recital series Sound Reflections and for three ensembles, including the Erato Ensemble (Vancouver, BC). She adjudicates regularly, offers workshops and lectures for all ages and types of audiences, and her dedication to music education is evident in her publications that address pedagogical and performance practice issues in contemporary music. Her major piano teachers were Jacques Després, Jane Coop, Jean Broadfoot, and Walter Thiessen. She has studied improvisation and free interpretation with Douglas Finch (London, England) as well as French piano music with Paul Roberts (Castelfranc Piano Summer School, France).


Sandra Joy’s doctoral work at the University of Alberta has been focused on creating an educational resource highlighting mid-century experimental Canadian works, and has been recognized by the highest ranks of support in Canada. She received numerous scholarships and awards to complete the Doctor of Music; among them, an Honorary Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Scholarship, the President’s Prize of Distinction, an Andrew Stewart Memorial prize for research, promotion and academic merit, the Margaret McWilliams Pre-Doctoral Fellowship from the Canadian Federation of University Women, and a Dissertation Completion Award from the Kule Institute for Advanced Study.

Her project works in the Culture, Media, Technology Research Theme.

Formalization of Twentieth-Century Piano Technique and Notation Exemplified in Canadian Compositions

Faculty of Arts, Department of Music

The performance and instruction of this practical-based research highlights Canadian piano compositions that illustrate this transformation. In the project, I address three areas that pose significant challenges for pianists.

1) Reading and interpretation of new notation that includes non-standardized music vocabulary consisting of symbols, graphic notation, pictures and instructions

2) Training and development of distinctive physical skills required for production of non-pianistic sounds and extended piano techniques

3) Understanding innovations in the means and modalities of communication and unconventional stylistic forms that have arisen in this twentieth-century musical experimentalism.

The completed project is a multi-faceted resource (literary-audio-video) that will be disseminated locally, nationally and internationally through performances, lecture-recitals, recordings, conference presentations, pedagogical publications, online education, and through my instructional work in Alberta and across Canada at music festivals, workshops and competitions. Further, this research is also a historical record of a portion of Canada's musical history and contributes to a preservation of a significant part of our Canadian musical culture.