Behind the Brand: Laurier Fagnan

A choral leader brings his best to developing musical voices — and research.


Laurier Fagnan is inspired by singers working together to create a rich and beautiful sound. 

Fagnan is a conductor and vocal coach born and raised in St. Paul, Alta., who has taught music at Campus Saint-Jean since 1994. He leads the Chorale Saint-Jean and established the Vocal Acoustics Laboratory, a first in Canada. He also delivers workshops to choirs around the world. 

His recent research has him working with U of A experts in computational fluid dynamics, optical imaging and infectious diseases to determine the risk of transmitting COVID-19 through singing

His most recent role was in the new U of A brand story video that features campus innovators who lead with purpose.

Why he does what he does

“It is to empower students. When they understand the foundational principles, techniques and sensations associated with listening, feeling, interpreting and expressing music, they have the tools to hone their craft over the long term.  

“When students sing in a group and hear that sheer gorgeousness of sound that is perfectly aligned with what the composer meant, they all look at each other, amazed. They are feeling the magic.” 

Inspired by amazing mentors

“I had important mentors. Leonard Ratzlaff was the head of choral singing at the university for 40 years. He was a guru; the students were like his disciples. Laurier Levasseur, ’71 BEd, taught me music from Grade 1 to Grade 12 in St. Paul, [Alta.] He encouraged me to love and pursue music as a career.”

Like the movies!

“I was asked to participate in the brand story video to offer a fine arts perspective and was happy to be an ambassador for the campus. We filmed on a Sunday morning for 1.5 hours — after editing, I am in the video for about 20 seconds. I suggested I bring along a score and my baton; you can see me tap the score at one point.

I was also asked to sing quietly or to say some words aloud about conducting. You can see my lips move in the video, but my voice never made the final cut. I was surprised when they said, “Lights, camera, action.” I thought that was only in the movies!”

Creating musical harmony

“Whether it is a Renaissance piece or a modern composition, there is always an opportunity to express a slightly different sound, tone or pitch. When people come together in artistic expression, they also bond emotionally. It doesn’t matter if you are a neurosurgeon or a truck driver, the common goal becomes achieving musical harmony. Music is the great equalizer.”