From an early age, Edmund Dawe knew that music would be his vocation. After seven years of what he describes as recreational piano, Edmund’s serious studies began at the age of fourteen with Andreas Barban in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Eight years later, when Edmund graduated from Memorial University with Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Music Education degrees, he was awarded the University Medal for Music. The teaching and guidance of pianists Neil van Allen and Maureen Volk greatly influenced his musical development during those years. Edmund was the recipient of several scholarships as well as the Senior Rose Bowl in the St. John’s Kiwanis Music Festival. He was selected for an undergraduate external semester program at City University and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, UK where he studied with James Gibb. The opportunity to live in London and hear many of the world’s greatest classical musicians was a life-changing inspiration.
Edmund went on to complete a Master of Music degree (Piano Performance and Literature, 1984) at Western University with Ronald Turini, pupil of the legendary Vladimir Horowitz, and then earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree (Piano Performance, 1988) from the University of British Columbia with Robert Silverman. Edmund was the recipient of major graduate awards at both Western and UBC. He was the first music graduate from Memorial University to earn a doctorate, and one of the first two pianists at UBC to complete the Doctor of Musical Arts program.
That same year, Edmund was chosen internationally to participate in a summer program in France with renowned pianist Cécile Ousset, and subsequently continued private studies with Madame Ousset. Edmund’s education provided a broad international framework for his career in piano performance and pedagogy. His teachers came from diverse performance traditions, and this formed the basis of Edmund’s main research interest: international perspectives on the pianist’s art. His research has taken him to the British Library in London, the Newberry Library in Chicago, the International Piano Archives in College Park, MD, the Juilliard Archives, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, and the Rachmaninoff Archives at the Library of Congress.
From the outset, Edmund’s career aspirations were to combine piano performance with university teaching. While completing the doctoral program at UBC, Edmund obtained his first university position at Memorial University in 1986 as a visiting assistant professor. This launched a career spanning over three decades where his teaching inspired many students who have gone on to careers as solo and collaborative performers, music educators and private teachers, arts administrators, university professors, and includes many outstanding arts community supporters and volunteers. Edmund’s university career included a second year at Memorial University (1987-88), and appointments at Laurentian University (1988-90), Mount Allison University (1990-2007), and the University of Manitoba (2007-2018).
In addition to his teaching and administrative responsibilities, Edmund maintained an impressive profile as a performer, earning critical praise for his technical command of the piano and engaging artistry. His career includes many performances as a solo and collaborative pianist in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. His recordings and performances have been featured on CBC Radio broadcasts, as well as New York City’s WQXR and Chicago’s WFMT. La Scena Musicale has described Edmund’s playing as “sensitive, engaging and virtuoso”. Two of his recordings, one solo and one piano duo with colleague Lynn Johnson, were nominated for an East Coast Music Award (Best Classical). At Mount Allison University, Edmund was twice recipient of a Paul Paré Award for Excellence. He was a founding member of the Atlantic Arts Trio with colleagues Carolyn Hart (soprano) and Paul Bendzsa (clarinet). For over 15 years, the ensemble toured internationally and commissioned many original compositions and arrangements from some of Canada’s leading composers. Edmund also received numerous university research grants and awards as well as grants from provincial arts councils, the Canada Council, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and the Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent on Records (F.A.C.T.O.R.).
Edmund’s influence as a teacher extended well beyond his studio and classroom. He has adjudicated piano classes in over 30 Canadian competitive music festivals (local, provincial, and national) from Whitehorse, Yukon to St. John’s, Newfoundland. His work as a piano examiner in Atlantic Canada enabled him to identify and encourage emerging talents. Edmund has also served as a judge for the Juno Awards (Best Classical). An engaging speaker, Edmund is a frequent presenter at local, national, and international piano pedagogy conferences including the Canadian Federation of Music Teachers’ Association National Conference, the World Piano Pedagogy Conference, and the Australian National Piano Pedagogy Conference.
It was at Mount Allison University that Edmund first accepted an administrative role and served as head of the Department of Music from 1997-2003. Under his leadership, the Department continued to build upon a tradition of excellence through academic and facilities renewal. As a tireless advocate, fundraiser, and community builder, Edmund appointed new faculty, upgraded facilities, and replaced an aging inventory of musical instruments.
In 2007, Edmund was recruited in an international search for a dean of the Faculty of Music at the University of Manitoba. He served from 2007-2018, leading the Faculty through a period of growth and the construction of a major building project combining the renovation of historic Taché Hall with new state-of-the-art facilities. The final phase of a multi-year project is the Desautels Concert Hall. This will complete over $75 million in space renewal for the Desautels Faculty of Music, now home to the most modern university music facilities in Canada.
Enrolment increased significantly during Edmund’s deanship and there were numerous academic and support staff appointments. He led the implementation of the Bachelor of Jazz Studies program, and the development and approval of an innovative Bachelor of Music in Music Education program.
Under Edmund’s leadership, the Faculty was the recipient of one of the largest gifts by a single benefactor to a university music program in Canada, a $20 million donation from Marcel A. Desautels and his Creditel Canada Foundation in 2008. The same year, a $1 million gift from the Asper Foundation established the Babs Asper Professorship in Jazz Performance, the first endowed Music Professorship in the history of the University of Manitoba. A $1 million gift from Dr. Bonnie Buhler established the Dr. Bonnie Buhler Graduate Scholarships in Music. Most recently, a $2.5 million donation from Dr. Michael Nesbitt reached the fundraising goal to proceed with construction of the Desautels Concert Hall, the final phase of new facilities for the Desautels Faculty of Music.
During Edmund’s terms as dean (2007-2018), endowments in support of student awards and faculty research and creative works increased from $2.1 million to $17.9 million. Currently, approximately 70% of music students at the University of Manitoba hold scholarships and assistantships, enabling them to focus on their studies and develop their talents. Students and alumni are winning local, provincial, national, and international competitions and awards. Increased support for faculty research and performance resulted in members of the Desautels Faculty of Music being active as performers, conductors, composers, and scholars in over 20 countries. Since 2007, faculty awards include grants from the Manitoba Arts Council, the Canada Council, Juno nominations, an Opera Canada Ruby Award, the Queen’s Jubilee Medal, the Claude V. Palisca Award in Musicology, and inductees into the Royal Society of Canada.
Edmund has been described as a community builder. His commitment to collaboration and connections proliferated with music educators, alumni and the wider community of arts organizations and supporters. During his years in Manitoba, exciting collaborations were established and built with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the WSO New Music Festival, Manitoba Opera, the Manitoba Band Association, and the Manitoba Choral Association to name a few. These have created exceptional synergies and opportunities for faculty and students. Throughout his career, Edmund attended hundreds of student and faculty performances to offer support and encouragement to developing musicians and to his colleagues.
In 2018, Edmund retired from the University of Manitoba and was appointed Dean Emeritus. He now devotes his time to performance, teaching and adjudicating, lecturing, and continued research on international perspectives in piano pedagogy and performance. His podcast, For Piano Teachers, was launched in February 2021 and now has listeners and subscribers in 86 countries. Edmund also serves as a member of the Board of Symphony New Brunswick.
Edmund and his wife Karla, an organist and visual artist, now reside in Alma, New Brunswick. Located at the entrance to Fundy National Park, the stunning natural setting of the village of Alma is a primary destination for tourism in Atlantic Canada. In addition to their professional activities, Edmund and Karla enjoy hiking, biking and spending time with their three adult children and spouses, and four grandchildren.
Edmund also serves as a Board member of Friends of Fundy, an organization whose goal is to enhance public awareness and appreciation of the natural and cultural heritage of Fundy National Park and increase engagement in the surrounding area.