MCMA Brings music to the U of W

Music education on campus is possible outside of formal programs

Illustration by Gabrielle Funk

If a student wants somewhere to practice with their band, they can do it on campus at the University of Winnipeg (U of W). But if that same student wanted a formal music degree, they would have to look elsewhere.

Sarah Jo Kirsch is a graduate of the University of Manitoba (U of M) music program who earned a degree in vocal performance. She enjoyed her time there, but she worries that music programs, and liberal arts programs in general, need more support to thrive.

“I think that liberal arts colleges in general are being squashed,” Kirsch says. “The first thing that goes when times are tight are things that aren’t seen as practical. 

“Having that presence of art, of the first human, reactive art, all of these systems we’ve created are mirrored in our music.”

Currently there is no way to get a degree in music at the U of W. The university has a few programs around cultural studies and the history of art, but nothing like the U of M or the Canadian Mennonite University. 

Still, there is a musical presence here on campus.

Norine Harty and Renise Mlodzinski are the executive director and music director, respectively, of the Manitoba Conservatory of Music and Arts (MCMA). Since the MCMA partnered with the U of W in 2014, Harty and Mlodzinski have worked hard to help those on campus discover a passion for music.

“Even if they don’t come here to study for a degree, they have an opportunity to be lifelong makers and lovers of music,” Mlodzinski says. 

The MCMA offers a few courses that are worth university credits, mostly music ensemble band or performance, as well as a few that focus on music theory. According to Harty and Mlodzinski, they are looking to expand what’s offered, but they’re currently sticking with the credit programs already available.

They offer other services as well, such as free band practice rooms for students and reduced rates for university students looking to take music lessons. Harty and Mlodzinski say that the response to the MCMA in the U of W has been great.

“I have gotten nothing but feedback saying that they wish the program had been here in their first or second year,” Mlodzinski says. “(A few people) have said they chose to come to the U of W because there’s a music presence here … there’s a culture of music.”

“We have some students who come here every day, twice a day, just to practice,” Harty says. “People who are in bands who need a refresher will come here and do that.” 

Learn more about the MCMA at

Published in Volume 71, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 19, 2017)

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