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In partnership with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and in collaboration with Shkaabe Makwa—the Centre for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Wellness—CAMH patients will work with Cree composer Andrew Balfour and members of the TSO to compose a piece that will receive its première in 2024 at CAMH and at Roy Thomson Hall in April 2025. 

Under the guidance of CAMH’s Shkaabe Makwa (“Spirit Bear Helper” Centre for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Wellness), Art of Healing brings together traditional knowledge and medical expertise in the establishment of a culturally safe space to support patients’ mental well-being.

Art of Healing began in 2022 and is part of the TSO’s slate of health and well-being initiatives intended to reach more age groups, people with different abilities, and more diverse communities in Toronto.

The 2022/23 Art of Healing creation, Ikiru by Ian Cusson will receive its première with the TSO on June 6, 8, and 9, 2024 at Roy Thomson Hall. For more information about the concert and to buy tickets, visit the concert listing.

The Art of Healing program is generously supported by The Azrieli Foundation

Art of Healing: A Program in Collaboration with Shkaabe Makwa at CAMH


Andrew Balfour

Art of Healing Composer (2023/24)

Of Cree descent, (member of Fisher River First Nation) Toronto based composer Andrew Balfour is an innovative composer/conductor/singer/sound designer with a large body of choral, instrumental, electro-acoustic and orchestral works, including; Take the Indian (A Vocal reflection on Missing Children), Empire Étrange: The Death of Louis Riel, Migiis: A Whiteshell Soundscape, Bawajigaywin (Vision Quest)Gregorioʼs Nightmare, Wa Wa Tey Wak (Northern Lights), Fantasia on a Poem by Rumi, Missa Brevis and Medieval Inuit, Quamaniq, Manitou Sky-An orchestral tone poem. His new Indigenous Opera, Mishaboozʼs Realm was recently premiered in Montreal and Halliburton, Ontario, commissioned by LʼAtelier Lyrique de Opéra de Montréal and Highlands Opera Workshop. He has also been commissioned by the Winnipeg, Regina and Toronto Symphony Orchestras, Tafelmusik, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Ensemble Caprice, Groundswell, the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra, the Winnipeg Singers, the Kingston Chamber Choir and Camerata Nova, Luminous Voices, and Chronos Vocal Ensemble among many others. His works have been performed and/or broadcast locally, nationally and internationally.

Andrew has also worked and collaborated with many of Canadaʼs leading Indigenous musicians. In 2010, he wrote a major orchestral work called Oscana, for Buffy Sainte-Marie and the Regina Symphony Orchestra. He has worked and collaborated extensively with artists such as Jeremy Dutcher, Cris Derksen, Tara Louise Montour, Lindsay ‘Eekwolʼ Knight, Eliot Britten, Madeline Alakkariallak, Sylvia Cloutier, Sheryl Sewepagaham, Walter White Bear MacDonald, Melody McKivor, Sonny Day-Rider, Vince Fontaine, and bands Eagle and Hawk and Indian City. He has collaborated with award winning Indigenous writers such as Katerina Vermette and Dr. Duke Redbird. In 2017, while writing and performing in his Indigenous opera, Mishaboozʼs Realm, he worked and was advised by Mohawk elder from Kahnawake, Kevin Deer. As well, he has worked with non-classical artists and dancers such as Brian Solomon, Patti Shaughnessy, and Mariana Medellin. In 2018, Andrew took part in the Indigenous Classical Music summit at the Banff Centre for the Arts, and after COVID-19 restrictions, will co-lead this summit with Cris Derksen in December of 2021.

Andrew is also the founder and Artistic Director of the innovative, 14-member vocal group Dead of Winter (formally known as Camerata Nova), now in its 22nd year of offering a concert series in Winnipeg. With Dead of Winter, Andrew specializes in creating “concept concerts”, many with indigenous subject matter (Wa Wa Tey Wak (Northern Lights), Medieval Inuit, Chant!). These innovative offerings explore a theme through an eclectic array of music, including new works, arrangements and innovative inter-genre and interdisciplinary collaborations.

Andrew has become increasingly passionate about music education and outreach, particularly on northern reserves and inner city Winnipeg schools where he has worked on behalf of the National Arts Centre, Dead of Winter, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and various Winnipeg school divisions for the past eight years.

Andrew was Curator and Composer-in-Residence of the WSOʼs Indigenous Festivals in 2009 and 2010, and in 2007 received the Mayor of Winnipegʼs Making a Mark Award, sponsored by the Winnipeg Arts Council to recognize the most promising midcareer artist in the City. In 2017 he was awarded the Canadian Senate Gold Medal for artistic achievement.

In the past 18 months, during the COVID-19 lockdown, Andrew has been active as a presenter and online mentor for many organizations, including The Amadeus Choir of Toronto as a composer mentor for their online Choral Creation Lab. He has also done numerous presentations on diversity and de-colonizing choral repertoire on zoom for University of Toronto, University of Manitoba, The Vancouver Bach Choir, The University of Alberta, The University of Regina, Chorus America, The University of Southern California, Acadia University and the University de Montreal. As well, Andrew is a founding member of the Highlands Opera Racial Equity Advisory Council, established in August, 2020.

Ian Cusson

Program Advisor (2023/24), Art of Healing Composer (2022/23)

Métis composer Ian Cusson will be returning to the Art of Healing program as Program Advisor. He is a composer of art song, opera and orchestral work. Of Métis (Georgian Bay Métis Community) and French Canadian descent, his work explores the Canadian Indigenous experience, including the history of the Métis people, the hybridity of mixed-racial identity, and the intersection of Western and Indigenous cultures. 

He studied composition with Jake Heggie (San Francisco) and Samuel Dolin, and piano with James Anagnoson at the Glenn Gould School. He is the recipient of the Chalmers Professional Development Grant, and grants through the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, the Canada Council, Ontario Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Council. 

Ian was an inaugural Carrefour Composer-in-Residence with the National Arts Centre Orchestra from 2017 to 2019 and was Composer-in-Residence for the Canadian Opera Company from2019 to 2021. He is a Co-artistic Director of Opera in the 21st Century at the Banff Centre and the recipient of the 2021 Jan V. Matejcek Classical Music Award from SOCAN and the 2021 Johanna Metcalf Performing Arts Prize. Ian is an Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre and a member of the Canadian League of Composers. 

He lives in Collingwood with his wife and four children.