Angela Gjurichanin, graduating with a Bachelor of Music (Honours) degree, performs the national anthem at 2019 Fall Convocation at Merlis Belsher Place. (Photo: Dave Stobbe)

From overseas to music degree for soprano

Five years ago, Angela Gjurichanin made a life-changing move from Macedonia to Canada with her family, without a firm grasp of English and without truly knowing what to expect.

However, one thing that she was sure of was following her dream of becoming an opera singer. This spring, she is graduating with a Bachelor of Music (Honours) degree from the University of Saskatchewan (USask), with memories to last a lifetime and with a world of opportunity ahead of her.

“I have to say that it has been much better than I could have ever imagined, because walking into the university for the first time, everything seemed so much bigger than I expected,” she said. “It was this huge campus and the buildings were like castles. But, being in the Department of Music, everyone was so supportive of me and it felt like family. Everything just felt right, like I was where I was meant to be.”

Gjurichanin has flourished at USask, quickly learning the language and adjusting to the climate, culture, city and campus. From singing at convocation and the President’s Residence to performing in the Saskatoon Music Festival and with the Saskatoon Opera, Gjurichanin has developed into a confident performer and a splendid soprano, according to music department head Dr. Gregory Marion (PhD).

Angela Gjurichanin. (Photo: Submitted)

Marion first met Gjurichanin at an open house for prospective USask students in fall of 2015, less than two weeks after she had arrived in Saskatoon from overseas.

“I remember that open house rather vividly,” said Marion. “She was there with her mother and they were both sitting quietly and did not seem to be engaging with anybody, so it was natural for me to go up and talk with them. I went on to have a couple of meetings with Angela where we talked about the program in great detail and even from that early stage, I was quite struck by her musical knowledge and her sense of focus. Right from the start, Angela seemed to have an incredible drive.”

Gjurichanin is grateful to have studied under the direction of voice professor Dr. Garry Gable (DMA) and sessional lecturer Kathleen Lohrenz Gable during her four years at USask, and will be forever indebted to Marion for his warm welcome and his guidance.

“I had just moved here and 10 days later I was there at the university at the open house, not knowing much English, but Dr. Marion was very helpful,” Gjurichanin said. “He was the first person that talked to me, even though I did not speak English very well at that time. He told me all about the program and introduced me to Dr. Gable, and it was surreal that it all happened so quickly.”

Gjurichanin began her studies in 2016 and this spring graduates as one of the top students in her class, a former dean’s honour roll member with an 85 per cent academic average this year. While she may not have the opportunity to walk across the stage to receive her degree in person—with Spring Convocation postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic—she is thankful that she was able to experience convocation on previous occasions.

“I am grateful that I had the chance to sing O Canada a couple of times at convocation, so maybe I did not get to experience convocation myself, but at least I was there to sing and support other students for their convocation,” she said. “I am happy that I had the chance to perform for them.”

Marion is quick to sing the praises of the talented young singer, and believes the sky is the limit for her.

“As with many of our students—all of our students in fact—I see a very bright future for Angela,” said Marion. “The work ethic is certainly there to enhance the innate ability that she has and the learned abilities that she has attained over these past four years. Angela has matured a lot, and that is recognizing the fact that she came here not lacking in terms of musical ability. It has been nice to see how all of that has blossomed.”

Gjurichanin currently has permanent resident status, but is applying for citizenship to officially make Canada her new home, along with her mother, father, brother, sister-in-law and husband. Now 23, the next step is moving on to take her master’s, after being accepted into Western University in London, Ont. However, there is no doubt where her heart lies now, and the indelible mark the city and the campus have left on her.

“I loved my time at the university and for me Saskatoon feels like my new hometown,” she said. “It was the people who made me feel that I belong here. And I will always look for the opportunity to come back home here.”

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