Dr. Jennifer Lang (PhD) is an associate professor in the Department of Music in USask’s College of Arts and Science. (Photo: Submitted)
Dr. Jennifer Lang (PhD) is an associate professor in the Department of Music in USask’s College of Arts and Science. (Photo: Submitted)

Leading music director, scholar receives prestigious USask award

The PESTA award is presented to a university scholar who, through a leadership position, excels in scholarship engaged with the community on the local, national or international level.

By Matt Olson, Research Profile and Impact

Dr. Jennifer Lang (PhD) is an associate professor in the Department of Music in USask’s College of Arts and Science, the current acting vice-dean academic of her college, the director of numerous music ensembles, the co-lead of the USask Health and Wellness Signature Area of Research – and now the winner of a prestigious USask award.

The Publicly Engaged Scholarship Team Award (PESTA) is given to faculty, staff or graduate students doing exemplary work in the community which strengthens the people living there. Lang has taken a leadership role across five major teams at USask – the Greystone Singers, the Aurora Voce alumni choir, the Intergenerational Choir, the Health and Wellness Signature Area, and the Newcomer Engagement program – with the PESTA award presented in recognition of excellence in leadership.

For Lang, the award reflects the hard work in the arts and the intersections between art and science to connect and build the community.

“It is a wonderful testament to this university that USask values the work in which certain disciplines lend themselves very naturally, and in the arts especially, we pride ourselves in our community connections and our community outreach,” Lang said. “It is really an honour that the value of the work we do is recognized.”

Lang is the director of Choral Activities at USask, and as such directs and conducts USask’s premiere student choir, the Greystone Singers. Under Lang, the Greystone Singers have been a regular guest performing with Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra shows and have collaborated with groups across campus including Dr. Steven Rayan (PhD) and the Centre for Quantum Topology and Its Applications (quanTA) on interdisciplinary concerts.

In a new achievement in musical excellence, Lang and the choir were invited to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City in June.

It’s this kind of continued excellence that has been a hallmark of Lang’s time in her leadership position at USask.

“What motivates me is seeing the impact of the work that I do directly with the participants involved, and the far-reaching benefits it has for them in their lives,” she said. “Music is such a uniquely human experience, there’s an opportunity to work with people across every age, every country, every language ... Music can really remove those barriers and boundaries.”

Lang said she loves being deeply ingrained in music in a research-focused institution because of the different combinations of connections that can form between artistic and scientific endeavours, and between students and artists and the community.

She noted the importance of strong interdisciplinary projects is for all disciplines to enrich each other in an iterative process instead of being added on as an afterthought.

“The reward in interdisciplinary work is that you not only get to reach across departments, colleges, and research areas, but as your work grows in your own understanding it also strengthens in its influence and impact, because you might access and reach a different audience,” she said.

The communication and outreach of working and performing in the community allows Lang to do what she loves most – building strong relationships – something she said is central to the work she does at USask.

As a conductor in front of a choir or a researcher working across disciplines, Lang said it’s those relationships that give her both satisfaction and motivation in her position and in her work.

“What I cherish most is the relationships that I can build. For example, the connection I have with the Greystone Singers throughout rehearsals and performance preparation is something I really value. The fact that the music is never going to be recreated in the same way ever again, highlights how temporal and unique each experience truly is,” she said. “That’s what makes every interaction with the singers so special.”

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