Concept of Improvisation to Be Explored at Summer Institute

August 18, 2008 - News Release

Graduate students and scholars from across the globe will be visiting the University of Guelph to participate in the inaugural Summer Institute for Critical Studies of Improvisation Aug. 25 to Sept. 7.

The focus of the intensive two-week summer institute is on how the concept of musical and theatrical improvisation can be used to encourage creative and open dialogue within communities.

"Within the practice of creative improvisation, there is no central director telling you what to do," said Prof. Frederique Arroyas of the School of Languages and Literatures, who is co-ordinating the institute. "Instead, each member engages in dialogue and risk-taking. The summer institute will explore this artistic form as a model for other types of interaction in communities."

About 20 students and scholars from Europe, South America, United States and Canada are expected to attend, said Arroyas.

The program is part of the $4-million "Improvisation, Community and Social Practice" project, which is an international community/university project headed by Prof. Ajay Heble of the School of English and Theatre Studies.

Funded in part by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council's Major Collaborative Research Initiatives grant, the seven-year project explores musical improvisation as a model for social change and involves more than 34 researchers from 18 universities across Canada, the United States, England and Australia.

In addition to classroom work and research discussion, the summer institute also includes free public lectures.

Prof. Robert O'Meally, who founded the Centre for Jazz Studies at Columbia University, will discuss "Improvisation and Social Esthetics" during five lectures running Aug. 25 to 29 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. in the Donald Forster Room on the main floor of the McLaughlin Library.

Ethnomusicologist Deborah Wong, a professor of music at the University of California, Riverside, will give five lectures on "Improvisation and Transcultural Understanding" Aug. 26 to Aug. 30 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the same location.

"The two lecturers are both internationally respected scholars who are very stimulating and engaging speakers," said Arroyas. "We welcome any members of the public interested in coming to hear them speak."

For more information on the summer institute, visit the website, call Brendan Arnott at 519-824-4120, Ext. 58685, or send e-mail to

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338/, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982/

University of Guelph
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Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1