Jean Coulthard convocation address

I am more than gratified to receive this honour from the university where I taught and worked at my music for so many years. I realize that since my youth there has been an explosion of talent in all the creative arts. As far as music composition is concerned there were hardly any composers of serious intent active here in the West prior to the 1950s and I certainly found it hard going.. Therefore I feel that this recognition of my work today proves beyond a doubt that the art of creative music is now recognized and appreciated.

Iíd now like to tell you just a little of my own history in relation to this splendid university: I attended first-year arts the year the university opened on the Point Grey campus. There were no lovely gardens and planted avenues in those days. The campus itself ó a few buildings ó the middle section of todayís library, the Science Building and many of what were then called "temporary buildings" (the big joke of course being that theyíre still there in use). The "grounds" were a mess of building materials, rubble, and just plain mud; in fact the whole area had barely opened in time for the fall registration. Instead of the traditional pranks played on the incoming freshmen my year found itself all commandeered to clean up the place (I vividly remember to this day a young woman who behaved exactly as a Sergeant Major, giving me a large pail, mop and cake of soap with orders to wash on of the floors in the Mathematics Building). We didnít entirely like this treatment but we nonetheless did it, as I think we all appreciated that we were in at the beginning of UBC becoming a great intellectual centre in this province.

Well I was 17 when I came to UBC as an arts student: I particularly remember my first year poetry course with the fine young lecturer Sally Murphy, later Mrs. John Creighton. In those days we began with the poets of the First World War ó Brooke, Sassoon, Owen. What a magic world opened to me in these first fascinating lectures, and Iím sure that many of you can remember the casements opened for you in a similar way. Now that you are graduating, I hope that you will find a way to extend your knowledge and inspiration to the younger generations coming along. As a teacher, this has been one of the great privileges of my life.

Now I should tell you that I came back to UBC in 1947 at the request of Harry Adaskin to set up the first theory courses in the new Music Department. I might add by this time all the lovely gardens and trees had now replaced the mud, though the temporary buildings were still in use and our new offices were old army huts. This was a particularly exciting time in my life; you see, it really took until after the Second World War for music to become a significant part of campus life, and, to make a long saga short, I happily taught in the department until 1973.

All the while I was teaching at UBC I was also able to carry on my "own" career as a composer; while I canít go into detail about my work or the challenges Iíve faced in my endeavours, several high points do seem to stand out to me: my year working on a Royal Society fellowship in France, which I began my opera "The Return of the Native"; later my year in England and the various commissions I completed for the 1967 Centennial; and of course the gala concert of my music presented for my 70th birthday, just ten years ago, when I was made a freeman of the city of Vancouver. Since my retirement I have been fortunate to keep working on my compositions ó Iíve been able, in a sense, never to have retired.

Yet another of my personal links to UBC is the fact that Iíve left all my papers to the UBC Special Collections. I am sure that as more of UBCís alumni make their successful careers, these collections will continue to be a great intellectual resource and ongoing record of our cultural life in BC.

Well now, for a third time, Iíve been invited back to UBC to receive this splendid honour, and before finishing Iíd like to especially address those of you who intend to have a career in the arts ó musicians, writers, artists, architects, theatre and film people. I am sure in prophesying that you will never have a dull moment in this sort of career. The arts are still very young in this country, and there is still much to do. Whatever role you choose, you will have all my heartfelt wishes for success and happiness.