By: Sherman Friedland, June 1991
Mr. Chancellor, we honour Jean Coulthard for a lifetime of dedication to the highest standards of music and of the education of musicians. Not only is Ms. Coulthard one of Canada's most important composers, but she has also enjoyed a distinguished teaching career at the University of British Columbia from 1947 until 1973, when she retired to devote all her time to composition.
Born in 1908 in Vancouver, British Columbia, she first began to write music while still a child, studying with her mother, Mrs. Walter Coulthard, an important figure in the early musical life of British Columbia and an ardent exponent of the then radical impressionism of Debussy and Ravel. Jean continued her studies in London at the Royal College of Music, where her professors included R.O. Morris and Ralph Vaughan Williams. She later received assessment critiques from Aaron Copland, Arnold Schoenberg, Milhaud and Bartok. In the 1950s she consulted with Nadia Boulanger and worked in France, returning to London in the 1960s for studies with Gordon Jacob.
Jean Coulthard first began to attract national attention with the premieres of her early orchestral works, Canadian Fantasy, Ballade, A Winter's Tale and the ballet suite Excursion in the early 1940s. Within a few years she was called "One of our most important and mature composers" by John Weinzweig. During her long parallel career as a university lecturer, she regularly confronted her many students with the complete spectrum of musical ideologies popular in this century, but as a composer she quietly refused to adopt those which seemed contrary to her own beliefs. Her works reflect the importance of discipline, craftsmanship and individuality. While one is conscious of Ms. Coulthard's reverence for the past, she speaks with a clear and unique voice in her own language of the present.
In 1978 Jean Coulthard became an Officer of the Order of Canada and a Freeman of the City of Vancouver. In 1984 she was named Composer of the Year by the Performing Rights Organization of Canada.
Mr. Chancellor, it is a privilege and real honour for me to ask, on behalf of the Senate and by the authority of the Board of Governors, that you confer the degree Doctor of Laws, honoris causa upon Jean Coulthard.
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