What is the Art Song Project?


Our spring Art Song Project is a song performance course for singers and pianists aged 30 or older who would like to improve their interpretive, collaborative, and performance skills as part of an intensive course on the songs for voice and piano of a featured composer or composers.

Led by PSC artistic director Kathryn Whitney, who is joined by pianists Anna Cal, Robert Holliston, and Alex Chen, the course is taught over a series of weekends in April and May, with final concerts typically taking place in the first week of June. The course takes place at the Victoria Conservatory of Music in its downtown Victoria location. Our concerts are held in the beautiful acoustic of the VCM’s Winifred and Robin Wood Hall.

The Art Song Project offers singers, pianists, and non-performing auditors the chance to take part in a unique joint performance project exploring the music, poetry, and performance tradition of the songs of some of the finest composers to write for voice and piano over the past 250 years.

Inspired by the tradition, established in Franz Schubert’s lifetime, for songs to be written for and performed by anyone who wishes to purchase and sing or play them, we welcome all pianists and singers to participate in our course, whether amateur or professional.

Collaborative Performance

Collaborative work is a key component of the project. The course will teach students about the chosen repertoire, but it is designed to go deeper into the music as a reflection of the intimate and convivial performing traditions that support it.

The project is thus more than simply a course leading to a performance of beautiful and important music; it also affords participants unprecedented insight into the intimate and intriguing collaborative relationship between pianist and singer that lies at the core of the song repertoire for voice and piano.

Our Partners

The Art Song Project is a collaboration between the Pacific Song Collective, the Victoria Conservatory of Music and the SongArt Performance Research Group (UK), a research arm of the Institute for Musical Research at the University of London.

How does the course work?


The Art Song Project achieves this balance between instruction and exploration by placing collaborative performance at the heart of our courses.

Our students include performing singers and pianists, understudy singers and pianists, and observers. Each type of student plays an important role in the project, whether as part of a performing pair, as a member of an understudy partnership, or as an engaged audience member and classmate who provides receptive listening and commentary to both the students and instructors throughout the course.

Following this link to read more about the specific course provision for each of the three student categories.

Singer-pianist Duos

Singer-pianist duos are the cornerstone of the Art Song Project. All performers and understudies will be paired with a number of partners to form singer-pianist duos that will work together to explore the songs within collaborating partnerships.

Song Selections

Each student will work on between two and six songs over the course of the project (more for pianists who request it), exploring these both as individuals in their private sessions, and with their duo partners in both private coachings and group sessions.

Group Sessions

The majority of our work together will take place in group sessions, which are timetabled for Saturday or Sunday afternoons in April and May.

Group sessions include Masterclasses, Workshops and Lectures, and Faculty Open Rehearsals, all of which are attended by performers, understudies, and observers. (See links on the right of this page for more information about individual elements.)

Private Coachings

Singer-pianist duos will take a number of private Duo Coachings with Kathryn Whitney, Anna Cal, and Robert Holliston, in which they will work with each instructor separately to explore the intricate and intimate settings of their songs from the perspective of a collaborative pair.

Additionally, each student will attend a number of private Solo Coachings with Kathryn Whitney (singers) or Anna Cal or Robert Holliston (pianists), at times to be arranged to suit mutual timetables. Singers on the course also receive preparatory private coachings with pianist Alex Chen to help them learn their music in advance of the start of the course.

Final Performances

The course finishes with four final concerts: a private Omnibus concert, in which students perform all the music they have worked on for fellow students and faculty; two public student concerts in the Wood Hall at the Victoria Conservatory of Music; and a final faculty concert. Each student will perform all their songs at the Omnibus. Students will perform two to three songs in the public performances (choice at the discretion of the instructors).

The Final Faculty Concert, which follows the week after the student concerts, repeats the same program. It is a chance for student to hear their teachers performing the repertoire with which they have become so familiar. It is also a showcase of how collaborative musical instruction is, and highlights how much the instructors have learned from their students while teaching this intensive course.

For further information about each aspect of the course mentioned above, please see the ‘Course Elements’ listings on the right-hand side of this page.

Course Elements


Masterclasses are group coaching sessions in which students perform for their fellow students, and the instructors coach them on their interpretation, presentation, pianism, diction, vocal production, and musicianship. Performance Classes give students the opportunity to explore their pieces through live performance, finding their way into and through the songs and poetry guided by their own creative instincts and musical abilities. Each masterclass is jointly coached by Kathryn Whitney and Anna Cal or Robert Holliston to give students equal attention and feedback. The masterclasses are organized to accommodate two full presentations of the repertoire from the final concerts across the course. To the extent possible, the repertoire is studied in masterclasses in the order in which it will be performed.

Solo & Duo Coachings

Performers and Understudies take private Solo Coachings with either Kathryn Whitney (singers) or Anna Cal or Robert Holliston (pianists) in their respective studios at times to be arranged to suit mutual timetables. Performers and Understudies also take private Duo Coachings with both Kathryn Whitney and Anna Cal, working in these sessions as part of a collaborative singer-pianist duo. These sessions complement the group sessions, offering students the chance to work with the instructors one-on-one on any aspect of their music, whether technical, textual, or interpretive.

Faculty Open Rehearsals
The Mahler Project is a course, but it is also a ‘reflective performance project’ – that is, a course during which the instructors are learning while they are teaching, and one in which they are themselves rehearsing for a performance of the full recital program under investigation.

Faculty Open Rehearsals are a key part of the ‘reflective performance’ research aspect of the project. These sessions offer students unprecedented access to their instructors in rehearsal, providing students with the opportunity to watch professionals at work (and to comment on the process) in an area of their music-making that students normally never see.

The reflective performance aspect of the project is being overseen by the SongArt Performance Research Group (UK), of which Kathryn Whitney is a co-director.

The Omnibus is an informal evening for students and staff during which each student performs all the pieces he or she has been working on during the course. The Omnibus falls after the completion of the formal instruction, but before the dress rehearsals and Final Student Concerts. It is a convivial evening when we all get the opportunity to be together and to hear each other again, but it also serves as a chance for students to run through their pieces in an informal performance atmosphere in advance of  the final concert week.
Final Student Concerts
The project features two Final Student Concerts. These will take place on a weekend at the beginning of June, 2019.

The student concerts are open to the public. Admission is by donation on the door.

Faculty Concert

The project will finish with a Faculty Concert given by the instructors on a weekend at the beginning of June, 2019. This is a public concert. Admission will be by donation on the door.