MUN music professor nominated for Juno

Tara Bradbury
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Clark Ross' piano composition is nominated for a Juno.

“A musical portrayal of love and loss” is how MUN music professor Clark Ross describes his piano composition “Last Dance,” written when he was a single man in 1999.

Ironically, his personal life completely changed within a few months of writing it: he began dating a friend and subsequently married her, and today they have two sons.

The song continues to bring Ross life-changing moments: earlier this month it was nominated for a 2011 Juno Award in the Classical Composition of the Year category. The piece was featured on Barbara Pritchard’s 2010 CD “Piano Atlantica.”

Ross, who has been teaching and composing at MUN for 20 years, had never considered submitting to the Junos until he was encouraged by a record producer at a Juno after-party in St. John’s last year. “He started talking very enthusiastically about ‘Last Dance’ and he said, ‘You really have to propose that — it’s one of the nicest pieces I’ve ever heard.’ I thought, ‘OK, I think I will.’”

“Last Dance,” originally commissioned by pianist Kristina Szutor through the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council, is a haunting, soulful piece, a little more than 11 minutes long, with a tango feel. Ross, who was inspired by an upbringing in Venezuela, said it’s one of his compositions he feels particularly strongly about.

It’s not the only piece nominated in the classical composition category with a local connection: R. Murray Schafer’s Duo for Violin and Piano was commissioned by and written for St. John’s-based Duo Concertante, made up of Nancy Dahn and Timothy Steeves, and appears on the pair’s latest CD, “Wild Bird.”

Local favourites Great Big Sea are also up for a Juno, in the Group of the Year category.

“R. Murray Schafer is probably one of the most famous Canadian composers there is. I don’t think it’s a slam dunk that he’ll win, but if I were betting, I wouldn’t bet against him,” Ross said with a chuckle.

“I think it’s exciting for the School of Music that two people are connected to the Junos in this way.”

Ross and his wife plan to attend the Juno award ceremony, to be held in Toronto March 26. Whether or not he wins, he’ll consider applying again in the future, he said, now that he knows he has a shot.

“This may be the only nomination I get in my whole life, but now I know it can happen. One try and one nomination is a pretty good ratio,” he said, laughing. “I definitely will try again.”

“Last Dance” can be heard online at

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council, Duo Concertante, Great Big Sea Group of the Year School of Music

Geographic location: Venezuela, Toronto

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