Thérèse Gadoury has never been one to let the scope of a project intimidate her. Whether inspiring audiences as an acclaimed performer, pursuing degrees
in music and law, founding and directing multiple schools, or being appointed by Vatican to represent Pope John Paul II at conferences, she takes challenges in stride.
“I’ve been blessed because I’ve been allowed to spearhead projects,” said Gadoury, who began playing the organ at her Windsor, Ontario, church at the age of 9 and went on to earn recognition as a singer, organist and music teacher before focusing more of her efforts on establishing her school.
“The Académie was destined to be a ‘labour of love’. From the beginning, I understood that I needed people with whom to share the workload of such an arduous project. I’m grateful to have a community of good people who allow me to create projects and help execute them. I was given the seeds to plant; I rely on others to water the plants and keep them growing.”
In 1979, Gadoury took the first step toward achieving her goal, renovating Windsor’s historic Bell Canada Building to open a music school. Soon after, she built a second building to accommodate students, as well as two nursery schools focused on teaching music and dance to children. In 1993, she expanded further, establishing Académie Ste Cécile International School (ASCIS). Now home to more than 300 full-time students and nearly 1000 short-term exchange students each year, ASCIS boasts numerous classrooms, studios for music, art, drama and dance, an Olympic-sized track and three gyms including one with NBA basketball courts.
“She had a dream of creating a school where students could come from around the world, live in peace and study academics, the arts and physical education within an all-embracing environment,” wrote one nominator of Gadoury, who logs more than 150,000 miles each year traveling to recruit students, in addition to performing her administrative duties.
Gadoury’s project continues to grow. She is constructing an addition to ASCIS that will house a performing arts centre, including an 800-seat performance hall. “There has always been something special going on within the walls of ASCIS. We strive to live the school’s motto of ‘seeking truth, justice, love and peace,’” said Gadoury, who took a vow to become a consecrated woman living in the world in 1986. “There’s something far beyond me at work here.”
In 1979, Kevin McMillan left his agricultural science studies at the University of Guelph and transferred to Western to pursue his passion for music. This set the stage for an extraordinary career as a performer and pedagogue.
McMillan, who sang in choirs while growing up near Listowel, Ontario, has since given more than 750 concerts, produced 15 professional recordings, won both a Grammy and a Gramophone Award, and has received numerous Juno award nominations. A renowned baritone focusing on the oratorio, recital, and orchestral repertoire, McMillan received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002 and was featured in a CBC TV profile entitled The Music Must Go On.
Following his graduation from Western, McMillan studied at the Britten-Pears School in England and completed his master’s degree in Voice at the Juilliard School in New York. He has appeared with virtually every major North American orchestra, including the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the San Francisco Symphony. He has also appeared in Europe with performances in London, Berlin, Barcelona, Paris, and Prague.
Despite an unfortunate farming accident in 1980 which left him a partial paraplegic, he has appeared in operatic roles for concert and semi-staged performances. Major roles have been created with him in mind. Among them are the Songs of Milarepa by Philip Glass and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ oratorio, Job, which he premiered in Vancouver, London and Tel Aviv.
McMillan was a voice instructor at Western from 1998-2009, before accepting a senior position in the School of Music at James Madison University in Virginia. At JMU, he is an associate professor of Voice and the coordinator of both the Graduate Voice Area and the Graduate Singing Health Emphasis. He continues to maintain a busy schedule as a performer and master clinician.
“I strive to use my experience and knowledge base to sense the potential of the artist before me,” explains McMillan in his teaching philosophy. “Once that potential becomes apparent, then realistic, attainable goals can be established for artistic development. Having analyzed a student’s potential, it is then my role to act as an ongoing advocate for the student’s talent. My goal in each case is timely and sustainable growth.”