Dr. Jakub Martinec has brought his musical background from the Czech Republic to help boys and young men sing out across Newfoundland.
#ImmigrationMatters in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador - Finding new musical voices in Newfoundland and Labrador
Finding new musical voices in Newfoundland and Labrador
December 17, 2019
In 2012, Dr. Martinec moved from the Czech Republic to London, Ontario, to complete his PhD in music at Western University. He was soon hired to be the Director of Choral Studies at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) in St. John’s, and moved to the province, along with his wife, Jennifer Beynon-Martinec, and their three children.
“I immediately fell in love with the place,” he says, “partly because Newfoundland has a very strong and rich singing culture and also because it’s beautiful and reminded me a lot of my homeland.”
Leading boys’ choirs is Dr. Martinec’s passion and a focus of his research at MUN; he started singing in one at the age of 4 and went on to be the founding artistic director of the Czech Boys Choir. In 2016, he and his wife founded the Atlantic Boychoir, in order to provide boys and young men between the ages of 8 and 22 in Newfoundland with a safe and joyous space where they could sing together.
“In this field, it’s easy for boys to be pushed in the corner and it’s still not always okay for them to do art and be in dance,” he says. “So it’s important for boys and young men to have a choir to themselves, where their particular needs can be met and their artistic skills developed.”
Dr. David Chafe, the piano accompanist for the choir, says that, in creating the choir, Dr. Martinec achieved a musical milestone in Newfoundland.
“First, he created an ensemble that had never been tried before. And second, he did what most choir leaders believed impossible; he created a provincial choir. The geography of Newfoundland kind of forbids that, but he overcame it and travels the island every couple of weeks to meet with choir members in small communities. I was skeptical at first, but he pulled it off.”
Dr. Martinec’s efforts also earn praise from those who have sung in the choir.
“When I joined, I could hardly read music and now I’m doing a voice major and am still very active with the Boychoir,” says Liam Butler, who is taking a combined music and business degree at MUN. “It’s done a lot to improve my leadership skills and my maturity.”
Recently, Dr. Martinec expanded his work beyond the region and founded the National Boychoir of Canada, whose 40 members meet every other year to tour. But it is his regular concerts with the Atlantic Boychoir that have helped to strengthen his view of his new home.
“I see such a positive response to our concerts. It is so wonderful to see the support that people give these boys and to see the boys singing together as friends. It’s so much more than just singing and I think the community here appreciates that.”
Immigration profile: St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador (Census Metropolitan Area)
- Immigrants in St. John’s represent 4% of the population.
- The United Kingdom is the biggest source country of immigrants in St. John’s, followed by the United States and China.
- More than half (53%) of all immigrants who came to St. John’s between 1980 and 2016 were economic immigrants. The other 46% of them were an even split of family-sponsored immigrants and refugees.
Did you know?
- Thanks to historical migration and language preservation, the accents between Waterford, Ireland, and St. John’s, Newfoundland, are nearly identical.
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