#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


Dr. Jakub Martinec

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)

Quick facts:

  • Immigrants in St. John’s make up 4% of the population.
  • International students expose Canadians to new cultures and ideas, which encourages innovation. They also contribute more than $21 billion to the economy every year through student spending and tuition.
  • Between 1980 and 2016, 53% of all immigrants who came to St. John’s were economic immigrants, while the other 47% were evenly split between family-sponsored immigrants and refugees.
  • There are more than 80,000 immigrants working in professional and technical occupations in arts and culture throughout the country. Read more about the benefits of immigration to the arts and culture sector in Canada.

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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