Karen Sunabacka’s music has been performed in Canada, the USA, Brazil and the United Kingdom. In February 2017 the Montreal Metropolitan Orchestra premiered her work "The Prairies" which was part of a bigger piece called De Natura Sonorum, a commissioned work with four other composers to celebrate 150 years of confederation. In September 2016 the Regina Symphony Orchestra commissioned and premiered her work Across the Grasslands, a Fanfare celebrating their new music director Gordon Gerrard. Fascinated by the sounds of wind and how natural sounds can turn into nightmares, Karen collaborated with hyper-flutist Cléo Palacio-Quintin to create a 10-minute piece titled All Night A Dark Wind Blows. Cléo premiered the work in Montreal and toured western Canada in February 2016. 

Along with pieces about the natural beauty and winds of the Prairies, Karen has recently been exploring her métis and Manitoba heritage. She composed Mama’s Paiting: Louis Riel’s Dream about her Métis Grandmother (Lenore Clouston) for the Agassiz Chamber Music Festival who commissioned and then premiered the piece in 2015.  In 2013 the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra commissioned and premiered two works: Never to Return, a piece about Karen’s great-great Grandmother Mathilda who suffered from mental illness and Born by the River, another piece about her métis grandmother Lenore. 

Karen was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1975. In March 2008 she graduated from the University of California, Davis with a PhD in Music Theory and Composition. As a composer, ‘cellist, administrator and university professor she is often juggling composition, administration, a university teaching load, chamber music performances, along with a private cello studio. She is now Associate Professor of Music at Conrad Grebel University College at the University of WaterlooShe taught Theory and Composition and was the Music Department Chair at Providence University College from 2007-2017. She was recently a Mentor Composer for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s Composers’ Institute. An active member and past board member of the Canadian New Music Network she continues to be on the Groundswell board (Winnipeg’s New Music Series). She founded Pressure Waves in Winnipeg (now a regular part of Groundswell’s Emerging Composer program) and the Providence Performing Arts School (a community music school based at Providence in Otterburne, Manitoba.) 

July 2017


Photographer: Rebecca Croft