Irena BUBNIUK

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BUBNIUK, Irena (Kowbuz)
Concert pianist, and piano and singing teacher, passed away July 29, 2016, at Charlotte County Hospital, St. Stephen, NB, after a lengthy illness. In death, as in life, her passing was peaceful and full of grace. Irena was born in Saskatoon, SK on October 1, 1928, to the late Jakiew (Jacob) and Stephania (Hladka) Bubniuk. Irena quietly supported her Ukrainian heritage by continuing to practice the language, explore the history and perpetuate the music so loved by her parents. Irena began her musical training with Norma Mead and Lyell Gustin in Saskatoon at age 8. At age 10, she began performing on stage and on radio. At age 15, she received a full scholarship from the Royal College of Music in London, England, where she studied with notable musicians Frank Merrick (piano), Cuthbert Smith (voice) and Dr. Harold Darke (harmony and composition). After receiving High Honours in Piano and Voice in London, Irena returned to Canada to begin her teaching career, even as she maintained her performing career. In the Maritimes, Irena was head of the Voice Department in the Faculty of Music at Acadia University for two years and was the featured pianist in CBC's Kingfisher Cove, a musical variety show produced in Halifax. She spent the last six years of her life in St. Andrews, NB, teaching piano to young students. In Montreal, QC, Irena taught piano and voice at Vanier College, L'Ecole Vincent d'Indy, McGill and Concordia Universities. She also adjudicated at music festivals across Canada. Irena taught privately from the age of 10 until shortly before her passing, with many of her students continuing on into professional music careers. Irena's students were her musical family and she loved them all dearly. She strived to nourish, support and encourage with food, love, conversation, a safe place to stay, music, philosophy and psychology, so they might succeed in life and in their musical endeavours. She often said: "If you don't understand my teaching, then I'm not explaining it sufficiently." Irena was a strong advocate for the value of music in schools and believed that everyone should be provided the means and opportunity to learn music. With this conviction, Irena drew upon her Ukrainian musical heritage to write a wealth of piano teaching material that spans from beginner to advanced concert level. Irena also wrote books on voice production and resonance mechanisms in the human body, and other topics relating to the study of music to the study of science. Irena supported musical and cultural organizations such as the National Association of Teachers of Singing, the Piano Teachers Congress of New York, the New York Singing Teachers Association, the Ukrainian National Women's League of America, The Ukrainian Club of Moncton, The National Association for Music Education, the Music Teachers National Association, the New Brunswick Registered Music Teachers Association, and others. Donations to honour Irena's life may be made to the Simple Plan Foundation (www.simpleplanfoundation.org) which promotes musical training in schools as a way of helping young people develop a passion and find a purpose in life. Irena was predeceased by her sister, Doria Shack. She is survived by her children, Lydia (Jack) Kowbuz Fife, who cared for her for many years, and Larissa Kowbuz; her sister, Helen Bobyn; nieces and nephews: Greg, Tammy, Dona and Karen Shack, and Jim, Joan, Dennis, Diane, Stephen and Michele Bobyn; and Sandra Wilson, a cherished member of her beloved musical family of students and close friends, of which there are too many to mention herein – you know who you are. Heartfelt thanks and love to Eleanor Brewster, who cared for and loved Irena and became part of the family through her kindness, compassion, companionship, friendship, and loyalty. Special thanks are extended to the nurses and hospital management team medical staff at the Charlotte County Hospital for their care and support of Irena and her family. Messages of condolence may be sent online to Chipman Funeral Home at www.chipmanfuneralhome.ca or on Irena's Facebook page https:/ /www.facebook.com/irena.bubniuk.
Published in National Post on Aug. 9, 2016
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