International Council for Traditions of Music and Dance

A Non-Governmental Organization in Formal Consultative Relations with UNESCO

Louise Wrazen (1956–2023)

Louise Wrazen, a member of the ICTMD Executive Board since 2019 and an active member of its Prizes, Publications, and World Conference Programme committees, died on 14 July 2023 at the age of 66. She was looking forward to attending on Zoom the World Conference in Legon, Ghana, when she died suddenly the day after its Opening Ceremony. The cause of death was pancreatic cancer.

Louise was a professor of ethnomusicology at York University in Toronto, Canada, for twenty years, joining its faculty in 2003. She was well known for her multi-sited research on musical traditions from the Tatra Mountains of Poland in their original settings, as well as among immigrants living in Chicago and Toronto. Prominent themes in her research, published in many refereed journal articles and book chapters, were gender and women in music, senses of place, emotion and memory, and cultural diversity. Her interest in these themes found more general expression in a book she co-edited with Fiona MacGowan, titled Performing Gender, Place, and Emotion: Global Perspectives published by the University of Rochester Press (USA) in 2013.

In addition to her research and teaching, Louise dedicated enormous amounts of time and energy to academic service. In addition to ICTMD, she was active in the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM), where she was elected to its Council, served on many committees, and acted as programme committee chair for SEM’s very challenging virtual annual meeting in 2020, necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic. For the Canadian Society for Traditional Music she was its Vice President and served on the editorial board of its journal, MUSICultures. At York University she served twice as Chair of its Department of Music and supervised a number of doctoral dissertations.

Louise was born on 7 September 1956 and raised in Burford, Ontario, a rural farming community 120 kilometres southwest of Toronto. Her father Ted (Tadeusz) Wrazen, a member of the Polish underground during World War II, was a tobacco farmer; her mother Janet (Sidorkewicz) Wrazen, born in Ontario, was a homemaker and trustee and chair of the county’s board of education. Trained as a classical pianist, Louise received a Bachelor of Music degree in music history from the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto in 1979. She married Alistair MacRae, a secondary school teacher, in 1983. In 1988 she completed a PhD from the University of Toronto with a dissertation titled “The ‘Góralski’ of the Polish highlanders: old world musical tradition from a new world perspective.” After teaching for a year at the University of Toronto (1987–88) and three years at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario from 1987 to 1990, she gave birth to twins and turned her attention for the next decade to raising her family. She took courses in special education through the Ontario Ministry of Education and taught in Toronto’s public school system, where she was involved in programming for children with special needs. These experiences led to an interest in music and (dis)ability and the publication of a paper in the 2016 Yearbook for Traditional Music titled “Spiralling to Redefine (Dis)Ability: A Case Study in Summer Music Programming for Children,” Vol. 48, pp. 167–85. She is survived by her husband, her son Michael, who is a lawyer, and her daughter Emily, a policy analyst for the Ontario government.

Her colleagues at the Department of Music at York University remember her as a colleague and department chair with special fondness. One praised her as a “supportive friend . . . [who] cared about the health and well-being of her colleagues and friends […] Always stylish and elegant, she remained unruffled and calm even during the most difficult times. She was a model administrator, a helpful colleague, and above all a scholar who brought her own generosity, grace, humanity, and musicality to the discipline” (from a tribute written by Dorothy Du Val, professor emerita at the York University Department of Music).

On a personal note, I had the privilege of supervising Louise’s doctoral dissertation and becoming a good friend. During her graduate studies she decided to learn to play the Bulgarian gadúlka, a bowed fiddle. In a remarkably short time she was performing—with perfect intonation—highly ornamented, fast-tempo dance tunes with preternatural calm. Bulgarians have an explanation for her success. They say that to play at very fast tempos and still sound relaxed, as Louise did, you must have a “wide soul,” a shiróka dushá. Louise’s calmness in the face of all that life threw at her and her wide soul—filled as it was with thoughtful, caring, and loving concern for her family, friends, colleagues, and students—was a gift to all who knew her. She has left a wide hole in our hearts and souls.

Timothy Rice

UCLA Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, of Ethnomusicology
Founding Director, The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music
Doctor Honoris Causa, Sofia University (Bulgaria)

Selected Publications by Louise Wrazen

  • 1983 “Continuity and Change in the Music of the Polish Highlanders of Toronto.” Canadian Folk Music Journal 11: 18-27.
  • 1986 “The Early History of the Vina and Bin in South and Southeast Asia.” Asian Music 28/1: 35-55.
  • 1991 “Traditional Music Performance Among Górale in Canada.” Ethnomusicology 35/2: 173-93.
  • 2004 “Men and Women Dancing in the Remembered Past of Podhale Poland.” The Anthropology of East Europe Review 22/1: 145-54.
  • 2005 “Diasporic Experiences: Mediating Time, Memory and Identity in Górale Performance.” Canadian Journal for Traditional Music 32: 43-51.
  • 2007 “Relocating the Tatras: Place and Music in Górale Identity and Imagination.” Ethnomusicology 51/2: 185-204.
  • 2007 “Privileging Narratives: Singing, the Polish Tatras, and Canada.” Intersections: Canadian Journal of Music 27/2: 60-80.
  • 2008 “Beyond the Polish Tatras: Performing Pride, Identity, Difference?” In The Human World and Musical Diversity, Proceedings from the Fourth Meeting of the ICTM Study Group “Music and Minorities” in Varna, Bulgaria 2006, ed. R. Statelova, A. Rodel, L. Peycheva, I. Vlaeva, and V. Dimov, 231-37. Sofia: Institute of Art Studies, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
  • 2010 “Daughters of Tradition, Mothers of Invention: Music, Teaching, and Gender in Evolving contexts.” Yearbook for Traditional Music 42: 41-61.
  • 2013 Performing Gender, Place, and Emotion: Global Perspectives. An Anthology, ed. Fiona Magowan and Louise Wrazen. Rochester: University of Rochester Press (Ethnomusicology Series).
  • 2013 “Introduction: Musical Intersections, Embodiments, and Emplacements,”(co-authored with Fiona Magowan). In Performing Gender, Place, Emotion: Global Perspectives, ed. Fiona Magowan and Louise Wrazen, 1-16. Rochester: University of Rochester Press.
  • 2013 “A Place of her Own: Gendered Singing in Poland’s Tatras.” In Performing Gender, Place, Emotion: Global Perspectives, ed. Fiona Magowan and Louise Wrazen, 127-46. Rochester: University of Rochester Press.
  • 2013 “The Voice away from Home: Reflections on Singing and the Polish Tatras.” In Women Singers in Global Contexts: Music, Biography, Identity, ed. Ruth Hellier, 146-60. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
  • 2016 “Spiraling to Redefine (Dis)Ability: A Case Study in Summer Music Programming for Children.” Yearbook for Traditional Music 48: 167-85.
  • 2019 “A View from Toronto: Local Perspectives on Music Making, Ethnocultural Difference, and the Cultural Life of a City.” In Traditional Musics in Canada: Contemporary Expressions and Cultural Resonances, ed. Anna Hoefnagels, Sherry Johnson, and Judith Klassen, 361-86. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.