Sandra Joy Friesen is a pianist with a broad range of repertoire and musical interests, from traditional to contemporary, to interpretation of pictorial scores and interdisciplinary collaboration. She has performed as soloist and chamber musician throughout Canada, in the United States, Austria, Brazil, England, France, Germany, Mexico, Poland, and Slovenia. In 2009, her studies in improvisation and free-interpretation with Douglas Finch (London, England) became a turning point in her musical artistry and this practice continues to be a source of inspiration. During this time, she and visual artist Werner Friesen began interdisciplinary performance blending music with live-response painting and became members of the eXperimental improv Music Ensemble in Edmonton, AB, integrating artistic disciplines with composers, dancers, and actors. As a collaborative duo, RESPONS2, they continue the interdisciplinary activity in performance and in workshops. Having promoted the music of Canadian composers since the early 90s, Sandra Joy was also invited by the Association for Canadian Studies in Mexico (2008) and in Brazil (2009) to represent the University of Alberta and Canadian composers in solo piano recitals.
Another of her musical passions is the French piano music of Claude Debussy, whose works she studied with Jacques Després (University of Alberta) and Paul Roberts (Castelfranc Summer School, France), and continues to regularly perform. With a special sensitivity in art song collaboration, Sandra Joy has performed this vast repertoire for more than three decades, beginning with accompanying bass Phillip Ens, and then including residencies at The Banff Centre (Alberta) and the Franz-Schubert-Institute (Austria). A keen interest in the piano and saxophone repertoire led her to international performances of this repertoire and she continues to work with saxophonists across Canada.
Receiving awards from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and Edmonton Arts Council allowed her to complete the 2014 recording Sound Reflections, Vol. 1: Off the Shelf; a project of audio plus video recordings that provide interpretive context and address challenges of contemporary repertoire. It is dedicated to Canadian composers and is available through the Canadian Music Centre. Her discography also includes Garden of Music (by composer Alain Mayrand), which is a beautifully edited volume of solo piano music inspired by the poetry of R.L. Stevenson with illustrations by Mayrand himself; a two-CD project From the Beginning with flutist Larry Krantz (pedagogy-focused repertoire for flute students), To the Garden the World by Stephen Chatman (a work she commissioned for saxophone and piano, on the album Earth Songs), and as pianist for the West Coast Mennonite Chamber Choir on the album Songs My Father Taught Me (by Larry Nickel).
As a music educator since 1992, Sandra Joy has studied the developments in piano techniques, styles and aesthetics from the past century and has dedicated a large part of her career to lecture-recitals, presentations and workshops on contemporary music. After 16 years of professional work in British Columbia, Sandra Joy pursued doctoral studies at the University of Alberta, completing the Doctor of Music degree in 2012 as a scholar of the Kule Institute for Advanced Studies. She holds degrees from the University of British Columbia (Master and Bachelor of Music) and Canadian Mennonite University (Bachelor of Church Music). She has received many awards for her work from numerous Canadian organizations, including the University of Alberta, the Government of Canada, Canadian Federation of University Women (National), Kwantlen Polytechnic University, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and the city of Edmonton. Sandra Joy is grateful for the knowledge and inspiration from all her piano teachers: Jacques Després, Jane Coop, Douglas Finch, Jean Broadfoot, Walter Thiessen, Kathy Classen, Alice Cameron, and master-class teachers: Paul Roberts, Marvin Blickenstaff, Leon Fleisher, Richard Goode, Marek Jablonski, Catherine Vickers, Bruce Vogt and Stéphane Lemelin.
Dr. Friesen was a Visiting Assistant Professor of Piano in the Department of Music at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota from 2013-2015. She now teaches music from her Sound Reflections Music Studio in the Hawkwood NW area of Calgary, Alberta.