People, Places and Pedagogy

Michael Zaugg shares what it means to be a recipient of the Edmonton Artists’ Trust Fund and shaping Edmonton’s art community through collaboration and innovation

Michael Zaugg is the Managing and Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the professional chamber choir, Pro Coro Canada. He is a passionate pedagogue (educator), an active member of the Edmonton arts community and is strongly committed to collaboration with emerging and established artists.

He is also a recent recipient of the Edmonton Artists’ Trust Fund: an accomplishment that is said to be well-deserved by fellow members of the Edmonton arts community.

Established in 1997, the EATF was created by John and Barbara Poole, Edmonton Community Foundation (through a transfer of funds from ECF’s Community Fund) and the Clifford E. Lee Foundation. The fund awards $15,000 to its successful recipients to invest in Edmonton’s creative community.

For Debra Cairns, Zaugg’s nominator, submitting the artistic innovator for consideration was a no-brainer.

“[He] is an ambassador for Edmonton itself,” says Cairns. “It seemed to me that he was very deserving of being considered and being nominated because of his artistic commitment to excellence and also his involvement in integrating Pro Coro within the community.”

Zaugg’s roots extend to Switzerland, where he was a school teacher for more than a decade. Combining his love and talent for music with his passion for pedagogy, Zaugg divulged his creativity and musical innovation on numerous works throughout Canada, including founding the Montreal Choral Institute in 2009, before arriving in Edmonton.

“I love being in Edmonton,” says Zaugg. “It’s a great city. And the arts scene, you feel like you’re actually part of a community here.”

Zaugg says he has been working to contribute to the growth and development of the Edmonton arts community through two main components, “pedagogy and innovation.”

Through supports such as the Edmonton Artists’ Trust Fund, artists like Zaugg can continue to shape Edmonton’s arts community by funding new projects and taking the time to care for their well-being so creativity can continue to flow.

“For an artist, you need the time to just be away for a while and not think about music or collaboration or things like that,” shares Zaugg. “I’ve had 10 days off since the time the pandemic started. So, I’m lucky in the sense that my work has kept going. [But] I need to rest.”

In addition to respite, Zaugg says he plans to use the funds for a list of several projects he has in mind.

Cairns says funds such as the EATF are vital to the success and resilience of artists, especially right now.

“Thanks to the generosity and vision of such organizations as this … that’s a way that artists’ incomes are supplemented to make living wages. This trust fund is invaluable to artists, and always will be, but particularly so during a pandemic,” says Cairns. “That was exhilarating to know he got the award. We’re very grateful for it.”

Learn more about the EATF