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Message from the Chair

Amy Hillis, D.Mus.,
Assistant Professor
Department of Music
School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design

The study, teaching, and implementation of academic research in the arts relies on its connection to external and “real-world” artistic practice. As scholars, researchers, teachers and performers at York University’s School of Arts, Media, Performance and Design, we seek opportunities to learn from our communities, share our own passions, and grow in a constant dialogue. The mission of the Helen Carswell Chair is to facilitate relationships between the York community and communities outside the university through the arts.

Established and supported by the Carswell Family Foundation in 2016, the Helen Carswell Chair supports research that explores community cultural development. With a focus on fostering a mutually beneficial relationship with the Jane and Finch community, the Helen Carswell Chair is proud to have a long-term partnership with RPSM - Jane and Finch, the most recent branch of the incredible Regent Park School of Music. Through our work with RPSM and other Community Arts organizations, we seek to disseminate new knowledge and research to community-based groups in the Jane and Finch community and in other high-risk neighbourhoods around the world.

As a new member to this team, I am honoured to be a part of this mission to support community-engaged research in the arts. I look forward to working with community leaders in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood and beyond as we explore how arts can empower and represent children of all ages, from all backgrounds.

Contact Information
Amy Hillis at
Karen Headlam Cyrus (Helen Carswell Research Associate) at

Learn more about RPSM here.
See RPSM performances here.


The Helen Carswell Research Team

Read about our research team here.
Karen Headlam Cyrus, Ph.D., LRSM, OCT
The Helen Carswell Research Associate (2017 - present)
Research interests: Community music practices; pan-African children's music; group piano pedagogy;
equity, diversity and inclusion in music education.

Cyrus brings to this role her experience in community music as an ethnomusicologist, educator and musician. Her research on community music-making in diasporic contexts is published in Carnival: Theory and Practice (Africa World Press, 2013) and her exposition on the nature and definition of repertoires is published in The Sage Encyclopedia of Music and Culture (2019). She has written a series of music education textbooks that features children’s music from the Caribbean: Music for Big Ants and Little Ants (1998) and Caribbean Integrated Music (2002, 2004). Her work in community music includes curriculum development for a Caribbean community music program in Toronto and she has given workshops in schools on music and social justice for the YRDSB as an intern of York University's Knowledge Mobilization Unit. In 2010 Karen received an award from the York Region Arts Council for her volunteer work in community music in York region where she continues to make music in a variety of contexts.
Cyrus' work with the Helen Carswell chair includes presentations and workshops such as “Community music practices” (2017), “Equity through community music programming” (2019), “Black music repertoire and representation” (2019), "Community Music School Structures" (2020), and "Group piano pedagogy." __________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Helen Carswell research team provides professional development workshops and seminars
on the following topics in community-engaged research in the arts:

Content / Programming
· Group Piano Programming
· Intergenerational Pan Programming
· Steelpan Programming
· Music Technology Programming

· Positive Youth Development
· Trauma-Informed Pedagogy
· Engaging tweens in music summer camps

Equity and Diversity
· Serving Racialized Communities
· Pan-African Repertoires
. Repertoires and Representation

Community Contexts
· Environmental Scanning
· Asset mapping in Jane and Finch
· Data Mapping of Music Making




Dec. 2, 2020
The Helen Carswell research associate, Karen Cyrus, gave a presentation on "Pan-African repertoires" to a working group on GTA anti-racism in music classrooms.

August 24, 2020
The results from the adjudication of the 2020 call for proposals was announced; awards were granted to three proposals. Congratulations to Honor Ford-Smith, Ph.D., York faculty, FES; Munjeera Jefford, Ph.D. student, Social and Political Thought, LAPS; and Kathe Grey, Ph.D. student, Theatre. Welcome to the Helen Carswell Research Team!

JULY 2020
July 1, 2020
AMPD and the Helen Carswell research team are pleased to welcome our new Helen Carswell Chair, Amy Hillis.

July 7, 2020
The Helen Carswell research associate, Karen Cyrus, gave a presentation on "Community Music School Structures" to a delegation from Northern Caribbean University.

JUNE 2020
June 30 marked the end of Karen Burke’s tenure as the Helen Carswell Chair.
We would like to thank Prof. Burke for her dedication to the Helen Carswell Chair over the past three years. Thanks to her compassionate and excellent leadership, this partnership with RPSM has made an indelible mark in the Jane and Finch community, at York University, and in the field of community-engaged research in the arts.

MARCH 2020
March 16, 2020
Message from Karen Burke:
"Thank you so much for your interest in the exciting ongoing research through the unique partnership between the Carswell Family Fund, York University and RPSM. We are currently in the midst of a new CFP season with the deadline of March 16. While we are thankful to those who have already submitted, we recognize that the extraordinary and unprecedented circumstances affecting the world at this time present a variety of disruptions including academic, work, travel and societal that may affect timely submissions. With this in mind and with the information that we have today, we will extend the deadline to March 31. Thank you for your patience and understanding."

February 28, 2020
The deadline for the call for proposals was extended to March 16, 2020

January 23, 2020
2020 Carswell Call for Proposals: The Helen Carswell Chair is pleased to welcome the submission of research proposals that can inform the practice, programming, or curricula of RPSM - Jane and Finch. All faculty and graduate students of AMPD, Health, Engineering, Environmental Studies, Education, Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, Law, Business, and Science may apply.The call for proposals may be accessed below.

January 6, 2020
Administrators from RPSM - Jane and Finch are now located at York University.
The administrator for the RPSM-Jane and Finch programs now has an office (ACE rm 360) in the Music Department. Contact Vanessa Chase, the RPSM-Jane and Finch site coordinator, at (437) 779-0504 /, or call RPSM's main office at 416-364-8900 for more information. Their York U. office hours are Monday to Thursday from 9 am to 5 pm. Kindly call in advance for appointments.


On December 5, members of Uzo Anucha’s research team from YouthREX presented a webinar titled "Striking A Chord: The Power of Music Programs for Young People." Our research chair, Karen Burke, along with RPSM staff and a former student from RPSM, spoke about the impact of RPSM's music programs. This webinar also included presenters from other community music programs who gave rich accounts of the impact of their programs. There is much to learn about the impact of community music program by watching this webinar; it may be accessed here.

On November 8, members of the Carswell Research Team presented and discussed a poster on Pan-African music repertoire at the Ontario Music Educator's Association (OMEA) Opus 100 conference. The abstract for the poster and other related resources may be accessed in the collection below.

Members of the Helen Carswell Research Team facilitated sessions at RPSM's professional development workshops. They provided valuable information to help RPSM teachers improve their teaching practice. Below are descriptions of the workshops:

September 3, 2019
Title: Trauma Informed Practice
Facilitator: Cathy Pavlik, Ph.D. candidate
AMPD, Department of Music
Cathy discussed how to identify signs and symptoms of trauma in children at different development stages.

September 5, 2019
Title: Positive Youth Development
Facilitators: Tanika McLeod and colleagues of YouthREX (Principal Investigator: Uzo Anucha, Ph.D.)
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, School of Social Work
Members of Uzo’s research team from YouthREX presented a 2-hour workshop on critical youth engagement. They explored the benefits and barriers to equitable youth engagement, tools to assess and support youth-adult partnerships, as well as "practice-able" ways to facilitate equitable space for authentic youth engagement.

September 6, 2019
Title: Multilevel group-piano classes: management, methods, and materials.
Facilitator: Karen Headlam Cyrus, Ph.D., LRSM, OCT
AMPD, Helen Carswell Research Associate
Karen discussed tools and strategies to navigate three challenges of teaching multilevel piano classes.

September 19, 2019
Members of the Carswell Research Team and RPSM met with members of Research Impact Canada at Daniel Spectrum in Regent Park, Toronto. They discussed and answered questions on the Helen Carswell research team experience.

Members of the Carswell research team presented a workshop at York University's Faculty of Education Summer Institute (FESI) on August 22, 2019 at 12:30 pm. The title of the workshop was “Equity through community music programming: barriers and bridges to resources and representation.” The abstract for the workshop and handouts may be accessed in the collection below.




A poster presentation for the Ontario Music Educators Association's 2019 conference.

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