University of Calgary

Allan Bell

  • Professor

Research Interests



Allan Gordon Bell was born in Calgary in 1953.  He received a Master of Music degree from the University of Alberta where he studied with Violet Archer, Malcolm Forsyth, and Manus Sasonkin.  He also did advanced studies in composition at the Banff Centre for the Arts where his teachers were Jean Coulthard, Bruce Mather, and Oskar Morawetz.

He has created works for solo instruments, chamber ensembles, orchestra, band, and electroacoustic media as well as scores for contemporary dance productions and an opera.  His music has been performed by the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Esprit Orchestra, the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, Symphony Nova Scotia, the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Victoria Symphony Orchestra, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Orford String Quartet, eighth blackbird, the ensembles of Toronto New Music Concerts, Arraymusic, Soundstreams Canada, the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec, New Works Calgary and Lands End Chamber Society as well as many other professional and amateur organizations in North America, Europe and Asia.

In 1988, his Concerto for Two Orchestras was performed at the Olympic Arts Festival; in 1989, his Arche II was performed by the finalists at the Banff International String Quartet Competition and was sent by the CBC as the English Network submission to the International Rostrum of Composers in Paris; in 1992, his An Elemental Lyric was performed at Carnegie Hall in New York, the Kennedy Centre in Washington, D.C., and Symphony Hall in Boston; and in 1996, his Danse sauvage  was the imposed piece for the 1996 Esther Honens International Piano Competition.   The Association of Canadian Choral Conductors presented him with the award for Outstanding Choral Composition in both 1994 and 1999.  In 2001 the Calgary Opera Association and Quest Theatre presented the premiere performances of his chamber opera Turtle Wakes and gave a repeat performance in the spring of 2005, and, in August of 2001, Ensemble Resonance presented the Asian premiere of his a great arch softening the mountains at the Cantai International Festival in Taipei. Bell was the distinguished visiting composer at the Winnipeg New Music Festival in 2002 and 2011. He was the composer-in-residence at the Shattering the Silence Festival in Wolfville and a visiting composer at the Festival of the Sound, both in 2014.  From 1996 to 2006, Bell designed and supervised the Young Composers Program for the Esther Honens Foundation, which introduced creative music to students in elementary schools. CBC Records released a CD entitled Spirit Trail: The Music of Allan Gordon Bell that contains five of his orchestral pieces.  His Danse sauvage is included on two Centrediscs recordings.  In addition, the Centrediscs recording of four of his chamber compositions, Gravity & Grace, by the Lands End Chamber Ensemble earned Bell the 2014 JUNO award for the Classical Composition of the Year for his Field Notes.

Bell is Professor of Music at the University of Calgary.  From 1984 to 1988 and from 2006 to 2010, he served as President of the National Board of the Canadian Music Centre.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a Member of the Order of Canada.


Allan Gordon Bell teaches courses in music theory and composition, including harmony, ear-training, analysis, counterpoint, orchestration and composition.  He also teaches courses in the art of music listening and in inter-disciplinary arts.  He places a great deal of emphasis upon the acquisition of craft, whether in the acquisition of a vocabulary that enhances listening for non-musicians or in the acquisition of the skills that are essential for a professional musician.  He integrates this with a fundamental concentration upon the creative process.  His approach to teaching combines lectures with Socratic dialogue, believing that curiosity and imagination are best served by humanistic, scientific and, above all, artistic investigation.

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