Research Team

Photo of Karen Burke

Prof. Karen Burke
Former Helen Carswell Research Chair

Karen Burke is a professor of music at York University. Her music career also includes work as a busy guest speaker and conductor, adjudicator and clinician offering gospel music workshops. She is co-founder and Artistic Director of the Toronto Mass Choir (TMC), a Juno award-winning gospel choir which has recorded 12 albums and toured in ten different countries including Italy, Romania, Poland, and the Dominican Republic. In 2006, Burke established G.I.V.E. (Gospel Inter-Varsity Explosion), which is an annual gospel music festival to educate, encourage and showcase gospel choirs at post-secondary institutions. In 2013, Prof. Burke established the City Youth Gospel Project, a gospel music festival designed exclusively to teach and share gospel music to hundreds of middle and high school students and their teachers at a time.

In 2016, York University appointed Prof. Burke as the Inaugural Fellow for the Helen Carswell Chair in Community Engaged Research in the Arts providing leadership for community engaged research in the Jane and Finch community, in particular, to assist the Regent Park School of Music- Jane & Finch and other community arts organizations.

Email: burkek@yorku.ca
Website: https://karenburke.ca


Photo of Karen Cyrus

Karen Headlam Cyrus, Ph.D., LRSM, OCT
  • Group piano programming
  • Pan-African Music Repertoires
  • Repertoire and Representation

Karen Cyrus is the Helen Carswell Research Associate (2017 to present). Her research interests include Pan-African children’s music, group piano pedagogy, community music practices, and intersections between musicianship and second language acquisition: “music as a second language.” She holds an LRSM in Piano Pedagogy, MA degrees in Ethnomusicology and Applied Linguistics, a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology, and she is a member of the Ontario College of Teachers.  Karen started teaching group piano classes in 1993 in her piano studio in Jamaica; then, after migrating to Canada, she taught group piano classes at York University while earning her doctorate (2015). She is now a regular workshop facilitator on group piano pedagogy.

Her recent exposition on the nature and definition of repertoire development was recently published in The Sage Encyclopedia of Music and Culture (2019) and her research on participatory music-making in diasporic contexts has been published in Carnival: Theory and Practice (Africa World Press, 2013) and MUSICultures (2014). Karen has also written a series of music education textbooks with cultural content from the Caribbean – Music for Big Ants and Little Ants (Ereska, 1998) and Caribbean Integrated Music (Ereska, 2002/04) – as well as music curricula for community music programs in Toronto. She co-founded and is the music director of T.Mento, a Toronto-based band that seeks to preserve the musical style of Jamaican Mento music.

See Karen’s 2018 final report
Email: kcyrus@yorku.ca


Photo of Walter S. GershonWalter S. Gershon, Ph.D.
Music technology programming

Walter S. Gershon is an associate professor in the School of Teaching, Learning & Curriculum Studies, served as Provost Associate Faculty for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (2014-2017) and is LGBTQ Affiliate Faculty at Kent State University. His scholarship focuses on questions of social justice about how people make sense, the sociocultural contexts that inform their sense-making, and the qualitative methods used to study those processes. Although his work most often attends to how marginalized youth negotiate schools and schooling, Walter is also interested in how people of all ages negotiate educational contexts both within and outside of institutions.

In addition to peer reviewed articles, book chapters, and guest edited special issues, Dr. Gershon is the author of two recent award-winning books—Curriculum and Students in Classrooms: Everyday Urban Education in an Era of Standardization (Lexington Books, 2017) and Sound Curriculum: Sonic Studies in Educational Theory, Method, and Practice (Routledge, 2017). An edited volume, Sensuous Curriculum: Politics and the Senses in Education (IAP), is currently in press.

Email: wgershon@kent.edu
See Walter’s 2019 final report
Website: http://www.waltergershon.com


Photo of Joel OngJoel Ong,  Ph.D.
  • Data Mapping Music Making
  • Music technology programming

I am a new media artist whose works are characterized by systems of fluidity between software and hardware paradigms. At my current role as Assistant Professor at the Department of Computational Art in York University. My research and pedagogy focus on Creative Coding, Physical Computing and Digital Fabrication, though the conceptual explorations underpinning these practices often span a wide variety of cross disciplinary methodologies.  My current research casts elemental media (such as wind or rain) in the environment in a triptych of forms – in vivo, in vitro and in silico – symptomatic of the way computational creativity is becoming an indispensible resource for scientific explorations of the environment.

With the Carswell research group, my work focuses on the narrative potential of everyday life for RPSM students and hopes to equip students with digital tools to make the most of their weekly lessons.  While focusing on pedagogical strategies within demands of digital literacy today, I aim to complement the project with elements such as student-led outpours of narrative field recording, music composition, improvisation etc., computational visualizations, mobile app building and more.  My personal work can be found at ark  frequencies.com and my Institutional profile here:  https://ampd.yorku.ca/profile/joel-ong/

AMPD Profile: https://ampd.yorku.ca/profile/joel-ong/
See Joel’s 2019 Final Report
Email: joelong@yorku.ca 
Website: www.arkfrequencies.com
Phone: 416.736.2100 ext 77322


Photo of cathy pavlikCathy Pavlik, Ph.D. Candidate
Trauma informed pedagogy

Cathy Pavlik is a voice teacher (ARCT) with the RCM (advanced specialist), and holistic academic skills tutor (OCT).  Following a successful career as a public school teacher, grades 1-12, (B.Ed) she auditioned for a spot in the classical voice program at York (M.A.), where she began to work through her own performance anxiety through research, practice and performance.

Cathy is a PhD. candidate in the Music Department.  Her Ph.D. research is focused on the causes, coping and cures for performance anxiety.  She has also begun investigating the impacts of trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences on education and performance. Cathy is a certified emotional success coach, and EFT practitioner.  She helps students and musicians to release emotional blocks to move towards peak performance.

See Cathy’s 2018 Final Report
See Cathy’s 2019 Final Report
Email: cathypavliksings@gmail.com
Website: www.catherinepavlik.ca 


Photo o fSam TecleSam Tecle,  Ph.D. Candidate
Asset Mapping in Jane and Finch

Sam Tecle has been a community worker and advocate for over 15 years. He has worked with the Jane and Finch Boys and Girls Club, the Toronto District School Board, Youth Leaps, Success Beyond Limits and currently with York University’s Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community & Diaspora.

He has worked in both traditional and alternative classrooms and always advocated for the tearing down of barriers racialized youth face in the education system. Sam has also spearheaded the first official program offered by the TDSB aimed to reintegrate youth who have had contact with the criminal justice system, offering both educational credits and reintegration services. In addition, Sam has been a commentator on youth issues, violence and police interactions in the Globe and Mail, CBC’s Metro Morning and The Current.

Sam is currently completing his PhD in the Sociology Department at York University and his areas of research focus include Black and Diaspora Studies, Urban Studies and Sociology of Education. His dissertation focuses on the experiences and perspectives relating to Blackness and Black identification of East African Diasporas across the UK, Canada and the US. His dissertation (2018) is titled:  Black Grammars: On Difference and Belonging. Sam is also Co-Chair of York University’s Black Graduate Students’ Collective (BGSC) which works towards better experiences of Black graduate students at York.

Email: samtecle@yorku.ca
Learn about Sam’s research here


Photo for Salah WilsonSalah Wilson, Ph.D.
  • Steelpan Programming
  • Intergenerational pan programming

For the last fifty years, steelpan development has been a hobby, a means of livelihood, a cultural expression, a focus of study, and a passion for me. It has taken me from my place of birth Trinidad— where this instrument originated— to Montreal in 1973, where I have spent the most of my life to date, and finally to Toronto where I began my studies since 2012 at York University.

I am presently a PhD. candidate in the Music Department and my main focus of study is steelpan development. I see the involvement with Carswell and the RPSM as a vehicle to pursue this concept, at the same time producing relative programs and ways and means to assist various organizations. I look forward to a continuing relationship with Carswell and the RPSM.

Learn about Salah’s research here
See Salah’s 2018 Final Report
See Salah’s 2019 Final Report
Email: sal_wils@hotmail.com
Website: www.steelpanplus.com