Prof. Karen Burke, Karen Cyrus, Sam Tecle & Evelyn Ponsah

Prof. Karen Burke, Karen Cyrus, Sam Tecle & Evelyn Ponsah

Prof. Karen Burke joined the music department at York University in 2005 and developed the first post-secondary gospel music curricular course in Canada: The York University Gospel Choir.  Prof. Burke is also co-founder of the Toronto Mass Choir--a Juno award-winning gospel choir comprised of a diversified group of singers and musicians from across the GTA--and continues to serve as its Artistic Director. 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 and in 2009 was nominated for the Leslie Bell Conducting Prize.  Burke has offered workshops for many schools and organizations including the University of Toronto, University of Western Ontario, the Ontario Music Educators Association (OMEA), the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the Metropolitan Separate School Board.  Burke has travelled abroad teaching Gospel music in countries such as Poland and Romania. In 2016, York University appointed Burke as the Inaugural Fellow for the Helen Carswell Chair in Community Engaged Research in the Arts providing leadership for research in the Jane & Finch community, in particular, to assist RPSM and various other community arts organizations.

Karen Headlam Cyrus, Ph.D. is an ethnomusicologist and applied linguist whose research interests includes Pan-African children’s repertoires, group piano pedagogy, and music as a second language pedagogy. Her mission has been to promote the representation of Pan-African culture in elementary music curricula. Her publications for elementary music education include Music for Big Ants and Little Ants (1999), Caribbean Integrated Music (2002), and I Want to Teach Music: Methods, Materials and Management for Kindergarten and Elementary Teachers (2004). Her projects have also included a commissioned curriculum for an Afrocentric Saturday School titled Exploring Culture Through Music (2008), and most recently her exposition on repertoires titled “Repertoire” was published as an entry in The Sage International Encyclopedia of Music and Culture (2019). Headlam Cyrus has been the Research Associate for the Helen Carswell Chair in Community-Engaged Research in the Arts since 2017. Her work with RPSM includes studies on group piano pedagogy and Pan-African music repertoires.

Sam Tecle is a Ph.D. candidate in the Sociology Department at York University. His areas of focus include Black and Diaspora Studies, Urban Studies, and Sociology of Education. He is currently completing his dissertation which focuses on experiences and perspectives relating to blackness and Black identification of East African Diasporas across the UK, Canada and the US. Sam has held fellowships at both Harvard University and Northwestern University in their respective African & African-American Studies Departments; he was awarded the prestigious Canada Graduate Scholar Award by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Sam was one of the researchers of the well received "Towards Race Equity in Education: The Schooling of Black Students in the Greater Toronto Area." Sam is co-chair of York University’s Black Graduate Students Collective (BGSC), which works towards better experiences of Black graduate students at York University. Currently,  he is also a researcher at Success Beyond Limits, a community-based organization in the Jane and Finch community in Toronto.

Evelyn Amponsah is currently pursing her PhD in Social and Political Thought at York University. She is the chair of the York University Black Graduate Students’ Collective. Her work is on Afropessimism, Black studies, diaspora studies, Social and Political critiques of whiteness, popular culture, cultural studies and love as resistance. She also works on decolonizing the academy, both in Ghana and in Toronto.