Kathryn Calder, 2019-2021 Artist in Residence

Victoria-based musician, songwriter/ recording artist and recording studio owner Kathryn Calder, was selected as the City’s Artist in Residence in 2019. (Photo credit: Steve Calder)

For the past 15 years, Kathryn has been recording and touring as a vocalist/ keyboardist with indie rock group The New Pornographers. She has also released three solo records, five albums with Immaculate Machine, and one album with her latest project, Frontperson.

Composing musical scores for feature films has been another focus of Kathryn's in recent years, including ‘A Matter of Time’, a documentary about her mother’s battle with ALS. She continues to raise money and awareness for ALS research through performance and public speaking. Kathryn is the founder of Oscar St. Records, an artist-run boutique record label based on Vancouver Island. She also owns The Hive recording studio with her husband, producer/engineer Colin Stewart. Kathryn loves her hometown of Victoria and is dedicated to promoting the arts on the Island.

Calder was also the Chair of the City’s Music Advisory Committee from 2019-2021, which was tasked with researching and providing advice and direction to City Council and staff on the planning, development, and implementation of a Victoria Music Strategy.

Kathryn Calder’s application was unanimously selected by the City’s Art in Public Places Committee, based on her strong reputation as an artist and collaborator in a variety of disciplines, and her proven track record working on community-based projects.

“I am so honoured to have been chosen as Artist in Residence,” said Kathryn Calder. "Much of music is about collaboration, and so it is in that spirit that my hope is to bring together the many different musical and artistic communities in Victoria to create beautiful works of art together.”


Connect with Kathryn

Learn more about Kathryn Calder by visiting her blog.


Arist Talk

In January 2021, Kathryn held an online presentation to share the many projects she has worked on as the City’s Artist in Residence. View this video below to learn more.


Opening Act

Opening Act was an online songwriting and performance program for youth aged 14-24 years. Through an open call, 29 participants were selected to attend online workshops with special guests and one-on-one sessions with Kathryn Calder to develop their skills.

Over 5 weeks, participants discovered the world of songwriting, composing, melody, lyrics, arrangement, and production, and discussed the challenges that come with being an artist. They explored techniques to kickstart the songwriting process, what to do when you get stuck, and how to work through confidence issues when creating and sharing your work. 

No prior songwriting experience was necessary, and several participants in the program wrote songs for the first time. Kathryn would like to thank all of the guest speakers, as well as the youth songwriters who participated for being so open and brave with their songs. Program guests included:

  • Neko Smart: poet and City of Victoria Youth Poet Laureate 2019-2020
  • Jen Severtson: songwriter, musician and performer (Peach Pyramid)
  • Simi Stone: songwriter, musician and performer (Simi Stone, The New Pornographers, David Byrne)
  • Mark Andrew Hamilton: songwriter, musician and performer (Woodpigeon, Frontperson)
  • Louise Burns: producer, songwriter, musician and performer (Louise Burns, Gold and Youth)
  • Colin Stewart: studio owner, music producer (Dan Mangan, New Pornographers, Yukon Blonde)


Check out the songs from Opening Act!


Youth Focus Group

In October 2019, Kathryn held a public engagement session at Vic High for youth to discuss their thoughts and ideas for the music community in Victoria. This led to the creation of the Opening Act online youth songwriting program.

This engagement session also inspired conversations that led to the development of the non-profit community group Space Blanket Society: a youth-led / artist-run collective.  Space Blanket Society’s projects can be followed here.



Kathryn, in a collaboration with Emily Hamel, created 1-877-2BE-CALM; a toll-free telephone number to bring calmness and joy to your day.

The project is designed to bring soothing auditory experiences to individuals in the Greater Victoria Area and across Canada. The phone line has a wide variety of comforting and joyful content featuring calming nature sounds, stories, meditations, music, poetry and children’s laughter.  

Kathryn would like to thank TELUS for providing this service for free. You can listen to the project online here.


Intergenerational Conversations Project

“Can we spread joy through connecting with seniors in our community? Why are the stories of our elders important? What can children and seniors learn from each other? What do children and seniors have in common?” – Intergenerational Conversations Project Resource Package

Kathryn invited seniors to join Grade 1 and 2 students from James Bay Community School to sing songs and answer questions about their lives; what has changed and what has stayed the same. A resource package was developed along with teachers Leigh Pharis and Lynda Fraser.  The resource package and accompanying worksheets are free resources for teachers and can be downloaded here:

Intergenerational Conversations Unit.pdf [PDF - 2 MB] 
Intergenerational Conversations - Worksheets.docx [DOCX - 143 KB]


Kathryn would like to thank: 

Leigh Pharis, Lynda Fraser, the students at James Bay Community School, Tracey Gibson, Irma Flores Guerrero, Denyse Zumach, Kim Dixon and New Horizon's Centre in James Bay, and everyone who came to the events!

"Patched In" - An Art, Light & Sound Installation
Lee Mong Kow Way (631 Fisgard Street)

Organized by Kathryn Calder, this art, light, and sound installation was inspired by the early days of the global pandemic when the urban environment fell silent, and the voices of songbirds became more prevalent.  The project involves a collaboration with students and teachers at the Victoria Chinese Public School, artists Jesse Campbell (mural installation and birdhouse design) and Meghan Hildebrand (mural design), computer programmers Andrew Schloss and Duncan MacConnell, and musicians Marek Tyler and Eddie Mau.  

School children painted wooden birdhouses which hang in the trees and along the wall in the alley. The mural is a patchwork of bright colours reminiscent of a quilt, and reflective of the diversity of tones found in songbird’s calls and in plant life. Twinkle lights thread through the branches of the magnolia trees, turning on when the sun sets, evoking stars in the night sky.

Periodically each day, music composed by Kathryn based on local birdsong can be heard in the space. Kathryn translated each bird’s call into short melodies using synthesizer, piano, and her voice, while gentle chords play underneath referencing ocean and forest habitats. You will be able to listen to the soundtrack for this installation online soon. Stay tuned.