Rich wears a blue suit jacket over a black t-shirt and square framed classes as he smiles softly at the camera.

Rich Coburn

Mentor, Music Alive

Rich Coburn was hired as the organist of Christ Church Calgary — whose choir is a regular guest at Westminster Abby — despite having no formal organ training. He’s developed a conflict resolution and negotiation workshop which he has shared with hundreds of young musicians through the Kennedy Center, San Francisco Conservatory, and the Association for Opera in Canada. He has always had an entrepreneurial spirit.

Earlier in his career Rich focused most of that entrepreneurial energy on learning to understand classical music more deeply, performing across North America and China. He worked as an operatic and choral music director, a pianist, an organist, a vocal coach, an arranger, and composer.

But more recent events — starting with living in Richmond, Virginia following the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in nearby Charlottesville — forced him to confront his position as a Black person working in classical music. He started reflecting on his own experiences with the white supremacy of classical music and institutions, and felt less and less comfortable continuing to engage with these institutions without also doing something tangible change them.

Rich’s solution was BIPOC Voices. At the intersection of his entrepreneurial spirit, his deep love of music, and his burning desire to nurture anti-racism, the goals of BIPOC Voices energize Rich. BIPOC Voices is the largest resource on the internet to help people program opera and instrumental art song by BIPOC creators.

Today, he balances his work leading BIPOC Voices with teaching courses on business and entrepreneurship for musicians at McGill University and his career creating and performing music.

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