Work Local aims to help recent graduates find employment and stay in the province. Yesterday, Work Local started working with the Halifax Partnership.
Finding a good job in your field can be difficult. Finding a good job in your relevant field in Halifax is even more difficult. Work Local is a free website designed to help.
Work Local allows users to submit video interview questions along with their job applications. The business has grown quickly since launching in January and is now working with the Halifax Partnership.
Leslie Gallagher, founder and owner of Work Local, says a site like hers is needed.
“I went to Dalhousie and am from Halifax, so when I graduated a lot of my friends left because they couldn’t find a good job, something meaningful or relevant to their education or what they wanted to do,” she said.
Gallagher, an English and creative writing major, wasn’t impressed with the online hiring procedures she experienced as a student and young professional. She felt that many job search websites focused on specific requirements and didn’t allow users to showcase their strongest qualities.
After conducting extensive research into the hiring procedures of small businesses, Gallagher discovered that many companies were frustrated with the hiring process too.
“If employers were able to see (the candidates) or even bring them in for an interview then they would hold on for dear life, but when they first get the resumé in then they are lost in the stack,” said Gallagher.
When clients submit their resumés, cover letters and required documents to a Work Local job posting, the site prompts them to record a three-minute video in response to specific interview questions provided by the employer.
The video allows employers to see if the person would be a good fit for their workplace.
“Finding somebody that their personality meshes really well with the rest of the team is just as important as hard skills, because they can teach you all of those hard skills. You can’t teach anybody to be a great team player or be really patient, or a leader or a risk-taker. It’s those sorts of things that you can’t get across with a resumé,” said Gallagher.
The list of job postings on Work Local ranges from graphic designers to personal trainers and accounting clerks.
Under the arrangement with the Halifax Partnership, Work Local will promote the Connector Program, a free face-to-face referral process that works with recent graduates and young professionals.
Program manager Denise DeLong said each participant is paired with a “local connector who is a leader in their field,” and the two of them have a 30-minute chat. After the initial meeting, participants are then given three other referrals, who in turn give three more referrals.
“This person would, over a span of a few months, meet 12 or 13 people in their industry. This is a tool for building a professional network, and one in three last year got hired in the process,” said DeLong.
Gallagher is one of these experts, or connectors. She stresses the importance of making connections when it comes to navigating the Halifax job market.
“Get engaged in the community outside of the university,” she said.
“If you know the area you’re interested in working in or learning more about, then find somebody that is somehow involved in that area and ask them to go for coffee. That’s it.”
Major renovations on the Dalhousie Student Union Building start this May, which will make the building more environmentally friendly and create a new ‘Society Hub’ on the third floor.
Major renovations to Dalhousie University’s Student Union Building (the SUB) are beginning this May. Though the renovations are set to be done in 18 months, the most disruptive parts of construction are going to take place during the summers.
The DSU offices and the societies who have offices in the SUB are being relocated over the summer during the renovations. They need to be packed up and moved by the end of April.
The Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group (NSPIRG) is one of the societies with an office on the third floor of the SUB. They are sharing the Wellness Room with the Loaded Ladle over the summer.
“We’ve had a lot of knowledge about the renovations but we don’t have much knowledge about the process … like when we’re going to move out,” said Holly Lobsinger, a NSPIRG board member.
She thinks the moving process will be difficult, especially because NSPIRG is bringing its library to its temporary space.
Lobsinger believes they will “be down to the bare minimum of functioning” over the summer because there will be limited access to their resources. In moving to a smaller space, she expects the way the NSPIRG office is used as a meeting place will change.
Other societies in the SUB, like the Dalhousie Science Society (DSS), are not active during the summer. Most of their things will be put into storage.
The renovations will also create the Society Hub on the third floor, a more central space for societies.
The Society Hub will have 12 private offices for larger societies, desks and cabinets that can be used by smaller societies, a full service copy centre, a formal meeting room, an informal meeting room and a kitchenette.
“I’m looking forward to not sharing the space,” said Tori Taylor, president of the DSS. Currently, the DSS and NSPIRG offices are in the same room, separated by dividers.
The SUB opened in 1968 when Dalhousie had 4,500 students. Since then, Dalhousie’s student population has increased to over 18,000, but these are the first major renovations to the building.
The project, first proposed in 2010, is expected to create more comfortable social and work spaces for students.
The design is being headed by Lydon Lynch Architects, who also designed the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market.
The first expansion will include a canopy over the University Avenue entrance that will create an extra 1,500 square feet needed for the DSU’s new 50-seat council chambers. About half the student area will also be renovated this summer.
During the second expansion, a glass atrium will be built around the canopy. There will be another glass atrium added facing LeMarchant Street. This atrium will be about 5,500 square feet and will most likely serve as a social space.
The renovations are also going to make the building more environmentally sustainable through more natural lighting, plants, a green roof, solar panels and rainwater collection for toilets.
John Camardese, a chemistry study coach at Dalhousie University, says exam stress is often linked to past exam performances and lack of preparation.
“The key is to be well prepared and to start early so you can comfortably cover the required material for the exams,” he said.
With final exams and the stress that comes with them still the norm in Canada, one can’t help but wonder: how stressed out are students about exams, and what can be done to minimize those stress levels?
Majority are ‘very’ stressed
Students were asked via Facebook and Twitter how stressed they are about exams. Of the 10 that responded over the past week, six said they were “very” stressed about finals, while none of them said they are “not at all” stressed.
When asked what they do to help relieve stress, most of them said they find exercise, non-academic reading and watching television to be great stress relievers.
“A good stress reliever is lots of exercise,” said University of King’s College student Sam Krueger. “Any chance to get some is fantastic.”
However, it isn’t just exams and final papers that have students stressed out. According to Dalhousie student Michael Kamras, there’s also an added pressure on students to stay healthy over this important period of time.
“There’s a lot of stress to make sure that you’re keeping healthy, which is really difficult to do considering the high stress levels,” he said.
Students: support services losing effectiveness
Universities do provide support services for exam-stressed students, but many are only available for a short period of time. Dalhousie, for example, brings therapy dogs to their school during exam periods to allow students to take a break from their studies.
In addition, universities like Saint Mary’s and Dalhousie provide on-campus counselling services, but according to the Facebook and Twitter respondents, most people who sought counselling to manage their stress were told the wait to see someone would likely be months.
What’s worse is many students often don’t know their schools offer counselling services and workshops.
“I’m sure there are services offered, but I’m not too aware of them,” Krueger said.
“I think there could be a bit more reaching out by the university for students to take advantage of what they’re offering,” Kamras said.
Requests for comment on this story from counsellors at both universities were either not returned or referred to other campus support services for information, but information on managing stress can be found on their website.
Watch the video below to learn more about how stressed out Halifax students are at this time of the year and what they are doing to try and manage that stress.
In a recent development, the National Post reported last week universities in Alberta and Ontario are considering giving less weight to exams or eventually eliminating them altogether because of the popular belief that “high-stress exams give a false picture of a student’s abilities.”
Until Canadian universities and colleges decide to do away with the final exam once and for all, students will have to continue finding ways to manage exam-related stress.
Visit this website, provided by Dalhousie’s Student Academic Success Services for more information on exam preparation and time management.
And for more information on stress and how it can be managed, check out the Canadian Mental Health Association’s website, which features tips as well as links to community support services.
MacQuarrie is best known for his work with Picnicface, but what happens when a comedian has a ‘ mental breakdown’ and has to pick up the pieces?
The small crowd at Toothy Moose applauds as Brian MacQuarrie approaches the stage, Moleskine notebook in hand. He opens it to the page his routine is scribbled on, rests it on a stool sitting in the spotlight, and grabs the microphone. He chuckles. “OK. I’m going to try some new stuff and some old stuff. Hopefully you guys are on board with this.”
“I like the idea of performing a show and everybody misses out on it,” MacQuarrie said while preparing jokes for tonight’s stand-up routine. “The best word I’ve ever heard in performance is turn-away; how many turn-aways did we have? How many people wanted to be a part of that show and missed out?”
Born in Antigonish, N.S., MacQuarrie has been doing improvisational theatre and standup comedy since 2003 when he was accepted at Dalhousie University. Since then, he has found success as a comedian, overcome a mental breakdown and is making a career as an actor.
In 2003, MacQuarrie became captain of the University of King’s College improv team and met Mark Little, Evany Rosen and Kyle Dooley. Together, they began doing sketch comedy under the name Picnicface.
In 2007 the troop released its video, Powerthirst, on YouTube and it went viral. Many members came and went in the early stages of Picnicface, but once their video went viral the quick jump to stardom solidified the official eight members — one of them being MacQuarrie.
“We originally started with four, five people in the audience, then we got to the point where we’d just see this lineup of people going around the block. It was like, ‘Really, you guys want to see us?'” says MacQuarrie. “We’d do a show, have some drinks … it was the best ever.”
The group quickly became recognized by big names such as Disney, CollegeHumor and FunnyOrDie. They were also invited to the YouTube Canada launch in Toronto, and began making an independent film: Roller Town.
Soon after the completion of Roller Town in 2011, The Comedy Network decided to give Picnicface its own show.
“It was the coolest experience in the world. I wrote a television show with my friends,” says MacQuarrie. “Fans were coming up to me saying they were fans. It was great. It was jarring.”
Picnicface was in the midst of shooting its TV show and was about to release its film when MacQuarrie began struggling with mental illness.
“Then something just sort of unhinged for me … I ended up having a mental breakdown,” he says.
MacQuarrie has a history of depression and anxiety. He was flying to and from Toronto and Halifax and was barely sleeping. He says he was purposely trying to gain weight. He was smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, as well as marijuana, and disconnected himself from the other members of Picnicface.
“My brain just went clunk.” MacQuarrie mimics the noise and quickly twitches his head. “I lost my mind. Absolutely lost my mind. I rented a hotel room for three months. I would walk around the hotel in my underwear all the time. I was out of my mind. Several days without eating food. Just drinking glasses of water. I lost my mind.”
In the midst of his breakdown, MacQuarrie received a phone call saying that his TV show had been cancelled.
“I hated the idea of the show being cancelled. Some people were like, ‘Did Brian drive the show into the ground?’ Um, no. Even if I was out of my mind, I was signed up with so many contracts … if they wanted a TV show they could have made me do it.”
Picking up the pieces through teaching
After his show was cancelled, MacQuarrie says he apologized to everyone he could and began teaching students and people affected by mental illness. He volunteered at Dramafest, a three-day theatre festival held at Dalhousie for high school students, taught at Improv U in Quebec, and ran his own mental health improv classes at Dalhousie. Teaching these classes helped MacQuarrie cope with his own mental illness.
“I believed that I could change the way people thought about mental health. My manager said to me, ‘This is career suicide. Kiss comedy goodbye.’ And it was just like, ‘I don’t think that’s true. I need to do this for myself.’
“It was really humbling to have these moments with these people and I got to see their development as people. So it was one of the best things that I ever did.”
MacQuarrie met a firefighter at one of his classes and began to work out with him, which resulted in MacQuarrie losing a lot of weight. He tried to audition for the role of Lex Luthor in the upcoming Superman film, but was not hired. He moved to Toronto, but moved back to Halifax less than a year later.
After doing small acting roles for a while and doing standup regularly, MacQuarrie was cast in the Halifax film Relative Happiness. MacQuarrie plays Gerard, a failed love interest of the main character, Lexie.
“I got a call and was asked to do a reading for [Relative Happiness]. So I did. They said, ‘Well, it’s close to what we want’ and I was like whatever you want, I’ll do it. I’ll spend the days working on a character and you’ll have something that sort of stands out.”
MacQuarrie was also cast in his first lead role since Picnicface in the feature film Your Wife or Your Money, which is currently in post production. MacQuarrie plays Warren, a role specifically written for him, who has “this kind of unstoppable force who would do anything for his girlfriend.”
“Maybe no one will want to see it, but maybe people will see it in England. Maybe people will see it in L.A. or New York.”
MacQuarrie also acted with Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara on the series Schitt’s Creek.
He has been applying for grants in order to write his own movie scripts and is currently writing an “anti-romantic comedy” television pilot with Petra O’Toole.
With the help of friends, MacQuarrie has also been working on a new animated series called Eric the Pillager, an adult comedy about vikings. MacQuarrie does the voice of Björn, a less than intelligent man who provides comic relief. MacQuarrie is most excited about the fifth episode because he came up with the episode idea all on his own. They are currently trying to get a deal with Teletoon for the show.
“That’s why I had a mental breakdown. I wasn’t living the way I wanted to. The people I’ve met I wouldn’t have met if I didn’t lose my fucking mind. I wouldn’t be working on this pilot that I like. I wouldn’t have got the movie,” says MacQuarrie.
“Yeah, the world is a terrible place, but it’s also incredibly beautiful. Life is fucking amazing … It’s taken a while to rebuild, but I’ve never been more confident than I am right now.”
Students like Tanis Smither, who are on their way out of town for the summer, are having problems finding tenants to sublet their apartments.
Several universities bring more than 17,000 off-campus students to the Halifax area each fall, making this a “student city.” But the population of Halifax changes drastically from mid-April until the end of August, when many students pack their bags to return to their hometowns. Although many of these students live on-campus in residence, a great number rent apartments and rooms from local landlords or homeowners.
When the winter term ends in April, these students are often signed to yearlong contracts and obligated to pay rent for the summer months, even when they don’t plan on staying in Halifax. This creates a problem: there are many more people leaving than arriving, and summer sublets become plentiful, not to mention cheaper than usual.
Tanis Smither is a second-year contemporary studies student at the University of King’s College. She is having trouble finding someone to rent her Halifax apartment for the summer, when she’ll be returning to her native Toronto.
“I started looking mid-February. I put a couple initial ads out just to see what happened, and I didn’t get a lot of responses back,” says Smither.
Smither’s apartment on Pepperell Street is close to downtown and several amenities and is only a five-minute walk from Dalhousie’s main campus.
Many students have resorted to what Dalhousie Off-Campus Housing supervisor Sherri Slate calls “rent incentives,” or small discounts and add-ins for subletters.
“Those rental incentives may be that they’ll charge, let’s say $400 a month, and they don’t have to pay heat and hot water, or cable and Internet are included, or they may offer actual rent discounts. The more of those incentives that are included, the quicker the place is rented,” Slate says.
Smither has decided her $530 rent per month is negotiable. Her apartment includes utilities and comes furnished. Several of her nine other roommates are also looking for subletters and have had similar problems. Smither says she is getting desperate.
“Hopefully, it’s a student because I’m sure they would fit with the demographic of the house better, but at this point if anybody in the world wants to sublet my apartment it would be fantastic, I’d be open to it,” says Smither.
Smither says several people have inquired about or even come to look at her place, but they have all found other apartments in the end. She has begun to advertise the room online, on websites like Kijiji and Craigslist, through Facebook groups, and EasyRoommate.com.
The Dalhousie Off-Campus Living website uses a third-party service, Places4Students, to help students find housing opportunities. Dalhousie’s is free, and Smither says she would use other private services if not for the fees.
“The only reason I haven’t been considering them is because I can’t afford it, I just can’t on my student budget,” she says.
Yasch Neufeld is a rental manager and co-founder of SubletSeeker.com, a similar housing service specifically targeting student sublets. The Halifax startup launched last year and Neufeld says they are seeing even more business in 2015.
“A lot of people, especially at the time you’re looking for subletters, you end up being busy with exams or sometimes you just get unlucky,” Neufeld says, “so we offer a premium service as well where we’ll actually do the work for you.”
SubletSeeker will do everything from photographing your apartment and listing it online, to finding people who are interested and performing reference checks. The fee to use these services is a commission, usually between five to ten percent of the cost of rent. SubletSeeker also has a free section for anyone to use to advertise independently.
Although there are no guarantees, Neufeld says his service has already set up about 10 renters with apartments this season. Neufeld suggests students “get as much information on who you’re subletting to as possible,” to prevent them backing out or not paying rent.
“Call previous landlords of anyone who’s looking to sublet, collect a security deposit, and get them to sign the sublease right away. Those three things will generally lock somebody in,” Neufeld says.
Slate warns that landlords still have the final say on anyone looking to sublet, and that the sublease agreements must be the same as the original lease.
Slate’s Off-Campus Housing office caters to students seeking general housing resources, everything from legal advice to moving companies to listing rentals. She thinks it’s important these resources are available. “All of our faculty, student or staff are entitled to post an ad for free once every year,” says Slate.
Slate and Neufeld agree there is an excess of sublets in the summer months, and that not everyone can find someone to take over their lease.
Although frustrated, Smither realizes she might not find a tenant. “There’s not really much I can do, my hands are kind of tied because I signed a contract,” she says.
Smither plans to live rent-free at home in Toronto and work full time so she can afford to pay rent and save for tuition next year.
“I guess it’s not going to be the end of the world if I don’t find a subletter, it’s just going to set me back a couple thousand dollars.”
“I think it’s important that people send out the message that this is something girls can do too.”
A documentary screening last weekend provided a space for women to share their experiences and to encourage more women to pursue careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
On Saturday afternoon, a documentary called Big Dream brought out a crowd that nearly filled the 120-seat auditorium in Dalhousie University’s computer science building. The documentary is about seven women across the globe who are pursuing careers in STEM.
The screening was hosted by WISEatlantic, Mount Saint Vincent University, Atlantic Association for Research in the Mathematical Sciences and Dalhousie’s Faculty of Computer Science.
The event was an oddity in the technology community because women made up at least half the crowd. Usually there’s only three or four women at technology events, says Emily Boucher, who directs research and marketing at Digital Nova Scotia.
Women are drastically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). For example, during the 2013-14 school year in Nova Scotia, only 22 per cent of architecture and engineering students were women. Similarly, only 27 per cent of students in mathematics, computer science and information sciences were women, according to the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission.
Lack of role models
Nur Zincir-Heywood, a computer science professor at Dalhousie, says that a reason women are so underrepresented is that there aren’t many women role models in STEM fields.
“This is where the misunderstanding starts because if there’s no role models, [women] don’t know exactly what to expect, what’s going to happen, or what it looks like,” says Zincir-Heywood.
“[Women] shouldn’t feel shy to go, talk, and ask. And we, the women in the STEM fields, should do our part and be accessible so both sides can find each other. We can take it from there.”
The importance of early development
Zincir-Heywood says that one of the biggest obstacles is that often women don’t view entering STEM as an option because there aren’t many corresponding subjects in junior high or high school.
Early engagement with STEM subjects is a huge factor in attracting women to these areas. A WISEatlantic survey from 2014 found that junior high students in STEM activities were 2.7 times more likely to consider a STEM career.
Susana Somerton is a Grade 7 student who came to the documentary screening event. She is interested in technology and has attended robotics camps.
“At the camps I’ve gone to, I’ve been maybe one of three girls out of a 20-person camp so I think it’s important that people send out the message that this is something girls can do too,” says Somerton.
Dalhousie students also spoke about how their early exposure to science and technology led them to pursue degrees in STEM.
Mimi Cahill, a forth-year informatics student, recalled going to workshops about technology when she was eight years old. These workshops sparked her interest in entering the technology field a decade later.
“I think that was partially because I had such a good experience when I was young and told, ‘You can do this. Try it.’ It was an inclusive environment and then I decided that I’m going to do this, I can do this,” says Cahill.
Cahill says that people need to know that they don’t need a solid background in computers and technology before they begin their degree. She bought her first laptop the first week of university classes.
“Don’t expect that you need any prior knowledge. You can start fresh, like me, and you’ll be fine. You don’t need to know anything before, just a little math,” Cahill says.
Women spoke of discouragement as another barrier in STEM.
Susan Grandy is a software engineer for an American company but is based in Nova Scotia. She graduated from Dalhousie’s computer science program in 2010. Since then, her work has brought her to Seattle and India.
“Something someone said to me, which made me discouraged and lose my confidence, was that girls didn’t think the same way and therefore I wouldn’t make it through. What I’ve come to realize is that we have something unique to offer. We may not think identically but that’s actually a good thing,” says Grandy.
To the future
Grandy encourages women entering STEM to be persistent.
“All I can say is keep going because there were times when I thought I couldn’t do it but there’s tutors and other things. The resources are there and I found the profs would help you whenever you needed help and just keep going,” Grandy says.
BrittanyKelly is the vice-president of Dalhousie’s Women in Technology Society (WiTS). She is in her last year of the computer science program at Dalhousie. She encourages women to look beyond the stereotypes of STEM.
“There’s a lot of opportunities to go and talk to people, go to conferences, and really get involved. There’s all sort of societies and a lot of the people in the different fields are very welcoming and everyone just wants to see everyone else succeed,” says Kelly.
Early Friday morning a security guard found sections of the roof of the former St. Patrick’s high school, located on Quinpool Road, had caved in. Two sections of the walls were taken out, and the building, which has been closed since 2012, is set to be demolished in the coming months.
Dalhousie students have been found to be involved in a sex scandal, as an Instagram account called “The Dal Jungle” has been brought to light. The account held pictures of students engaging in sex acts as well as nudity, and the account was only available to males. However, the Instagram account has now been de-activated and five students have been kicked out of residence, as well as 15 students have been banned from drinking alcohol.
On Thursday and Friday four men from Kings, Yarmouth and Lunenburg counties were arrested in connection to drug raids.
Two men, ages 33 and 43, from King’s County, were arrested in relation to 400 marijuana plants being seized, as well as grow operation equipment, and an unsafely stored firearm. Both men were charged with drug trafficking.
Police also arrested a 29-year-old man from Yarmouth and a 51-year-old man from Eastern Passage.
Early Sunday morning Air Canada flight 624 crashed and slid off the runway at the Halifax airport. There were 133 passengers on the flight and 5 crew. 25 people were taken to the hospital, and all have been released except for one. Air Canada says that despite the snowy weather, the conditions were safe for the plane to land. The Transportation Safety Board says that the plane hit an antenna array which ripped off its main landing gear. The plane also lost one of its two engines. Investigations are ongoing as to the reason for this occurrence.
An abandoned cottage on McNabs Island will be burned Tuesday morning, says the Department of Natural Resources. The bad condition of the cottage could pose a threat to visitors of the island and it has been determined that burning is the best option, and will be done by trained professionals. The cottage is not one of the historic homes on the island.
University Avenue bike lane proposal faces legal opposition from business owner.
The first public consultation on a controversial bike lane in Halifax’s south end was held Wednesday at Dalhousie University in light of some very vocal opposition to the project.
Jerry Reddick (known as The Dawgfather), who attended the meeting, has operated a hotdog selling business on University Avenue for 18 years. He has filed an injunction in an attempt to stop the project because he says he was not consulted during the project’s planning stages and claims the bike lane would put him out of business.
“Nobody took the time to consult with me, and that’s why it’s a problem,” Reddick said.
“University Avenue is not a place where a bike lane is needed,” he said. “You could find other places for that bike lane if you truly want [one].”
The first of its kind in Nova Scotia, the lane would run between Lemarchant Street and Robie Street and would be jointly funded by the provincial government and the university.
The project has been in the works since last spring, and although the bike lane would only be 400 metres long, David MacIsaac, a member of the project’s planning and implementation team, hopes it will inspire more would-be cyclists to get on their bikes.
“We would like to have more of these protected bike lanes because these are the types of facilities that attract new cyclists, people who are perhaps scared to bicycle right now and would prefer to have some kind of separation between themselves and motor vehicles,” he said.
Dal Bike Centre employee Meghan Doucette echoed MacIsaac’s sentiment. “I think the purpose of it is to increase bicycle ridership,” she said. “It’s a good space [for] a pilot project, just to learn from this and see if they can implement this on other streets around Halifax.”
Halifax regional council initially approved the proposal in September, but that approval was withdrawn last month following the legal roadblock.
Apart from concerns about his business, Reddick said he’s also concerned about the reduction in parking along University Avenue and how it will affect people with disabilities.
“They lose direct access to seven buildings from University Avenue if that bike lane goes in,” he said.
Although construction of the bike lane would result in a net loss of 24 parking spaces along University Avenue, Nathan Rogers, the project’s lead planner and Dalhousie’s assistant director of capital planning, said the university has ample parking to make up for the loss.
“On-street parking just represents one piece of the parking picture,” he said.
The project’s planning team will now take public feedback into account and determine if any changes to the project are necessary before seeking approval from council before the end of April. If approved, construction could begin as early as May.
Rogers acknowledged the current legal proceeding against the project, but he is hopeful that council will once again give the project its support.
“There’s always obstacles and challenges associated with any project, so it’s not surprising that there’s opposition out there,” he said.
For the first time in Halifax, Symphony Nova Scotia performed Video Games Live, a concert featuring songs from popular video games, at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium.
The conductor raises her baton, signalling to the musicians seated in front of her to ready their instruments. With a flick of the conductor’s wrist, the symphony and choir begin to play an upbeat and lively song from the popular video game Tetris. With bright lights illuminating the stage, images of colourful geometric shapes are projected onto three screens behind the orchestra to amplify the performance.
On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday people flocked to the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium at the Dalhousie Arts Centre to witness Video Games Live.
Performed by Symphony Nova Scotia, Video Games Live showcases segments of songs from popular video games such as Kingdom Hearts, Tetris, Sonic the Hedgehog, Final Fantasy and Metal Gear Solid.
Colourful lighting, special effects and interactive elements, such as a Guitar Hero competition, are also incorporated into the shows.
Alongside vocalist, Jillian Aversa, and conductor, Eimear Noone, Symphony Nova Scotia performs “Tetris Opera” from Video Games Live. (Video by Jessica Hirtle)
“I kind of like to describe it as having all the power and emotion of an orchestra combined with the energy of a rock concert,” said Tommy Tallarico, co-creator, executive producer and host of Video Games Live.
Sold out for almost every show, Heidi MacPhee, director of communications and marketing at Symphony Nova Scotia, said Video Games Live has received rave reviews from spectators.
“It’s been amazing. People love it. They are just so happy,” said MacPhee.
MacPhee said that Symphony Nova Scotia has wanted to collaborate with Video Games Live for years. This is the first time Video Games Live has performed in Nova Scotia.
“We get requests for it all the time,” said MacPhee. “They’ve performed all over the world and it’s just really exciting to have this calibre of show here in Halifax.”
Tallarico and Jack Wall created Video Games Live more than 13 years ago. Touring since 2005, the concert series has performed around the globe in over 35 countries, including China, Brazil, Mexico, France and Portugal.
A video game composer, Tallarico has contributed to approximately 300 video games in his career. He said he created Video Games Live to demonstrate the artistry of video games, while promoting the arts among young people.
Not only can video game lovers appreciate the show, but Tallarico said non-gamers equally benefit from watching Video Games Live.
“When parents come and bring their kids or grandparents bring their grandkids, they are the ones that are most blown away,” said Tallarico. “They are like, ‘I never knew video games were this incredible. I never knew the music was so powerful and emotional.’”
Roméo Dallaire discusses his “ultimate mission” to end the use of child soldiers as weapons of war, at Citadel High on Tuesday evening.
About 400 students, teachers, community members and local figures turned out to see Roméo Dallaire speak at Citadel High’s Spatz Theatre on Tuesday. Dallaire’s talk focused on what he calls his “ultimate mission” to end the use of child soldiers as weapons of war.
Dallaire, a retired lieutenant-general, founded the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, an advocacy group based in Halifax at Dalhousie University. The Dallaire Initiative works to promote increased understanding of child soldiering.
“The numbers are not decreasing, but increasing. And so there is a way of reducing it, by preventing them from being recruited and by training the security forces to consider them as a threat and to know better how to handle them,” said Dallaire.
Dallaire’s experience working with the United Nations during the Rwandan Genocide prompted him to develop the Dallaire Initiative. It has been a year and a half since Dallaire left his job as a Senator to pursue humanitarian work.
Dallaire spoke for over half an hour regarding the use of child soldiers as weapons of war, and how Canadians can help. There are two main principles Dallaire encourages: “The first is be aware of how these conflicts are using children. Secondly, donate. We absolutely need resources to be able to train these forces over there,” he said.
Making progress in Sierra Leone
Josh Boyter is the communications officer for the Dallaire Initiative. He stressed how vital it is that Canadians be aware of the role of child soldiers. “Children are one of the most sophisticated, low-tech tools that many armed groups have to fight their wars. And until we can effectively combat that, they’re going to continue using children as weapons of war.”
The Dallaire Initiative, which began at Dalhousie in 2010, is making progress in Sierra Leone, where more than 10,000 children were used during the civil war from 1991-2002. “(Sierra Leone) is now one of the main peacekeeping countries in Africa. Now it is a thought leader on this issue,” said Boyter.
Boyter said that it is not more troops that are needed, but better trained troops in dealing with the complex issue of child soldiers. The issue of child soldiers is incredibly complex, using both boys and girls of 7, 8 or 9 years old. These children are used in many ways, including acting as spies, carrying weapons, and forced sexual servitude. “Girls, due to certain cultural nuances and things like that, may see a lot more reluctance for them to come back into society,” said Boyter.
An issue close to home
Dallaire said that Canadians are aware of the issue, but don’t know how serious it is. “Not realizing that it’s far more sophisticated, they use (child soldiers) in all the positions, from support to sex slaves, that there are large numbers of girls, and that by using kids is to sustain conflict for a long time. That innocence on our part is going to bite us, because we now see this happening in Canada too,” Dallaire said.
The Dallaire Digital Ambassadors Project is focusing on social media to draw attention to child soldiers. “It’s critically important to recognize that the individual you see on the screen is not somebody else’s problem, it’s not someone else’s issue, but rather that we’re all connected as a global citizenry,” Boyter said.
Proceeds from Tuesday’s event will go towards the Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative at Dalhousie and to Sending Orphans of AIDS Relief (SOAR) Halifax. These proceeds will aid the initiative’s main project in Sierra Leone, which is currently on hold until November due to the Ebola crisis.
Dallaire took time after his speech to answer several questions from Citadel High and Horton High school students. Afterwards, Dallaire sat to greet a long line of attendees and sign copies of his two books.
A panel at Dalhousie University discussed racism and sexism on Thursday in response to International Women’s Day and the Dalhousie dentistry scandal.
Ahead of International Women’s Day, a panel called Forum on Racism and Sexism was presented Thursday by the Dalhousie University Gender and Women’s Studies Program, South House and the Dalhousie Student Union.
A classroom at Dalhousie was packed with students from around Halifax; some people had to stand to hear the panel.
The panel focused on the problems faced by marginalized racial and gender communities, and how they relate to each other. The speakers discussed their personal experiences of racism, sexism and the problems faced in society by being a person of colour, a woman or non-binary. Non-binary means someone is nether male or female, or is a combination of both.
Panel speakers included Dorota Glowacka, a contemporary studies professor at University of King’s College; Halifax Regional Municipality Poet Laureate, El Jones; Greyson Jones, PhD student at Dalhousie University researching transgender issues; and Tino Chiome, QBIPOC community organizer.
Leandré Govindsamy faces racism in class at Dalhousie and thinks the panel was a good way to start the discussion about misogyny and racism.
“I am brown, I’m Indian, so I’m not a typical white student,” said Govindsamy. “Coming to class and being the only brown person does affect you. It makes you be not as confident which is kind of sad, because you should be confident no matter what.”
Govindsamy says that she also encounters sexism in class.
“In class profs will speak to the male students more than they will speak to the female students.”
Tino Chiome, one of the speakers, says he too faces racial problems in his daily life.
“People may not be overtly racist, but they subconsciously have these feeling and notions about people that they put into practice,” said Chiome.
“You walk into a store and you see security guards following you around, or you walk in a convenience store and the guy at the counter suddenly has to fix something in the back just to watch you,” said Chiome. “So it’s little things like that, where you realize this doesn’t happen to anyone else, only when you go in.”
This panel was created in response to a forum on misogyny in January that discussed the Dalhousie dentistry scandal.
In December 2014, 14 male Dalhousie dentistry students were found to have been involved in misogynist activities towards female classmates in the Class of DSS 2015 Gentlemen Facebook page.
While discussing the dentistry scandal, the January panel found racism to be a recurring topic in misogyny.
The panel was also organized as an International Women’s Day event. International Women’s Day was on Sunday.
Margaret Denike, associate professor at Dalhousie University co-organized and moderated the panel. She hopes people learn compassion and understanding from this panel.
“I want them to take whatever best helps them become more compassionate and more understanding and more accepting of others, and I think we have a really tall order in doing that,” said Denike.
Busty and the Bass, winner of Rock Your Campus, will be playing two shows in Halifax for the first time.
After winning TD’s Rock Your Campus competition, Busty and the Bass has been playing all over North America, and for the first time they are headed to Halifax.
“We are most looking forward to playing for new people in a different city,” said Milo Johnson, bassist for Busty and the Bass. “Whenever we play for people and it is their first time at a Busty show, the energy in the room is so amazing. This is one of our favourite things about touring.”
Busty and the Bass will be performing at The Seahorse Tavern this Thursday alongside Robert Loveless & The Loveland Band. None of the members of Busty and the Bass have been to Halifax, but Johnson said they are “super excited about playing” here.
Because Busty and the Bass are travelling all the way to the East Coast, a member of the Halifax band Dub Kartel — friend of Busty and the Bass — organized for both bands to play together at Dalhousie’s Open Mic at the Grawood Campus Pub on Friday.
East West Melody, Halifax-centered music blog and organizer of both shows, said on its website, “Trust us — after seeing them on Friday you won’t be able to get enough and will most certainly want to hit up the Grawood to get your daily dose of funk.”
The electrofunk band from McGill University is made up of nine members ranging in age from 21 to 24, from various parts of North America. Last October, Busty and the Bass was crowned the winner of CBC’s and TD’s Rock Your Campus competition. They were one of hundreds of Canadian bands to enter.
Almost all members are set to graduate in May from McGill with a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Performance, with the exception of one who already has a music degree.
After meeting during frosh week, playing at house parties, and now being the winner of Rock Your Campus, they are now in the position to be considering different labels.
“As of right now we are just taking our time to really hone our sound, and our live performance,” said Johnson.