Susanne Ruberg-Gordon’s love of music began when she was just a young girl, sitting with her grandfather and tuning into Swedish radio.
“I was such a wild little kid, but I would sit still for hours in his lap and listen to classical music and he immediately thought that there was something going on here. He noticed in me from being a little girl that I would just stop whenever there was classical music on the radio.”
That love of music eventually became a love for playing music. But she needed to leave Sweden to go to Canada to make music her career, having since become a teacher and a core member of the Juno-nominated Land’s End Ensemble.
Ruberg-Gordon, who was born in Jonkoping, Sweden, first began playing piano at the encouragement of her grandfather.
“There was a family piano that was put into our house that he helped push and helped set up. He really noticed that there was something going on that needed to be nurtured.”
After taking piano lessons for a few years with local teachers, Ruberg-Gordon realized she needed someone a little more connected and more qualified.
As a result, she started taking private lessons in Stockholm, which meant driving for an hour and a half to three hours.
Through hours and hours of lessons and practicing, Ruberg-Gordon knew that she was going to make music her career. She enrolled in the Edsberg Institute of Music in Stockholm and graduated with a diploma in chamber music.
“If you’re really serious about what is going on artistically in your life, you can’t dabble in it. That is more painful.”
“If you can’t live without something, you have to find out a way to carve a living within it,” says Ruberg-Gordon.
“If you’re really serious about what is going on artistically in your life, you can’t dabble in it. That is more painful. I mean you can kid yourself all you want that you are fine without it, but truly you aren’t.”
That led to her travelling to the Banff Centre Music and Sound program to learn from a highly regarded Swedish cellist and conductor, Frans Helmerson, who was a guest teacher there.
“That’s the biggest thing as a student. You have to have the right teacher, and so you don’t tend to choose an institution, you choose the teacher and it’s the teacher that makes the name of the institution, and the Banff Centre had a lot of opportunity.”
Mark Wold, managing director and artistic program planning at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, knows firsthand of the opportunities the Banff Centre gives to its students.
“The experience for artists is created by a unique combination of an extraordinary natural environment, the nature of the Centre as a gathering place for artists from a unique diversity of disciplines and artistic perspectives, strong media and technological support, and the freedom to think, question and create. Here artists can come to discover and evolve their singular voice, and address their training needs into what we hope will translate into sustainable careers”.
Shortly after completing her time at the Banff Centre, Ruberg-Gordon auditioned for a job at Mount Royal University to become a teacher.
“I even auditioned before I was allowed to because my immigrancy was in the works,” she says. “I got told off by my immigration clerk during my interview, but I told him I didn’t want to be a burden and that I wanted to provide right off the bat.”
After officially immigrating to Canada, Ruberg-Gordon began her teaching job at Mount Royal University, a position she has held since 1991.
“It’s an enormous privilege to actually be able to work one-on-one with a student,” says Ruberg-Gordon.
“It’s so important to be a positive guiding force and to teach someone how to think for themselves within that language. Not to ever dictate, but say here’s some options. It’s teaching someone how to think.”
Ruberg-Gordon has not only succeeded in advancing her music career as a teacher, but also as a collaborative pianist and core member of the Juno-nominated Land’s End Ensemble. The ensemble is a contemporary music group made up of John Lowry, violin; Beth Root Sandvoss, cello; Susanne Ruberg-Gordon, piano; and Vincent Ho, artistic director.
“I think when you’re a musician and you’re trying to bring these little black dots to life, the more music that lives in all of you, the more easier it is to act as a character for that,” says Ruberg-Gordon, reflecting her work with the Land’s End Ensemble.
“For us to be able to decipher, connect the dots, and get beyond the black dots on the paper and bring it to life – what more can you ask for as a musician?”
Ruberg-Gordon realizes how lucky she is to be able to work her passion as a job, and although it is an extraordinary amount of work, Ruberg-Gordon still really appreciates music for the reason she fell in love with it in the first place.
“It’s about not just taking a black dot for a black dot. It’s pushing beyond the boundary all the time and it’s extremely rewarding in that sense when something comes to life. It’s a pretty cool job.”
In partnership with the Calgary Herald, the Calgary Journal is publishing a series of stories profiling some of the talented immigrants having profound impact on our city. Keep an eye out for more stories in the coming weeks.