Spirituality is the muse for Nader Mohammed Khan’s global soundby Kurt Kleiner
Nader Mohammed Khan (BComm, 2000) has always been interested in music. As a child, Khan was already singing onstage in the city of Hyderabad in India, where he was born. Now he travels the world, performing music that draws on everything—from Bollywood to Beethoven—in its expression of Khan’s spirituality (www.naderkhan.com).
“UTSC was my first interaction with Canadian multiculturalism,” recalls Khan. “That really affected me profoundly. Much of the music I make draws on multiple musical traditions. I fuse them into something that is accessible and relevant for a Western audience.”
While at UTSC he was active in the Muslim Students’ Association. He also taught basic Islamic studies and Qur'an recitation to teenagers at summer camps and sang in recordings and onstage, increasingly becoming interested in making devotional music. After graduation he worked for several years for a company that provides software support to mutual funds, and eventually recorded his own album of devotional music, Take My Hand.
He has since toured the world, performing in the USA, Australia, the UK, Singapore and Malaysia. He is also a director of Seekers Hub (www.seekershub.org), a Toronto-based non-profit organization that connects spiritual pursuits with community service and social engagement.
Khan, who sings in English, Arabic, Urdu and some Farsi, combines many diverse musical styles to make his music accessible. Says Khan, "It’s really humbling when you connect with somebody in a different corner of the world, and they tell you that you've had a profound impact on their life."
The most important element of his music is its spiritual content. But, according to Khan, in order for the audience to appreciate that spiritual component, the music has to sound divine.
Who’s Doing What
After providing 12 years of administrative leadership during an era of phenomenal expansion at UTSC, Kim McLean (BA, 1985) left her post as Chief Administrative Officer to take on a new position as the CAO of the Faculty of Arts & Science at the St. George campus.
“It’s been terrific to be a part of something that’s changed so dramatically,” says McLean, who grew up in Scarborough and was a student in what is now the management co-op program at UTSC.
In her role as CAO, McLean was responsible for all finance and budget planning for the campus, capital projects, renovations and facilities management. She was also instrumental in the planning and construction of seven major buildings, including the university’s expansion onto the North Campus and the inception of the Aquatics Centre and Field House complex being constructed for the 2015 Pan Am games. Meanwhile, on her watch the student population doubled.
“I think the campus is poised today for continued evolution and growth,” notes McLean. “There’s still plenty of untapped capacity and potential.”
McLean’s time at UTSC was transformative for the university, says Franco Vaccarino, principal of UTSC and a U of T vice-president. “As a senior member of the Executive Group, Kim always provided thoughtful and sound financial and organizational advice,” he says. “She has built an exceptional team of professionals [that] we are fortunate to have overseeing the operational affairs of UTSC. Her contributions have played a key role in the exciting evolution of UTSC. While we are sad to see Kim leave UTSC, it is great to know that she is remaining in the U of T family.”
Kasey Bayne (BBA, 2005) was recently included in CPA Practice Advisor magazine’s “40 Under 40” list, which honours young leaders who are helping shape the accounting and tax profession in a positive way.
Bayne is a channel manager at FreshBooks, an online billing, invoicing and bookkeeping company based in Toronto. Founded eight years ago, FreshBooks now has three million customers worldwide and 30 employees. Bayne joined Freshbooks last year. “It was a whole new world,” she says. “I was basically creating their accounting channel.” And according to Bayne, her time at UTSC gave her the confidence she needed to succeed. “UTSC really contributed to the person I am today. I learned to take chances, challenge myself and discover what my strengths were and what I enjoyed doing.”
As an undergrad, Patricia Ocampo (HBA, 2002) couldn’t decide between biology and English literature. Her roommate helped her make up her mind. “You come home every day,” she told Ocampo, “and all you ever talk about are your English classes.” Now an agent specializing in children’s literature at the prestigious Transatlantic Literary Agency in Toronto, Ocampo is “loving it.”
After graduating from UTSC, Ocampo earned a master’s in journalism at Ryerson University. After landing a highly-sought-after internship at ABC News and finding the field too cutthroat, she took a job in publishing at HarperCollinsCanada. In 2010 she got the offer from Transatlantic. “I’m very proud of the Canadian publishing tradition,” says Ocampo. “I grew up reading Canadian voices. I want to make sure those don’t get lost.”
Former UTSC management co-op student Rose Fitzsimon (BBA, 2010) made the honour roll in the recent Uniform Final Evaluations (UFE) administered by the Chartered Accountants of Canada. She was the only University of Toronto graduate in that list this year and one of only 52 out of 2,900 people who passed the exam in 2011 to win honours. “I was really surprised,” Fitzsimon says. “When I heard [it], all I could think was that I was relieved, because it meant I had passed.” The UFE, which assesses a candidate’s competencies in knowledge, professional judgment and ethics, is a core component of the CA qualification process. While at UTSC, Fitzsimon did her co-op placement at Deloitte & Touche in Toronto, where she now works.
Fancy Lai (BBA, 2011) was never especially athletic. But when she joined the UTSC dragon boat racing team, she was hooked. She stuck with the sport and, last year, raced for Canada’s national team at the world championship event in Tampa, Florida. “At the end of the day it’s a team sport,” says Lai. “It’s about the team and team spirit.”
Dragon boat racing traces its origins to China and has become very popular around the world in the past 30 years. Anywhere from 10 to 100 people paddle and steer the boats, which are like giant canoes. Lai, who competed in the Under 23 Women’s Division on a boat with a crew of 20, says the sport has carried over to her professional life, teaching her the value of persistence and of setting discrete, measurable goals.
Andrew Shenkman (HBA, 2011) won the 2011 Great Canadian Literary Hunt at This Magazine with his short story, “Salt Water.” But despite the recognition, his literary career will have to compete against his musical profession. A singer and multi-instrumentalist, Shenkman is also a composer and keyboardist with Crowns for Convoy, a band whose other members include UTSC alumni Kyle Duffin and Eric Weigensberg.
“I’d certainly like to continue to write and continue to be published,” says Shenkman. But he’s still trying to decide whether to devote himself to music or to writing. In the meantime, he credits UTSC creative writing lecturer Daniel Tysdal with encouraging and helping cultivate his interest in writing. Says Shenkman, “I can’t say enough good things about that guy.”
The path to musical stardom used to be clear—get a record deal with a big label. The scenario has changed. Nowadays, bands usually have to build their audience themselves. Derek Fung (BBA, 2010) and Brandon Chu (BBA, 2009) want to support aspiring musical artists through Tunezy.
Described by Fung as “a social record label,” Tunezy is his and Chu’s start-up Web business, which is based on the premise that fans will help fund their favourite musicians via a virtual currency called “notes,” and musicians will then have access to services such as production and publicity. “We’re trying to find ways to help musicians keep producing amazing music,” says Fung. “We’re helping them by giving them access to resources.” Tunezy—currently in the beta-testing phase—is scheduled to launch this July.