‘Passionate educator’ wins teaching award


Above: Casey Sokol revealing his love of music as he performs a Hasidic dance to a Klezmer band at an International Dalcroze Eurhythmics Convention. Sokol told YFile he preferred this picture to conventional portraits because ‘I am doing something that’s much closer to what I am and the joy with which I teach.’

It must have been music to Casey Sokol’s ears when he learned he’d won a 2002 OCUFA Teaching Award. “Passionate educator” and “outstanding contributor” were just some of the attributes used to describe Sokol, professor in the Department of Music, Faculty of Fine Arts.

Announcing the names of those chosen for the award, Henry Jacek, president of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, said recently, “The teaching awards are presented to professors who inspire and inform through their teaching, course development and research. They make a difference both to academic discipline and to the lives of their students by offering the best they can professionally.”

A pianist and specialist in contemporary improvisation, Sokol (in a more conventional portrait, left) has performed as a soloist in chamber groups and as a vocal and dance accompanist. He is a founding member of Toronto’s Music Gallery and the Canadian Contemporary Music Collective, and a member of the contemporary music ensemble Sound Pressure.

The citation for Sokol spoke of him as a “unique instructor” whose work in the areas of improvisation, musicianship and performance are widely respected. He is “not just an exceptional teacher but also a widely recognized artistic talent. In turn, his extensive musical background and considerable artistic accomplishment have contributed to his significance and originality as a teacher.”

Further, the citation said a “Casey Sokol class is a unique, encouraging and even life-changing event”, a “relaxed yet challenging classroom environment” and filled with a “creative, supportive atmosphere.” Students talked of his “unending support and guidance” and they pointed to his tireless organizing of monthly improvisation soirees, where they are able to practise, collaborate and develop a sense of community.

There was an overwhelming consensus by former students that Sokol’s pedagogical style, mentorship and friendship were instrumental in shaping their career decisions.

Sokol was one of six recipients of the 2002 OCUFA Teaching Award. OCUFA represents the province’s 11,000 university professors and academic librarians.