A Plot Summary

2 Sep

It’s funny – even though the plot of Diagnosis: Diabetes has been pretty much set for the last 2 years, I never really considered it final while I was working on composing the opera. There was always a chance that something would change in the process.

I never felt like I was being secretive about it. I’ve shared parts of the story, described what happens in certain scenes, and explained individual character arcs, yet, it wasn’t until the very end of the process that I sat down and wrote a summary of the plot.

Anyway, now that we’re nearing the one-month countdown to the world premiere performance, it’s time for me to share a bit more of the details!

In essence, Diagnosis: Diabetes is the story of Charlie and his life with diabetes.

When first diagnosed, he and parents are hit with an onslaught of information that proves to be too much to handle. While Charlie is too young to understand the complexity of the situation, his parents wrestle with how this changes their lives, and whether or not it’s their fault. As he grows up, Charlie wrestles with how much he will disclose in his daily life. In what might be the most important meeting of his career, he puts his own health at risk in order to save face in front of his boss and co-workers. On a road trip with one of his oldest friends, he realizes there’s something wrong with his vision. Later, at the eye doctor’s, he is diagnosed with his first real complication. The severity of the diagnosis doesn’t even matter – his life is no longer carefree. Charlie is forced to confront whether or not he is willing to make changes to his lifestyle now for the benefit of what seems to be the distant future.


A Bit of an Introduction

26 Aug

As a diabetic since the age of seven, I have seen friends and fellow diabetics follow a variety of paths that put diabetes at the forefront of their lives, and until a few years ago, I had no idea how I’d ever be able to make an impact on the world of diabetes. Writing an opera about diabetes has allowed me to bring light to an invisible illness by giving the audience the experiences of being diabetic.

As a composer, I’ve been obsessed with musicalizing extramusical experiences and concepts such as humour and disease. I have found that shared experience and audience interaction are powerful tools for connecting music to the extramusical, and those tools became the basis for creating Diagnosis: Diabetes.

While the opera is very specifically about diabetes, the struggle faced by the main character is universal amongst the youth of today: burnout and apathy. In exploring these themes by engaging audience interaction, the project simultaneously connects opera to a potential new audience of diabetics, and shares an essentially diabetic experience with any audience members who aren’t afflicted.

One of the most exciting elements to this project was that the opera wouldn’t just involve the audience in a trivial way. The audience actually becomes a character in the opera, with tensions and a relationship that develops between both the protagonist (Charlie) and the antagonist (Narrator). Having had success with audience interaction in previous pieces, this libretto gave me the opportunity to develop that technique further and on a grander scale.

Lots of Good News

21 Aug

My apologies for the many months of radio (blog) silence, but I needed to keep my head down to finish writing, editing, and defending my thesis.

…which leads me to…

Exciting Announcement #1


That’s right, my life as a student has come to an end and I can now move on to bigger, better things

…which leads me to…

Exciting Announcement #2

Diagnosis: Diabetes will be performed in 7 weeks!!!!

Stay tuned for more information, but for those of you in Vancouver, mark October 10, 2015 on your calendar for the world premiere, performed by Vancouver’s Erato Ensemble.


Click for more details

Midnight Three & Six

27 Feb

Every once in a while, something pops up on the internet that get a community riled up. In this case, it was a documentary called Midnight Three & Six, which is inspiring passionate feelings from the Type-1 Diabetes community. Diatribe published a thought-provoking article by Kelly L. Close that expresses some common sentiments, but ultimately assigns more intention to the documentary subjects and makers than I see fit.

Briefly, here are my initial reactions. I won’t go any further than this stage, because many other people will be writing many other things on these topics, as they have before. I’ll stick to writing music!

  • Wow, this mother is overbearing
  •  3 times a night…. yikes – how do people sleep?!?
  • I WANT A PUPPY!!!!
  • “What IF she ever goes to college or wants to move out…” REALLY?!? how does the word if even factor into that sentence 😉

I also have some more or less serious thoughts about the film, but the thing that got me wanting to post about it was one of Kelly Close’s points,

In its efforts to promote the seriousness of type 1 diabetes and educate the public on its life-threatening risks, the film fails to acknowledge that people with type 1 diabetes can lead fulfilling lives.

Because… that’s the whole reason I started this project, and this blog! And it’s the biggest struggle I’ve had with writing an opera about diabetes (and I imagine it’s an immense challenge for the director of this documentary): how to show what diabetes is like in a way that’s neither preachy nor depressing.

Fingers crossed that I’ll succeed!!

The reason there’s been such a long time since my last post is that I didn’t know how to do it. I got thrown off course. I couldn’t finish the opera in good conscience, because I refuse to fail in that task. I’m not saying that parts aren’t depressing, and parts aren’t preachy, but I couldn’t let that be the take home of the project.

In the end, I FINALLY finished a draft of the full opera. I’m currently working on the edits and orchestration. The plan is that it’ll be edited and ready for committee feedback (academic red tape) in a month’s time so that I can move onto more academic red tape and become a doctor! Sadly, I can’t include any actual updates of the material, but I was thrilled to hear that my advisor loves how I ended the opera.

It’s always exciting to see coverage of diabetes in the news and popping up on my social media feeds. I can only hope it there will be this much discourse on my opera once it hits the internet!

Pecha Kucha Talk from: Health Talks 2014

18 Apr

As promised, here is the Pecha Kucha talk I gave for Health Talks 2014, as part of the BC Patient Safety and Quality Council’s Quality Forum 2014.

A Shared Experience That Started It All

25 Mar

At the beginning of this project, I searched high and low through the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) for blog posts that I could turn into an opera… Years later, while I’ve opted to write the libretto myself, that massive body of writing has had its influence on my opera as well as my life as a diabetic.

One of the only things I stole from someone else (with permission, of course), was a reference to floaters as pac-man ghosts – a charming image penned by one of my favourite bloggers, Kerri Sparling. I’ve been following Six Until Me for years, and my first real connection to the DOC was in reading her tale of being diagnosed with Diabetic Retinopathy. It rang so true to me, so close to my own experience that I simply had to write an opera about it.

So, imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon her new(ish) book today while out for lunch with a friend!



Obviously, parts of the opera are going to remind me of those diabetic stories I’ve encountered, but it’s extra special when they find unexpected ways of making themselves known.

Health Talks 2014

28 Feb

If you want to get over your fear of public speaking, forget Toastmasters… just do a TED Talk or Pecha Kucha!
Well, I suppose that’s not entirely realistic, but both of this year’s speaking engagements have been for the most engaged, supportive audiences I could imagine.

Adopting the twitter name @DiabetesOpera, I did my best to live tweet the event. I was thrilled not just by the praise and support for my ideas, but by the community engagement that seemed to be developing.
I was approached by a diabetic woman who shared with me some exciting initiatives in the field of diabetes outreach. I spoke with a GP whose eyes dazzled with excitement over future potential for the work I presented. And one prominent neurosurgeon admitted to me that my presentation took him well out of his comfort zone – something for which he was quite grateful.

As composers and public speakers, we often find ourselves hoping that our work will reach or touch someone. So, having that proof right there in front of me, I really couldn’t have hoped for a more successful talk!

I’ll post the video of the talk when it’s available, but for now, I’ll leave you with a photo I had taken with one of the other speakers. If you don’t recognize her, this might jog your memory.

Best known for her work as the Frank’s Red Hot spokesperson, Jean Hamilton was an absolute delight!