Coordinator of the Composition Sector and Adjunct Professor - Composition

BMus, University of Toronto with Oskar Morawetz and Edward Laufer
MM, University of Michigan with Leslie Bassett
DMA, University of Michigan with William Bolcom and George Wilson

Room: Perez 305

Work E-mail:




Born in Toronto, John Armstrong studied composition at the University of Toronto and the University of Michigan where he received his Doctorate in 1983. His teachers included George Wilson, Pulitzer Prize winners Leslie Bassett and William Bolcom, as well as the celebrated pedagogue Nadia Boulanger.

Dr. Armstrong won prizes in both the William St. Clair Lowe and Sir Ernest MacMillan competitions sponsored by the Composer’s, Author’s and Publisher’s Association of Canada (now SOCAN). He has been commissioned and performed by musicians such as William Beauvais, Ray Sealey, Louis Trépanier, Catherine Donkin, Alan Torok, Norbert Kraft, Robert Riseling, Dorothea Brinkmann, Douglas Perry, Jane Perry, Jill Dreeben, Elizabeth Volpé, Charles Hamann, Doreen Taylor-Claxton, Sandra Mangsen, Craig Sylvern, Janine Gaboury, SaxArt, The Canadian Guitar Quartet, The Continuum Consort, The Victoria Guitar Trio, The Alliance for Canadian New Music Projects, The Guitar Society of Toronto, The Cantata Singers of Ottawa and Coro Vivo Ottawa. He has received multiple grants and commissions from the Laidlaw Foundation, the Canada Council, the Ontario Arts Council, Alberta Culture, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the City of Ottawa. Performed and broadcast throughout Canada, his music has also been played in Belgium, France, Great Britain, Korea, Norway, Vietnam and the United States. His music has been published by Palliser Music Publishing (Calgary), New Art Music Editions (Winnipeg), Oceanna (Bobcaygeon), Cypress (Vancouver) and the Canadian Music Centre (Toronto).

Although primarily a composer of concert music, he has also written for film, dance and theatre; he is well known in Ottawa for his 12 collaborations with Odyssey Theatre. 

Courses taught

  • MUS2306 - Theory and Analysis I
  • MUS2307 - Theory and Analysis II
  • MUS3306 - Theory and Analysis III
  • MUS3307 - Theory and Analysis
  • MUS3315 - Music and Computers I
  • MUS3715 - Musique et informatique I
  • MUS4311 - Schenkerian Analysis
  • MUS3018 - Composition
  • MUS4018 - Composition


Commissions from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, CBC, Alberta Culture, Laidlaw Foundation

"Uncommon Prayers" (texts by Susan McMaster) - Chouses and Orchestra of the University of Ottawa, Shannon Cole, Soprano soloist, April 4, 2008

"Hail" (Texts by Seymour Mayne) - Doreen Claxton, soprano and Valerie Dueck, piano, Ottawa Chamber Music Festival, 2005

"Càol MacOidh" - Roger Cole, oboe and Elizabeth Volpé-Bligh, harp, UBC Recital Hall, Oct. 12, 2005.

Scores for Odyssey Theatre productions, 1998-2005.


Part-time Professor of the Year Award at the Faculty of Arts (2008)

Fields of Interest

  • Composition for voice, for guitar, and for theatre
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