Barbara Croall is Odawa First Nations (Giniw dodem, Manidoo Mnissing) and balances her time composing, performing and teaching music, with work in outdoor education rooted in traditional Anishinaabeg teachings, work with aboriginal youth and singing in traditional ceremonies. She graduated from the Hochschule für Musik in Munich, Germany (Meisterklassendiplom – Aufbaustudium) and the University of Toronto (Bachelor of Music in Composition), as well as composition and theory with Dr. Samuel Dolin, Sasha Rapaport and Arthur Levine (Glenn Gould School, Toronto). Other music composition studies include with: Sir Peter Maxwell-Davies and Robert Saxton (Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Orkney), and Helmut Lachenmann (Centre Acanthes, France).
Although the first instruments she learned to play at the age of five were the traditional Anishinaabe wooden flute (pipigwan) and the drum ( dewe’igan), she also at this time held a strong yearning to learn other musical instruments and began composing her own music in the oral tradition. This followed with studies in classical piano with Melissa Vandendool (b. 1960, d. 2006) and Irina Kugucheva (Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto), receiving her ARCT in Piano Performance. In addition to performing in piano masterclasses with Boris Lysenko, among others, she has also studied chamber music/instrumental accompaniment/vocal accompaniment with Irina Kugucheva, Mariana Rosenfeld-Milkis, Andras Webber and Leslie Kinton (Royal Conservatory of Music/Glenn Gould School), as well as piano duo performance with Walter Buczynski (Faculty of Music, University of Toronto).
Apart from her music for traditional First Nations flutes and voice in the Anishinaabe way, her music for soloists, chamber ensembles, orchestra, film, theatre, dance and interdisciplinary performance has been premiered internationally (Lithuania, Finland, Switzerland, Germany, France, Italy, Greece, UK, US, Korea, and Mexico) and across Canada. In 2002 she was commissioned to compose the incidental and theme music for the Opening Ceremonies of the 2002 North American Indigenous Games in Winnipeg. From 1998 to 2000 she was Composer-in-Residence with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, working under Finnish conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste. She also performs as a soloist (traditional First Nations flutes/voice/other instruments) with orchestras across Canada and the US, and has frequently been a guest composer and performer at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C.. As a pianist she also performs solo, duo and chamber music with various other artists, and teaches piano and music theory privately to students of all levels, following the Royal Conservatory of Music syllabus.
Recording credits of her music and performances include: CBC Radio One, CBC Radio Two, Bayerische Rundfunk-Bayern 3, Deutsche Radio Swiss (DRS-II), Radio France, Italian National Television, APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Canada), Kennedy Center Live Broadcasts (Washington DC). Awards include: numerous awards in the Kiwanis Festival (1987-91, solo piano, duo piano, chamber music and music composition), the Glenn Gould Award in Composition (1989), numerous scholarships at the Royal Conservatory of Music/Glenn Gould School (1992-96) and awards from the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation (1993-97), nominations for the K.M. Hunter Award (2003, 2007, 2012), Visual and Expressive Arts Program Award (National Museum of the American Indian, 2009), and a Dora Mavor Awards nominee (2012).
As Founder and Director of ERGO Projects/ERGO Ensemble (1999 to present), she has promoted and fostered the creation and performance of contemporary chamber works by composers worldwide, with a special emphasis on emergent composers, women composers, as well as composers of colour and indigenous heritage. ERGO-commissioned works, which have been premiered and performed internationally at prestigious music festivals with radio broadcasts, have also received awards for the talented composers who created them and helped to launch their successful careers.
Barbara is also the Founder and Director of Women of the Four Directions (WFD), promoting indigenous women’s artistic and cultural activities.