Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Physics professor Dr. Michael Steinitz bringing music to campus for 33 years

February 25th, 2011
Dr. Michael Steinitz

The enthusiasm is hard to miss: “We sold out! We filled the house,” physics professor Dr. Michael Steinitz is telling a colleague who has just asked about the Antigonish concert by world-famous Canadian tenor Ben Heppner.

It is a big deal. On Feb. 17, 300 people – a sold-out crowd – gathered for an intimate evening at Immaculata Auditorium to hear the world-famous and much in-demand tenor in a solo concert with pianist John Hess.

Much of the credit for this rare engagement goes to Dr. Steinitz, who for the past 33 years has been presenting high caliber artists to StFX and Antigonish audiences as chair of the Antigonish Performing Arts series.

Why the long and unwavering commitment?

“It’s fun,” says Dr. Steinitz.  “If it weren’t fun, you wouldn’t be intense about it.

“I’ve made really wonderful friends in music, and that’s been good.”

A physics professor, an avid researcher, and the editor of the Canadian Journal of Physics, Dr. Steinitz has no direct connection with music (no one in his immediate family is a musician) except for the fact that he enjoys it. After he came to StFX, he remembers complaining about the low crowds at the concert series. He was promptly told then “why didn’t he do something about it?” He did. 
In 1979, Dr. Steinitz also teamed with Adrian Hoffman of the CBC to found Debut Atlantic (“My greatest invention,” he says. “It was my baby.”), an annual five-concert classical music tour of the four Atlantic provinces. That first year, Mr. Heppner, then a 19-year-old unknown talent, was on the bill.

Dr. Steinitz will joke that he remains involved because he wants to hear the concerts. It seems it truly is a labour of love.

It’s not like he’s not busy. Along with his StFX scholarly activity, he has been the president of the Canadian Association of Physicists. More currently he is editing the memoirs of a famous Canadian pianist, John Newmark. In April, he will travel to Africa to attend an international conference on Women in Physics and then lecture in Zambia. Two years ago, he lectured at three universities in Jordan. 

He also frequently delivers lectures in StFX’s Department of Religious Studies on Judaism, as well as occasional lectures in the Department of Political Science on violence in politics. He does physics outreach work as well, going into area schools, both English and French, from Truro to Port Hawkesbury.

For now, he’s planning 12 shows for next year’s Performing Arts Series, and says after 33 years, he is looking for someone to take over the series “please!”


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