Artistic Leadership


Irena Szmihelsky, a native of Edmonton, has been actively involved in the music sphere for the past 35 years. Her musical training includes study at the University of Alberta at which she received her Bachelor of Education degree with a major in music, extensive study under her mentor, the late Maestro Wolodymyr Kolesnyk, vocal and piano study with the Royal Conservatory of Music. Annually, for twenty consecutive years, she participated in and later became an instructor of conducting technique at the Choral Conductors` Seminars of Ukrainian Music sponsored by the Ukrainian Music Society of Alberta. She has applied her training as a conductor to both adult and children`s choirs: Verkhovyna Choir of the Ukrainian Youth Association, Svitanok Children`s Choir of the Ukrainian Music Society of Alberta and school choirs at Vital Grandin, Albert Lacombe and J. J. Nearing schools of Greater St. Albert Catholic Regional District where, for the past thirty years, she is employed as a music teacher. She is an active member of the Ukrainian Music Society of Alberta and Ukrainian Youth Association of Canada (CYM).


Gloria Zaharia was born and raised in Edmonton, and has been active in the Ukrainian community from her pre-school years to the present. She began piano and voice lessons at an early age and currently studies voice with Eva Bostrand. She attended the University of Alberta and holds a B.A. in English/Psychology, and M.Ed. in Educational Psychology. She was an elementary music specialist with the Edmonton Public School Board for 32 years, and currently works as a substitute teacher, enjoying the variety of experiences gained while working with students from grade one to grade twelve. For three years Gloria also taught the Yamaha pre-school music program.

Gloria is the co-author of the Ukrainian Bilingual Music Program for grades one to six and prepared two “Listening Kits” to accompany the Ukrainian Music Curriculum. She helped inservice this program to bilingual teachers in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

Gloria was a member of the Merezhi Ukrainian Women’s Ensemble from 1973 to 1997, and still gets the group together for occasional special performances. She also sang in the Perlyny Trio with two other Dnipro members, who were also members of Merezhi. She has sung with the St. John’s Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral Choir since her teen years, and has been the assistant conductor for over twenty years. She is grateful for the many summer conducting courses taught by the late Maestro Wolodymyr Kolesnyk, for giving her the skills and confidence to conduct adult choirs. She had sung with Dnipro Choir in the 1970’s when it first became a mixed choir, and rejoined in 1987. She has had the pleasure of being the assistant conductor of Dnipro Choir since 1999.


Irena Tarnawsky, AMus, BEd, is an accomplished educator, collaborative pianist, conductor and vocal coach who holds degrees in piano performance and pedagogy. She studied voice with David Astor and Lary Benson of Edmonton and choral conducting with the late Wolodymyr Kolesnyk (Toronto) during the Ukrainian Choral Conductors’ Seminars organized by the Ukrainian Music Society of Alberta.

Since 1996, Irena has been the conductor of the choir she established at St. George the Victorious Ukrainian Catholic Church in Edmonton. In 1999, Irena along with Lilea Wolanska, worked as a member of production team for “Song of the Soul”- «Пісня душі», a Resource for Ukr. Bilingual Education prepared by the Edmonton Catholic School District. She sang support vocals and arranged/played all the instrumentals on the 7 CD set of Liturgical music currently used to support religious education at all levels of the Ukr. Bilingual Schools.

In 2008–2009 she conducted the Ukrainian Male Chorus of Edmonton for their appearance in the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra’s production Carmina Burana and Prince Igor: Polovtsian Dances.

Irena is vice president of the Ukrainian Music Society of Alberta. UMSA oversees and coordinates numerous Ukrainian musical activities in Edmonton, including community concerts, seminars and workshops fostering and promoting Ukrainian music and musical talents within the Ukrainian and Mainstream communities. She teaches with Elk Island Catholic Schools and also operates the Tarnawsky Music Studio, where she shares her love and passion for the piano with her students. She regularly performs in community concerts throughout the Edmonton area.

In October 2003 Irena received the prestigious “Hetman Award” from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress for contributions and dedicated service to the Ukrainian Community in Alberta.  This Award celebrates all volunteers who have chosen to give their time, effort and expertise in order to keep our Ukrainian Canadian community in Alberta strong, vibrant and active.

In 2011 the Alberta Council for the Ukrainian Arts selected her as one of 25 artists who are making a significant contribution to Ukrainian art and culture in Alberta. In 2014, her biography was included in Part 7 of the Shevchenko Scientific Society’s Collected Papers on Ukrainian Life in Canada.

Irena has been Dnipro’s principal accompanist since 1976 and also served as its assistant conductor from 1994 to 1996.