‘There was music in her’: Vancouver music community mourns Juno Award-winning composer Jocelyn Morlock


Members of Canada’s music community are mourning the death of beloved musician Jocelyn Morlock, a Juno Award-winning composer who spent years as the composer-in-residence at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

The 53-year-old’s death was acknowledged by the symphony, the UBC School of Music, where she taught, and the Canadian Music Centre on Tuesday. 

Morlock was known for her complex compositions that were inspired by birds and nature. One of her most notable works was a piece based on the Port Coquitlam, B.C., teen Amanda Todd, who took her own life in 2012.

The composition, titled My Name is Amanda Todd, won the 2018 Juno Award for Classical Composition of the Year.

“Jocelyn was asked to do this work that really addressed the horrors a young person can go through,” said T. Patrick Carrabré, the director of the UBC School of Music⁠.

“Jocelyn really dove in and created a piece that really helps people to connect with that story.”

‘There was music in her’

Morlock was born in Winnipeg and studied music at Brandon University, where she met Carrabré, who was the school’s music dean, in 1992.

“Jocelyn came and knocked on my door and said she thought that she might be a composer,” said Carrabré. The pair worked together while she studied her bachelor of music.


“It became really clear to me right away that she was obviously a composer. There was music in her that had to come out. She just hadn’t figured out how to get it out yet. It was just wonderful to sit with her and hear her musical ideas come to life and help her try to go in the direction she needed to go.”

That direction led to the UBC School of Music, where she would earn a master’s degree and a doctorate of musical arts.


Morlock left her mark in Vancouver after completing her studies. She was the inaugural composer-in-residence for Music on Main from 2012 to 2014 before taking on the same role at the VSO from 2014 to 2019.

Carrabré describes her as an intricate yet natural composer who wrote beautiful melodic lines. He said artists who played her compositions found they were able to express themselves.

“She had a wide spectrum of expression that she could bring to music,” said Carrabré. “It was contemporary but also lyrical.”

An orchestra performs while an ethereal image of Amanda Todd floats above the stage, surrounded by blue.
Jocelyn Morlock wanted her composition about the life of Amanda Todd to capture the positive aspects of Todd’s life, not just its tragic end. (Fred Cattroll)

In 2014, she was approached by the National Arts Centre to write a piece of orchestral music based on the life of Amanda Todd, the Port Coquitlam teenager who took her own life in 2012 due to ongoing online bullying.

At the time, she told CBC’s The Early Edition she had been apprehensive about the project until she spoke with Todd’s mother, Carol.

“We talked about how Amanda made this YouTube video, and she stood up for herself on the very platform where people were attacking her,” Morlock said in a 2017 interview.

“She was so brave. It’s hard to imagine what it would be like to be a child who’s being attacked on all sides and then have the courage to stand up and tell your own story.”

The piece, titled My Name is Amanda Todd, used small, repetitive musical elements to represent the way tiny actions accumulate online — for better or for worse. The performance also included a video element that features some of Todd’s own words.

The song would go on to win the 2018 Juno Award for Classical Composition of the Year. But Morlock’s biggest hope for the piece was to uplift others like Amanda.

“I feel like, in a way, we’re empowering Amanda and other kids like her to speak up for themselves and to be safe,” Morlock said in 2017.

Carrabré says he expects friends, colleagues, and musicians will organize a tribute in Morlock’s honour in the near future.

“She was part of the family, and I think there’s a lot of sadness and stock-taking about how important it is to reach out to the ones we love,” he said.


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