I am a violinist and violist, an ethnomusicologist, and a music educator. It would be easier to say I was just one of those things; but that would be too easy for someone as curious about sound as I am.


I have been mesmerized by sound for as long as I can remember---by the inflections of language and the sounds of musical instruments. Whether I’m listening to sound or making it, I am captivated by the power of music to affect me emotionally and physiologically, and to inspire me creatively. 

The violin is my creative centre. I have been enamoured with the instrument since I was about two years old, when I first saw one being played on television. By request, I received my first violin when I was three. I started playing it somewhere between speaking Punjabi and learning English, and as I no longer speak Punjabi, I think of the violin as my first language. It is my expressive language; my athletic field. While my brother slammed tennis balls with his hockey stick into a makeshift net in the basement of our Calgary home, I took the highs and lows of adolescence out on my violin, interpreting
 Mendelssohn Concerto a myriad of different ways to suit my mood.

The peculiar social circumstances of my childhood deeply influenced the way I understand music. Ours was the anomalous brown family living in a 'white' community, a peculiarity that probably no longer exists in contemporary Canada. My parents, who enjoyed hosting parties, accompanied the fusion meals they served their guests with the East Meets West fusion albums of the ‘70s. Not surprisingly, my creative happy place lies in crossing the lines between musical genre and artistic discipline. I especially love the challenge of working with non-Western rhythm (especially working with tabla, as featured on my three albums); and the challenge of being choreographed. Yes, I dance and play at the same time (and no, I’ve never dropped my violin while diving into a lunge, even if I want you to think I might)! 

You can see more photos of my choreographic work here.


What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a sitar?
India? Something exotic? Meditation?
We don’t always think about how music holds subconscious meaning, especially sound without words. This intrigues me intellectually. Visit my Academics page and check out my blog posts (below) if you'd like to know about my research. My recent focus has been equity in Canadian music. I’ve also done research on the role of music in devotion, and the social responsibility of community music school teaching. 


Speaking of teaching ...
I have taught music—violin, viola, fiddle, classical theory, and jazz theory for non-jazzers—for a very long time. I became my violin teacher’s assistant at the age of 17. I was a tad young then, but I've since acquired a good toolkit of teaching strategies and I love passing on what I know about music.

To learn more about my teaching, please visit my Teaching page.



As of June, 2019, my home base is Vancouver, British Columbia, the city that has been tugging at my heartstrings for as long as I can remember.


PS. Call me “Doc” if you want to, but be aware that mine is a humanities Ph.D. The realm of hospitals, emergency medicine, engineering, and aircraft belongs to the other Dr. Attariwalas in my family.

Or you could just call me Parmela (with an “r”).


Wondering how to pronounce my name? 
 It sounds like:
Pahr'mullah Atahr'ee wah la

or for the linguists:
Pār'malā Atārīwālā


"Re-sounding the Orchestra" live! (June 6, 2019)

"Re-sounding the Orchestra", the research report commissioned by Orchestras Canada and co-authored by Soraya Peerbaye and myself has been officially released today. 

The report is based on 16 months of research, including interviews and roundtables with more than 40 people…

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Against Nature - 5 star review! (May 26, 2019)

Having traversed this extraordinary country two months ago in order to make a new home on its west coast, late spring finds me back in Toronto. I'm here for a remounting of James Kudelka, Alex Poch-Goldin and James Rolfe's extraordinary--and…

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Two decades in (January 4, 2019)

Hard to believe that we're two decades into the second millennium.  And twenty-five years since I landed in Toronto, intending only to kill the length of time necessary to renew my visa to the UK ... and perhaps make a…

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Omnivorous Listening Blog (May 22, 2017)

I am back in Toronto after a wonderful winter semester sojourn at Brandon University. And really, the winter wasn't so bad. It was actually a relief to go through a winter of sunny, cold days and clean air instead of…

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Hello, Brandon! (January 11, 2017)

Winter 2017 finds me in beautiful, snowy Brandon, Manitoba as the Stanley Knowles Distinguished Visiting Professor in Public Policy. What can I say? It's my dream gig: thinking about and conducting research on policy, social justice, equity and music, plus…

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Spring, nature and movement (May 9, 2016)

Spring has finally arrived in Toronto. After a mild winter, I'd been looking forwards to a long, lovely spring; but no. Winter decided to show up after all: in April!

Under the superficial layer of snow and frozen grass, life…

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NOW Society (Vancouver) Improvisation workshop

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The NOW Society's Spring 2020 workshops -- Wednesdays running April 29-June 17th will be running online! To register please go to now@nowsociety.org

Free with NOW Society membership ($5)


NOW Society - Creative Music Series #8


The third of a five night series of online improvisations between Vancouver-based and Holland-based musicians. June 11th will include trios and sextents with Onno Goveart (drums), Aram Bakarian (guitar), Lisa Cay Miller (piano), Melissa Hubert (flute), Torsten Muller (bass), and Parmela Attariwala (violin). see http://nowsociety.org for more information (coming soon)

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