My Story

Described as “one of Canada’s most original and compelling artists”, Parmela Attariwala has been active in genre-bending music and performance since moving to Toronto in 1994. She has toured and recorded with an array of musicians that includes Carla Bley, Ravi Naimpally, James Campbell, Anthony Braxton, Ed Hanley, Ernst Reijseger, John Taylor and Don Thompson. She has also collaborated extensively – as composer, musician and movement artist-–with a diverse range of choreographers, including Gitanjali Kolanad, Keiko Kitano, Claude Wittmann and Karen Kaeja. An ardent improviser and proponent of improvisational pedagogy as a tool for cross-genre musical communication, Parmela is an active member of Toronto's free improvisation scene. In addition to traditional symphonic work, she also performs contemporary music with the Esprit Orchestra, Toca Loca, New Music Concerts and the Queen of Puddings Theatre Company. Parmela finds her creative home, though, in the Attar Project. Conceived as a vehicle to integrate the eclectic strands of her own musical background, the Attar Project engages artists across musical genres and artistic practices in virtuousic collaborations that maintain the essence of each while challenging the boundaries between them. Since 2006, Parmela has been collaborating with Montreal-based tabla player Shawn Mativetsky, and together, they recorded The Road Ahead ... (2010), a collection of commissioned Canadian works for violin and tabla-–“créatif au possible, reflétant un nouveau type de pratique savante” (Le Devoir). Parmela has released two other critically acclaimed recordings: Beauty Enthralled (1997)---“a cross-cultural handshake to set the mind spinning” (NOW magazine); Sapphire Skies (2003), which features her own compositions---“a recording to treasure” (Wholenote magazine). She has performed and toured works from these albums across Canada, India, Sri Lanka and South Africa.

Hailing from Calgary, Parmela was a student of Mount Royal College’s Academy for Gifted Youth and a founding member of the Calgary Fiddlers. As a teenager, Parmela worked with musicians from improvising traditions, and began arranging and composing music for cross-cultural events in the early days of multiculturalism (1970s-80s). She formally studied jazz composition with Shelly Berger (1997-2000), and took workshops in electro-acoustic composition with Darren Copeland (2003/2005). Parmela received her post-secondary training at Indiana University (violin performance, 1988-honors) and the Berne Conservatory in Switzerland (1988-90). She holds a Masters degree in Ethnomusicology from the School of Oriental and African Studies (London, UK, 1992), and a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto (2013).

Today, Parmela's musical life is as multi-faceted as ever. She continues to perform with large and small ensembles (recently, Esprit Orchestra, Hamilton Philharmonic, National Ballet Orchestra, Ensemble Vivant and the Attar Project), and conducts Toronto-area research dedicated to equity and pedagogy (improvisation and pedagogy, music teaching and student engagement). Parmela teaches high school age students privately and older students at York University. She is also a dedicated teacher at the Regent Park School of Music, one of Toronto's most progressive music institutions for economically disadvantaged children, where she teaches violin, viola and fiddle. Parmela teaches as she performs: believing that music-learning in the twenty-first century requires greater genre flexibility, as well as the integration of theory, improvisation and composition in performance.