Featured Alumni

Woodsworth College | Faculty of Arts & Science

Sarah Slean

Bachelor of Arts (BA) 2009

Sarah Slean recorded her first album at 19. In 15 years, she’s compiled a resume that many people would be proud of after a lifetime.

Slean has made eight albums, starred in two short films and a movie musical, published two volumes of poetry, held exhibitions of her paintings, written two string quartets and shared the stage with five of the country’s leading orchestras as well as performing on the prestigious TED Global stage in Edmonton in 2012.

She has been nominated for three Junos and two Geminis. Her records have been released in more than 10 countries. Her 2013 Land & Sea features her arrangements for 21-piece orchestra. Touring this double album has taken her across Canada and Europe.

One critic describes Slean’s music as “multilayered compositions that conjure up images of backstreet cafés populated by seedy radicals and idealistic revolutionaries who have had one too many drinks. If she wrote novels, Slean’s stories would be epic accounts of love, loss and redemption.”

"Another thing I loved about U of T was that it was no walk in the park. But if you gave your best, what you knew to be your best, you knew you were going to be rewarded."

In 2005, Slean took her voice off the stage and put it in front of the camera, playing the femme fatale in director and co-writer David Mortin’s CBC musical Black Widow. She earned a Gemini nomination for best work in a performing arts program or series.

Christos Hatzis, professor of composition at the Faculty of Music, has said of Slean: “I am completely taken by her superb talent. The thing that inspires me with her best songs is that they do not feel like a sum of parts. They feel organic, emerging from a place deep within, and not lost in the translation.”

Slean was born in Pickering, Ont., and by nine was composing her own musicals on the piano. She was self-taught. “I learned to sing by singing often – that’s all,” she told Canadian Musician. I sing in the shower all the time and I sang with my favourite records.” These included recordings by Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and Willie Nelson.


Published Nov. 28, 2013.

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