Just be yourself: Sobey Family Scholars find first-year success in film and music 

Just be yourself: Sobey Family Scholars find first-year success in film and music 

Picture of Sobey Scholar winner Courtland Carmichael wearing grey sweatshirt with white collared shirt underneath.Courtland Carmichael  

Ever heard of Andrei Tarkovsky?  

If the answer is ‘no,’ you’re not alone. The late Russian filmmaker’s most recent work came out in 1979.   

He’s Courtland Carmichael’s favourite director, and the inspiration behind his essay application for the 2023 Sobey Family Scholarship.   

“I spent a lot of time thinking about the essay,” he says. “There was a prompt, which was ‘there are no facts only interpretations.’ Originally, I had a couple of drafts written, and they were all very, I don’t know, traditional and [formulaic.] Eventually it was my mom—she was really into reading about all the things they recommend when you’re applying for scholarships—who said, ‘Just be yourself.’”  

Just be yourself. With that in mind, Carmichael shifted to the territory where he felt most comfortable—film. He ran his high school’s film club, and watching and discussing films together was his and his friends’ favourite hobby.

“I ended up writing my final draft about Tarkovsky and his films, particularly my favourite one, Mirror. I tied that into [the prompt] and was finally able to write an essay I was really happy with.”   

Several weeks later, Carmichael was watching films with his friends after school when he realized he had missed a call from King’s. He called back and found out he had been awarded one of two 2023 Sobey Family Scholarships, worth up to $50,000 over four years.   

“I’m very grateful … I’d visited King’s on a tour once, and I knew this is where I belonged.”  

Carmichael says he discovered King’s while researching liberal arts programs across Canada, adding “this was the only university that seemed to really push them … not a lot of universities were as passionate about liberal arts as I found King’s. There’s really nothing like the Foundation Year Program.”  

He is considering a degree in English, a passion kickstarted by a summer job at his hometown library in Hamilton, Ontario. Like many who thrive in the Foundation Year Program, Carmichael discovered he felt at home around books. When he wasn’t shelving them, he was reading them.

A liberal arts degree wasn’t always the plan. In fact, he admits he’s a bit surprised with the turn his life has taken. “At the beginning of high school, I was definitely more science- and math-oriented. And then I started working in a library … and also I was really enjoying a lot of my classes like English and history. I noticed this switch where I wanted to go into something more liberal arts-related.” 

Carmichael says the scholarship provides financial reassurance in the present and makes the idea of pursuing graduate studies down the road more likely. “It really meant a lot to me that this scholarship has given me that opportunity.”  

A few months into FYP, would he say there is a parallel between Tarkovsky’s films—famous for allowing the viewer to derive their own meaning from his work—and the way literature is taught in the program? 

Carmichael thinks there certainly is.  

“He’s a very abstract filmmaker … and he never speaks on what the message is, it’s all about how you interpret it … In FYP, it’s not a lot about reading secondary sources; it’s all about reading the authors themselves.” 



Sobey Scholar winner Noam Koubi wearing King's sweatshirt and smiling to cameraNoam Koubi  

There’s a lot that goes into playing in an orchestra. A musician must focus on their part and at the same time, maintain close awareness of those around them. They must give their full attention both to their music and the conductor, simultaneously. They must count, breathe, monitor and communicate with their section, all without speaking, in order to make dozens of instruments come together in one blended sound.  

It’s not as easy as it looks, but it’s violinist Noam Koubi’s favourite aspect of playing in the Dal Symphony Orchestra. “It’s a sense of working together with other people, creating music together. I really enjoy that.”  

Koubi has been playing the violin since he was four; music is practically second-nature, and something he knew he wanted to continue through university. After completing his year in the FYP (Music) path, he hopes to double-major in violin performance and mathematics.

“I think both are actually very intuitive to one another,” he says of the subjects. “A lot of music, even the basics, like rhythm and stuff, it’s all math-based. So to me, going into both feels intuitive.” 

Koubi describes feeling confused when he found out he won the Sobey Family Scholarship, but not for the reasons you might expect. He had applied and written the essay, but he was on the university’s website for a different reason—to arrange an appointment with academic advisors—when the university’s number popped up on his phone. Talk about coincidence. 

“I spoke with [Yolana Wassersug in the Registrar’s Office], and I was very surprised… I thought there would be a whole interview process and everything [for the scholarship], so when they called me, I was confused at first, but very happy.” 

Halfway through his first year, Koubi is bringing the work ethic and determination that earned him the Sobey Family Scholarship to his studies. No surprise, considering he’s had his heart set on King’s since grade 11.  

 “I just really liked … [how] FYP explores the development of ideas through time, how we got to the point in time we are today,” he explains. “It’s kind of always interested me, so when I found a program that dives into that, it was really great.” 

When he’s not balancing the full FYP course load with teaching piano lessons and playing in the orchestra, he’s rehearsing for the Fountain School of Performing Arts Concerto Night. Performers in Concerto Night are selected from an audition process open to all students in the Fountain School of Performing Arts. It’s no small feat for a first-year student to be selected by the panel of judges and Koubi is one of only about ten students who will perform at the March 2024 concert.  

“I’m really excited. This will be my first time playing with a full orchestra behind me. I’ll be playing Wienauski’s Concerto no. 2 in D minor.” Henryk Wieniawski was a Polish composer and distinguished violinist and one of Koubi’s favourites composers to play. He smiles and sits up a little straighter in his seat. “I’ve been working on this piece since May and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to perform it.” 

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