Tag Archives: Ridley College Alumna

All That’s Real: Jane Lewis ’90

With her new album recently released, singer-songwriter, Jane Lewis shares how she found her voice—and is helping others find their own.

The chapel light travels warmly along the pews, coming to rest on the rich curves of the piano. A woman sits at its keys. She’s slight, fair, her face framed by a riot of silver curls. Her eyes are closed, fingers moving deftly along the instrument as she sings, softly at first, then with increasing emotion: “Here we are at the end, here we are, no regrets, just gotta take that one last step off the edge.” Above her, the stained-glass beckons, a reminder of things beyond the chapel space.

Jane Lewis Piano

The singer in the video is Jane Lewis ’90, and the song, Carry You Home, is dedicated to her late father, Paul, a teacher, coach and historian whose name many Ridleians will recognize. For the daughter of two long-time faculty members—her mother, Janet was the first housemaster of Dean’s house the year girls started boarding and eventual Assistant Head of Upper School—it was the perfect place to be. “I started writing it when he was sick, and we knew his time was limited,” Jane responds, when asked about the song. “It was really special to be able to film it in the chapel.”

The girl who once wrote poetry and was one of Ridley’s first environmental activists is now a musician based in Guelph, Ontario. Her passionate vocals and piano accompaniment have been compared to legendary singer Carole King, her songs described as “intelligent, poetic and cinematic.” (You’ll want to get to know her playful Beatles cover of Come Together—it won the Independent Music Award for Best Cover Song in 2015.)

All That's Real Album

“It might not be the way you initially imagined, but if you have a passion for something, if it’s authentic to you, you’ll find a way to manifest it.”

Speaking to her, it’s easy to see why. She’s thoughtful, reflective, empathetic—and if you read through the yearbooks, you’ll see that early writer’s voice slowly take shape; listen to her lyrics now and you’ll still find those echoes. It’s unsurprising that she finds inspiration in confessional songwriters like James Taylor and Joni Mitchell, and perhaps even less so when she says she’ll often choose silence, as it gives space for the ideas to come. When she’s not busy writing, singing solo, or teaching vocals in the popular workshops she runs, Jane is half of award-winning folk duo Gathering Sparks. Their compelling new album, All That’s Real was just released this fall.

For Jane, the road to music was a winding one. A philosophy major in university, she was already working in publishing when the opportunities to perform started popping up. And, by 2009, Jane found herself wandering a different, surprisingly natural path—“a decision that came out of what was already happening,” she eloquently puts it.

As someone who herself was at first shy to perform, Jane kept hearing from people who wished they could sing. She soon realized she could fill a need. “If you don’t go to church or aren’t a musician yourself, if you don’t have a family that sits around the piano, then where’s your outlet for singing?” she asks.

Jane founded All Together Now, a singing workshop series in Guelph. There’s no pressure to attend, no public performance; it’s simply about being in the moment, about embodying music. “It can be a powerful thing to get in touch with your voice, or the reason you’ve felt blocked,” she says. “But to share your authentic voice as a human being can be an act of courage. That really motivated me.” For some, these workshops have become a place where they learn to use that voice; for others, it’s a place to stop in and just let it all out. “I’ve had people say this is better than therapy,” she laughs. “And cheaper.”

Jane is also co-founder of the Women’s Music Weekend, an annual retreat where women of all musical abilities can perform in a supportive, inclusive community. There are powerful moments at these events, moments where a woman gains confidence, where she feels brave enough to step out front and sing on her own.

Jane Lewis Headshot

“It can be a powerful thing to get in touch with your voice, or the reason you’ve felt blocked. But to share your authentic voice as a human being can be an act of courage.”

The Women’s Music Weekend also has a bursary programme, now in its third season, where women can apply for financial aid. Having herself received assistance for a workshop she’d once found challenging to attend, the musician quickly saw an opportunity to pay it forward. “That definitely ties back to my time at Ridley,” she recognizes. “The motto, ‘may I be consumed in service’—that’s important.”

Ridley feels those ties pulling right back. Last year, Gathering Sparks performed as part of an artistic lineup at the Toronto Branch Reception at the AGO. “It was a celebration of the arts,” remembers Jane, “and felt like a recognition that this is an important career path a lot of people are taking.”  

When asked what advice she has for Ridley’s budding musicians, she takes a moment to reflect. On where she came from. On the work she puts in now. On the new album that’s taken years to come together—and the recognition that’s already trickling in. “It might not be the way you initially imagined,” she muses, “but if you have a passion for something, if it’s authentic to you, you’ll find a way to manifest it.”

And, if she’s learned anything, it’s that you never know what’s next. Looking back at the road which led her to this point, in some ways not where she thought she’d be, in others right back here at home, Jane seems content.

“Maybe the road is still winding.”


This article was printed in the latest issue of Tiger magazine. Learn about our alumni, get community updates and find out where Ridley is heading next! Read more from our winter issue.

TransfORming Our Globe – Bethany Pile ‘12

TransfORmingGraphic

For this month’s installment of the TransfORming Our Globe series, we’re sharing the story of alumna, Bethany Pile ‘12, who has found her passion and is now establishing herself as an artist, first locally and then internationally.

Me in studio

Bethany began her Ridley career in 2010. She took full advantage of the many different opportunities the school had to offer. Bethany was a member of the swim team; traveling to the OFFSA championships twice. She was a school Prefect in her final year; displaying leadership and acting as a role model for the younger students. Embodying the school motto, Terar Dum Prosim, Bethany also traveled to Jamaica twice with the volunteer programme.

IMG_4546 copy

IMG_4547 copy

During her first year at Ridley, Bethany was awarded the Barbados National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA) Prime Minister’s scholarship for demonstrating “the greatest potential for training and development in [her] discipline”. This, in turn, paid for the first two years of her schooling at Trinity College at the University of Toronto, where she graduated with a degree in Visual Studies and minors in Psychology and Art History. During her summers, Bethany’s commissioned works were garnering attention in her home country of Barbados. As a result, Bethany moved back home and along with operating her own art practice, she began developing and producing murals for RC Designs & Decorations.

Bethany is often motivated when she sees her paintings come to life. With as much time as some of her pieces take, the thrill of finishing a piece makes it all worthwhile. Of course, listening to what others think and feel when presented with her art also keep Bethany motivated to continue her amazing works.

Tracing Time
‘Tracing Time’ by Bethany Pile

Treacherously Sweet
‘Treacherously Sweet’ by Bethany Pile

I enjoy creating paintings that elicit powerful responses from people. I either paint in my studio with my music, thinking about inspirations for my next piece, or I am working with Rosalie, painting murals – which is a lot more of a social experience. Especially when we were painting a public mural for Barbados’ Independence! Lots of people came and said hello or commented on our work every day. Both aspects of my work complement each other well. – Bethany Pile ’12

Bethany cites Mr. Duane Nickerson as “one of the best art teachers” she has ever had and is someone who made a positive impact on her career path. According to Bethany, she produced some of her best work in Mr. Nickerson’s AP Art class.

“He saw what I was capable of and pushed me, and encouraged me to do better.” – Bethany Pile ’12

It was her experiences at Ridley that helped Bethany come to the realization that art should and would become her ultimate pursuit professionally.

To those beginning their next academic or professional journey, Bethany has a simple message: do what you love. In addition to capitalizing on something you are passionate about, she also suggests enrolling in a diverse set of classes as you begin university – “there is the opportunity to dabble in many subjects that can either streamline or completely change your career choice”. For Bethany, this solidified her decision to study art and become an artist. While her parents worried at times that she may soon embody the “starving artist”, it is clear Bethany has made significant steps towards her goal of becoming an internationally acclaimed artist.


TransfORming Our Globe is a blog series where we share the exciting stories of alumni who are leading flourishing lives and changing the world. It is important to Ridley College to support our alumni and share the stories of Old Ridleians, who discovered their passion and found success and happiness down the path of their choosing. 

Do you know of any classmates that are living flourishing lives or transforming our globe? Email any suggestions for the TransfORming Our Globe blog series to development@ridleycollege.com.