Meet Jasper Chen, Crystal Huang and Navin Kariyawasam as they reflect on their Hart House experiences and Kevin He from the Viol Ensemble class at Hart House, who treats us to a virtual performance from one of his favourite works from the Renaissance.

Hart House Student Stories

We spoke with a master's candidate, a new alumna and a graduating student about their unique connections to Hart House. Deeply involved in Hart House clubs and committees, these three reflect on what Hart House has meant to them and how it has supported them throughout their university career and beyond. 

Jasper Chen

Photo of Jasper Chen

"I joined the Hart House Finance Committee in the summer of 2017 before I entered my third year of undergraduate study. I am honoured to continue serving as a member of the Finance Committee and participating each year in the Committee on Budgets.

"Hart House is one of the greatest places I’ve found during my 5 years at U of T. I have tried unknown and unfamiliar things, and in this way, have developed my skills such as making presentations and organizing events. Additionally, the experience with Hart House helped me to better understand its operations, and potentially that of other universities, helping to reconcile the potential misunderstanding between the university or the administrative team and the students. I believe anyone can benefit from joining Hart House during their time at U of T." 

Jasper is currently a master’s candidate at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto. He graduated from U of T in 2019 with a double major in Economics and Public Policy. In his studies, he hopes to gain a comprehensive understanding of the world from diversified viewpoints, including Western and Eastern ideologies.

Crystal Huang

Photo of Crystal Huang

"I have been part of the Hart House Jazz Choir (Oscat) for all 4 years of my undergrad, and in my last two years, I worked closely with Hart House as the executive secretary for my choir.

"Some of my responsibilities as executive secretary included coordinating with Hart House to schedule rooms for rehearsal and figuring out the budget for the year, relaying important information to the choir concerning performances, and organizing all things behind-the-scenes for our annual concerts. This role has taught me a lot about leadership and organization, which I will find useful in my future endeavours. I am very grateful to have had this opportunity to learn and grow." 

Crystal graduated with a double major in Psychology and Criminology. She is exploring further graduate studies in Forensic Psychology, which she sees as the intersection of her two majors.

Navin Kariyawasam

photo of Navin Kariyawasam

"Over and above the material I studied, my programs taught me the value of rigorous critique, flexible thinking, and diverse ways of knowing. I will carry those lessons with me as I continue my studies. Of course, much of the growth I have been fortunate enough to experience has been outside of the classroom, and Hart House was a large part of that.

"Through the Hart House debating club, I met some of my closest friends and learned about aspects of the world that I otherwise would never have explored. I also learned to be a leader and make changes that mattered to me. I hope that my time as a leader in Hart House has a positive impact that lasts beyond my years here.

"I am immensely grateful for all of my experiences at Hart House. I look forward to continuing my time here, albeit in a different capacity, as I begin this new chapter." 

Navin graduates this year from undergraduate programs in Neuroscience and Sexual Diversity Studies and plans to pursue an MD program at U of T this fall.

A Story About the Hart House Viols

The Hart House Viols is a museum-quality collection of instruments that are played once a week by a group of musicians led by Joëlle Morton. In lieu of their end-of-year concert, one of these musicians, Kevin He, created a virtual performance that he shares here with us. 

Kevin He

Photo of Kevin He.

"One of the highlights of my musical journey has been not just witnessing, but actually holding and playing the 400-year-old viol instruments, beautifully showcased in the Gallery Grill at Hart House. For the past academic year, I met weekly with my viol ensemble class. It was a surreally beautiful dive into the world of Renaissance music, a cure and antidote to the restlessness I would sometimes feel. I have come to associate the experience with Hart House—the beautiful location and acoustic space where all of it happened. 

"When our final end-of-year concert was cancelled, I uploaded my own performance of my favourite piece from our class as a way to commemorate the wonderful journey. "I am so glad the performance has found its way back to Hart House, where it belongs."

Kevin Zi-Xiao He is a Chinese-Canadian composer, cellist, and soon-to-be fourth-year doctoral degree candidate in music composition in the studio of Dr. Christos Hatzis at U of T. With a passion for music too diverse to summarize in a two-sentence bio, Kevin aspires, in the words of his favourite jazz pianist Bill Evans, to “search for truth and beauty, and forget the rest."

John Dowland: Lachrimae Antiquae from Lachrimae (Seaven Tears) for Five Viols | Flow My Tears performed by Kevin Zi-Xiao He.