Stories of Support


Academy Award winner Mychael Danna credits the University of Toronto with developing his unique musical voice.

Mychael Danna smiling, wearing a tuxedo and holding his Academy Award
Mychael Danna (MusBac 1986, BEd 1987, Hon LLD 2014)

Mychael Danna (MusBac 1986, BEd 1987, Hon. LLD 2014) is known as a pioneer of bending and blending musical genres in film music. His award-winning film scores are celebrated for their complex and evocative marriage of non-western traditions with orchestral and electronic music.

“The most gratifying filmmaking experiences are ones that take the effort to unpeel the layers surrounding the heart of the story, and to find the best musical expression of that heart,” says Danna. “Those are always the film scores that I am most proud of.”

Danna’s impressive list of film scores include Life of Pi, Little Miss Sunshine, Girl Interrupted, Moneyball, Capote, Monsoon Wedding, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Chloe, Transcendence, Vanity Fair and most recently On The Basis of Sex, a docudrama about the early life and career of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

According to Danna, his passion for presenting complex ideas in a musically accessible way began as he was learning his craft at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music. “Any success I’ve had as a film music composer comes directly from my time at U of T,” says Danna. “I developed and honed my musicianship at the Faculty and learned how to write my first formal compositions. Every day, I apply the techniques and ways of thinking that I learned from my professors many years ago.”

Fortuitously, Danna also met and befriended fellow student and future film director Atom Egoyan (BA 1982 TRIN, Hon. DSL 1998, Hon. LLD 2003)—who would become his most significant collaborator—when the pair were both U of T undergrads working in campus theatre. The friendship and artistic partnership now span a remarkable 30 years and 14 feature films. The University has awarded both men honorary doctorates for their extraordinary body of work.


Danna has chosen to commemorate his time at the University of Toronto with a Landmark Project bench. “I’ve always looked upon the University as the quiet and more thoughtful heart of a modern and very busy city,” says Danna. “The Landmark Project will safeguard these attributes, and give students and alumni more places to sit, reflect, exchange ideas, and be inspired by the beauty of the landscape and architecture.”

The Landmark Project is one of the most significant open space projects on the St. George campus of the past 200 years. The extraordinary initiative will reclaim the historic campus core for pedestrians by moving surface parking around King’s College Circle and Hart House Circle underground and introducing new plazas, pathways, trees and gardens to create a campus experience more befitting a world-class university.

As part of the Landmark Project, the University is also installing a major geothermal field beneath King's College Circle, with the potential to save U of T 15,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year—the equivalent of taking more than 3,000 cars off the road. This is a significant step towards greening our campus and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 40 per cent from 1990 levels.

Join Mychael in reimagining U of T’s downtown campus as an even greener and more inspiring place to learn, live and work. Read more of our donor stories, take a look at the renderings and discover how you too can leave your mark!

Posted on April 30, 2019