Longtime University of Lethbridge supporters, Dr. Ron and Mrs. Joyce Sakamoto, continue to shape the future of the entertainment business with awards for Digital Audio Arts students. 

The impact of the Joyce and Ron Sakamoto endowment and its related scholarships is a legacy of student success and industry innovation. Since 2011, awards established by the Sakamoto family have helped dozens of students find purpose in their studies and inspired them to become innovative professionals in an industry where technology is continually advancing and demand for skilled and knowledgeable workers is ever on the rise.

Ron Sakamoto (LLD '03) is a multi-award-winning music promoter who has represented the biggest names in music and continues to support music and music education in southern Alberta. A recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee Medal, the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award and an honorary degree from ULethbridge, Ron was honoured with the Alberta Order of Excellence in 2019.

The Digital Audio Arts program (DAA), offered through the Faculty of Fine Arts, is the only program of its kind in Western Canada, providing students with the opportunity to engage in hands-on learning with Grammy-nominated industry professionals and participate in experiential internships. 

Program graduate and past recipient of the $5,000 Joyce and Ron Sakamoto Prize for Research & Development in Digital Audio Arts, Alex Wang (BMus ’23), says the award helped guide his education and career ambitions in unexpected ways. 

“The DAA program opened my eyes to what’s possible on digital platforms and sparked the inspiration to find a way for anyone who loves music to easily create it. The award fueled my passion for software design and audio programming. It was such a positive validation for my ideas and made me feel that I really could have a future in the digital space.” 

Since graduating from ULethbridge, Wang has moved on to a Master of Music Technology program at the University of Toronto – a decision he says he likely would not have made without the award and the experience garnered from it. 

Dr. Heather Davis-Fisch, dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, says the suite of Sakamoto awards are game-changing in terms of student engagement, learning, and ultimate success. 

“The Sakamoto awards recognize outstanding creative work and allow students to perform advanced research exploring links between sound, music and digital technologies. Their support is immeasurable in helping students find their passion and motivate them to follow it.” 

Student recipient Chris Jerwin echoes these sentiments. With funding provided by the Sakamoto Prize for Research & Development in Digital Audio Arts, Jerwin conducted research in various audio spaces to find out whether they can be recreated in virtual reality. 

“I feel an immense sense of belonging and community in the Digital Audio Arts program,” Jerwin says. “The award instilled a sense of trust and responsibility in me and reaffirmed that I am moving in the right direction. It’s an honour to do something I feel compelled to do and amazing that people like the Sakamotos make it possible.” 

Chris Jerwin sits in Studio One in the Faculty of Fine Arts.

In addition to the Research & Development Prize, the Sakamoto endowment also supports the Sakamoto Digital Audio Arts Entrance Award and the Sakamoto Digital Audio Arts Award, both $1,000 minimum scholarships which had multiple recipients in 2023. Outside of the Fine Arts, the Sakamotos support the Jo and Anne Vanee Memorial award, the Ron Sakamoto Scholarship Fund and Pronghorn Athletics.

Together, we inspire leaders, innovators, thinkers and doers.

Learn more about giving at ULethbridge and the Board of Governors’ $10 million pledge to match funds for the establishment of endowed student scholarships.

Read the 2022-2023 Donor Impact Report