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Before school was officially over for the summer, I met up with Glynis Dawson, Department Head of Fine Arts, at Belmont Secondary School and Maureen Garry, a music teacher at David Cameron Elementary School to talk about music programs in their schools. Glynis also arranged to have the Belmont sax combo and a grad combo on site and prepped for a photo shoot for our August cover.
I wish you could have been with us for that photo shoot. The rhythm section started jamming in the background as we were setting up. Immediately, everyone in the room became more animated. What could have been a boring hour adjusting positions and attitudes for the camera, became a choreography of instruments filling up the room with an energy that made you feel like there was nothing else in the world that was more important—or essential—at that moment. Brilliant!

In past issues, I’ve investigated how the diversity of community activity and landscape in the West Shore makes it such an amazingly place to live, work and play. They’re easy themes to explore and even easier to find things to do once you get there! This summer, I set myself a stiffer task: I set out to capture the spirit of music in our community. What started me on this quest, initially, were comments made by musicians I’d interviewed in past issues. Each one, at some point in the interview, credited their school and music teachers for developing their interest and talents

The Victoria Conservatory of Music Westshore [VCM] in the Westhills YMCA building has been going strong for over two years now. Launched in March 2016, enrolment has been increasing every term – up 40% this past year alone! Whether you are interested in pursuing music as a career or just as a pastime, having a solid technique and understanding of music will lay the groundwork for a lifelong enjoyment of music making. The VCM offers a variety of musical styles and genres: classical, contemporary, rock, traditional, and more.

The concept for the ‘Music Port’ Program was initiated by Westshore Arts Council and put in motion by Laura Davis, current President of the Council. As a choral singer, Laura appreciates and has experienced the value of music in her life. When she discovered that there were no music programs for ‘Youth at Risk’ in the West Shore, she reached out with her team to find a solution. In 2014, they received some start up funding from the British Columbia Arts Council and the blessings of the province to move forward. It took a while to craft out all of the fine points [for delivery]. But, once they partnered with the Westshore Music Academy, they came up with some pretty fabulous insights on what the Music Port program would look like and how it could work.
Fundraising, such as this year’s ‘Arise’ event, and on-going support by the B.C. Arts Council and Westshore Arts Council, City of Langford and Colwood and private sponsors, keep the program operating throughout the year. The Westshore Music Academy supports the program in kind by not charging for certain services like administration fees or access to practice space, instruments, sound system and a stage—or healthy snacks! Funding is reserved for instructors.

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