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!

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.

Rebekah Jansen lives to sing opera. As a hard-working professional with family here in the West Shore, it was difficult for her to find high-quality, principal solo roles without having to leave the Island. Outside of participating in chorus roles with the Pacific Opera and Community Musical Theatre groups, there were few other places that highly talented opera singers, like herself, could perform and hone their craft in meaningful and challenging ways. She wasn’t alone; she discovered that many of her professional associates were experiencing the same thing. Everyone was looking for solo work that could accommodate their busy family and working lives.

“It was such a waste to have so much great talent lying dormant within our island communities. Something had to be  done,” says Rebekah. So, back in early 2017, she took action and founded the Vancouver Island Performers Guild VIPG], a registered non-profit society, to open up and facilitate performance opportunities for local artists.

In April 2016, the Victoria Conservatory of Music [VCM] satellite facility moved into the Westhills neighbourhood on the West Shore. Since then the staff has been dedicated to serving children, families and adults in our community with classes in a variety of disciplines including piano, strings, brass, wind, voice, jazz, percussion, composition, theory, and music therapy each taught by a highly respected and acclaimed faculty—many of whom are world-renowned performers.

I’ve spoken to several of the VCM Westhills staff and parents. All shared an unmistakable appreciation for the ‘magic of music’ that is now a part of their lives. The following interview with Stephen Green, Dean at VCM is a case in point. It’s hard to miss the excitement Stephen exudes as a participant “in a place where music [is] being brought to life every day.” Join us for our lively conversation about love, passion and music!