Best Wishes

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Elan takes the solo on his wish-vibraphone

Elan has a wish.

This sixteen year old percussionist wants a vibraphone. Not just any vibraphone… a customized Musser Mallet vibraphone.

Elan’s guests gather at the TransAlta Pavilion

What he and his family didn’t wish for was for his recent medical diagnosis which, for privacy’s sake, won’t be identified. Suffice to say, it’s that diagnosis that put him in touch with the good folks at Make-a-Wish Southern Alberta. In addition, this diagnosis sidelined Elan’s desire to play percussion in the Calgary Youth Orchestra (CYO), an MRU Conservatory-based ensemble directed by Edmond Agopian.

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Elan and the Ernest Manning Jazz Combo

Surrounded by his parents Cindy and Yossi and his brother Noam, he received that wish in the TransAlta Pavilion of the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts. There were presentations from Kim Anthony (CEO of Make-a-Wish), Vickie Sauve (Make-a-Wish Wish Granting Coordinator), Elaine Danelesko (Director of the Mount Royal University Conservatory) and a special presentation by George Fenwick (Manager, Calgary Youth Orchestra) declaring Elan as an honorary member of the CYO and welcoming him to join in the ensemble’s next season. After some heartfelt words by his parents, Elan took the stage to debut his new dream instrument, donated by the Musser Mallet Company, alongside his high school bandmates, the Ernest Manning Jazz Combo

The TransAlta Pavilion never sounded more alive. The artistry the combo showcased of jazz standards like “Autumn Leaves” and “Take the A-Train” were both impressive and therapeutic for everyone there. “I can’t believe just yesterday he was lying in a hospital bed with tubes in both lungs,” said Yossi, his beaming father.

Mike Schuett is Elan’s percussion teacher at MRU Conservatory. Listening intently as the vibraphone rang during the entire event, his prideful smile said it all.

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Wish Day Cake

This vibraphone was meant for Elan and his playing displayed that. Ever gracious, Elan traded solos with his instrumentalist partners in an improvised set of collective talent beyond their years. Between songs, he was able to greet his fans made up of fellow schoolmates, family, friends and musical colleagues from the Calgary Stampede Show Band.

MRU was pleased to be able to play a small part in presenting Elan’s wish, and are grateful to the staff and volunteers at Make-a-Wish Southern Alberta for all they do for this community, and our community of which Elan has been an active part for many years.

Though the following day, Elan is scheduled for chemotherapy… tonight, the show goes on.

  • by JLove

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Music to Your Ears

It’s the Year of Music in Calgary.

We have this brand new Bella Concert Hall in the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts at Mount Royal University. Its award-winning design and already renowned acoustics are freshly ringing in the ears of all who have been there. Like any proud parent, MRU Conservatory wants to show its baby off.CONS_blog_insiders_button_250x125-rev2

Now that we’ve brought the Bella into the world, it’s time to bring the world to the Bella! It’s with that mission that we introduce Music to Your Ears our 2016-17 Concert Season.

Tonight, we announce the artists in 7 Concert Series. They represent the quality of music you expect from an institution like MRU Conservatory, but also reflect the diversity of our musical reach and mandate moving forward. Most in our hometown have turned to MRU Conservatory for exceptional education and programming, and this season promises to offer more musical styles from the world’s best artists who will resonate with all Calgarians.

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Soundscape Series

Chantal KreviazukTuesday, November 8, 2016

Jan LisieckiFriday, January 20, 2017

Wu Man & FriendsFriday, March 3, 2017

Journey, Live!Saturday, May 6, 2017

Land’s End Ensemble: 20th AnniversaryFriday, May 26, 2017

 

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Ziggy MarleyThursday, October 13, 2016

Brian Blade & The FellowshipSunday, January 29, 2017

AntigonaFriday, March 10, 2017

Avital meets AvitalWednesday, March 15, 2017

Pedrito MartinezSaturday, April 22, 2017

 

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Chris HadfieldSaturday, November 26th, 2016

Raghav Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Canadian Guitar QuartetWednesday, February 8th, 2017

Wild West New Music EnsembleSaturday, October 15, 2016

Instrumental Society of Calgary with Neil CockburnSunday, April 2, 2017

 

CONS_Concert_Wyatt_Series_PosterWyatt Series

Zukerman Trio – Friday, February 17, 2017

Kronos Quartet – Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Andres Cardenes with the Calgary Youth Orchestra – Sunday, May 14, 2017

 

 

CONS_Concert_FamilyPortrait_Series_PosterFamily Portrait Series

Secret Lives of Suitcases – November 2 – 6, 2016

The Queen, the Bear and the Bumblebee – Sunday, April 23, 2017

 

 

 

 

Spotlight Series

We’re proud of our MRU Conservatory instructors. So, we’ve created a series that allows them to shine. The final line-up to be announced in Fall ’16.

Salon Series

FOUR spectacular evening shows in the style of the salons of France in the 1920s and 30s. It’s the perfect occasion to get a table of friends together, raise a glass and enjoy some tunes. The final line-up to be announced in Fall ’16.

CONS_Concert_FestiveFavourites_Series_PosterWhile not a series itself, we’ll still be offering many concert events featuring our amazing music and speech arts programs at MRU Conservatory. Our festive favourites continue with Winter Fantasia and Sounds of the Season (with guest hosts: the Heebee-jeebees). These events feature performances from our choral, orchestra and speech arts programs that are sure to get Calgarians into the spirit of the season.

Welcome to the new sound of MRU Conservatory. Tickets are available on June 1, 2016! The early birds get… the best seats.

With a 25% discount when you purchase tickets for a whole series (Soundscape, Travelers, Northern Lights or Wyatt) that’s certainly Music to Your Ears!

-JLove

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Seven Series Centre Stage

 

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The excitement is electric.

The sound-check’s done and… we’re about to take centre stage.

In 2015, we completed construction and opened the Award-winning Bella Concert Hall and the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts.  While it still has that ‘new theatre smell’ we’d like to amplify its acoustics by showcasing the finest local, national and international talent to play it.

We would like to announce the debut of SEVEN CONCERT SERIES taking place at the versatile venues in the Mount Royal University Conservatory’s Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts in 2016-17. These concert events will showcase some of the most innovative contemporary artists to bring music to your ears. We want our MRU Insiders to be the first to know what’s up.

Join us on May 13th, 2016 as we announce the line-up.

This will take place at the James Ehnes concert, our final Wyatt Series event for this season.

For tickets, go to tickets.mru.ca or call 403-440-7770.

Our follow us online for up-to-the-moment social media releases. (Follow @MRUConservatory or mtroyal.ca/enjoy)

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Soundscape Series

The Bella Concert Hall was built on sound.

The Soundscape Series showcases the amplification of these artistic vibrations in their acoustic glory.

* 5 concerts from local, national and international influential artists and ensembles.

 

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Importing world-class musicians from around the globe. Let’s give them a true Calgarian white-hatted welcome.

* 5 concerts will take audiences on musical adventures in many musical genres.  

 

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 2.46.38 PMNorthern Lights Series

2016 is the Year of Music in Calgary.  2017 is Canada’s 150th Birthday.

What better way to celebrate our home and native land than to feature some of its finest artists.

*5 concerts will define our country’s energy, diversity and talent.

 

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Our celebrated Wyatt Series continues to feature contemporary masters of classical works in performance and mentorship of our music students. This series honours the late Hal and Marnie Wyatt, longtime supporters of the Mount Royal University Conservatory.

* 3 concerts from modern masters.

 

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 2.48.22 PMFamily Portrait Series

Music, Speech Arts and Theatre are for all-ages. To ensure that the younger family members, and those who are young at heart, get to experience amazing music and storytelling, we have the Family Portrait Series.

* 2 narrative shows that will inspire imaginations, whether it’s your first or ‘bazillionth’ time at a performance.

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The Spotlight Series showcases our diverse and talented instructors in performance. We’re so proud of our instructors, we want to bring their talents to centre stage. This monthly feature is as varied and exciting as the programs we offer.

Salon Series

Historically, the Salon was a favourite meeting place for musicians of all styles to play, listen and collaborate. We’re bringing it back. Throughout the season, we’ll be offering these opportunities for folks to mix, mingle and enjoy a variety of musical entertainment.

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Of course, we’ll still be presenting concert events featuring all of our incredible performance ensembles and programs, including festive favourites Winter Fantasia and Sounds of the Season.

Connect with us on social media for your chance to win tickets to each of the series, or the grand prize, seasons tickets to ALL concert events in our 2016-17 Season!

Like, follow and spread the message to your friends and family.  It’s going to be an inspiring season of sound at the Mount Royal University Conservatory!

– by JLove

 

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Passed with Honours

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Some of the CBEREA visiting the Bella

This past week, the Bella Concert Hall was examined by some lifelong masters of assessment… retired teachers.

Forty-five former teachers met with MRU Conservatory Director Elaine Danelesko for a private tour of the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts, with a special focus on the Bella herself. By all accounts, she passed with flying colours.

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Teachers are always ‘classy’

The Calgary Board of Education Retired Employees Association (CBEREA) provides members with various experiences and activities. Regular bowling and golf tournaments, bridge groups and luncheons are among the featured offerings. There is also a walkers and hikers division of the group who chose to end their trek in the lobby of the Bella.

Elaine Danelesko, who radiates with pride as she introduces all guests to the MRU Conservatory facilities, effortlessly spoke about the programs offered, the private studios’ acoustic treatment and the merits of the state-of-the-art practice rooms capable of accommodating worldwide private lessons through Skype to a responsive audience.

The reactions to the facilities, the programming and the design all made the grade.

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These teachers gave the Bella an exemplary grade

Having just opened in the fall, it was a new experience for most, “Today I realized that there is a wonderful opportunity not far from home that has not been on my radar.”says Sharon Terray, retired Social Studies teacher who last taught at Lord Beaverbrook High School. Terray, who helped arrange the tour for the group, continues, “Because of what I saw today, I hope to be aware of programming and upcoming events, and thanks to free Sunday parking, take advantage of what the Conservatory has to offer the public.”

Seeing how it might directly affect the group’s demographic, Terray’s friend and co-walker Barbara Hongisto chimes in, “The facilities provide super opportunities for parents and grandparents to offer musical programs to young ones!”

Terray assess the Bella. “All the attention to detail both from an aesthetic and an acoustic point of view means that there is always more to take in; you have to sit there for a while to really appreciate it all.”CONS_blog_insiders_button_250x125-rev2

Sharon’s husband Dr. John Terray, who is the retired chairman of Mathematics, Physics, and Engineering, MRU, has an eye for quality, “I was very impressed with the architecture and design of the building. “ Of the Bella herself, he claims, “The concert hall conveyed a sense of quality with warmth.”

The offering that seemed to achieve bonus marks from this gathering is the outreach that MRU Conservatory is building within the education community in our Calgary school boards.

In discussion at the back of the class while the group hiked through the Music with Your Baby area and the Atelier Room, Dr. Terray sums up, “The tour informed me of the many opportunities the MRU Conservatory provides to the citizens of Calgary.”

Congrats to the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts on an inspiring spring report card.

  • by JLove

 

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Team Player – James Ehnes

CONS_S16_WyattSeries_JamesEhnes_omnivex_v2The New York Times reported that, “superb violinist Christian Tetzlaff pulled out of an important concert at Carnegie Hall.” It was for an arguably more important occasion as he flew home to Germany to welcome a new addition to his family. The remaining trio of Leif Ove Andsnes (piano), Tabea Zimmermann (viola) and Clemens Hagen (cello) were left without a premiere violinist to play Brahms’ three piano quartets on the famed stage.CONS_blog_insiders_button_250x125-rev2

Enter Canadian violinist James Ehnes.

Ehnes, who will be appearing at the Bella Concert Hall as a part of the Wyatt Concert Series on May 13th, 2016 describes his last minute substitution as “quick, crazy and fun.” The Times reviewer Anthony Tommasini thoroughly praised the fill-in’s contribution, “Mr. Ehnes’s velvety sound and sensitivity fit well with the vibrant playing of his colleagues on this night.” There’s no doubt his notable contribution was appreciated by his esteemed collaborators and the audience alike.

Now back home with his family in Florida, Ehnes takes a breath to reflect on the quartet’s shows which included performances at Chapel Hill, North Carolina and at Orchestra Hall in Chicago. He also has a moment to acknowledge his recent Juno win for Classical Album of the Year which was announced here in Calgary. “We work so hard on these albums, it’s nice to be recognized.” A humble comment for an artist who has now won eleven of the coveted prizes.

“The genesis for each (album) is different,” he explains. “Andrew Armstrong and I have pieces we’ve played a lot over the years. When you work with a collaborator, at some point, you get to where you feel like everything is clicking. If you have the opportunity to record at that point… that’s when you want to. We were having our moment,” he continues, siting his accompanist Andrew Armstrong who he has collaborated with since 2001 and will be joining him onstage at the Bella, “There was no P.R. plan. It was just the two of us saying we like these pieces… let’s record them.”

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James Ehnes and “The Marsick”

Calgarians will rejoice to see the pair tackle works by Brahms, Handel, Beethoven and Canadian composer Bramwell Tovey, but that’s not the only partnership they’ll witness. Ehnes’ oldest collaborator is The Marsick, the Stradivarius violin crafted in 1715 and named after a Belgian violinist of the late 1800s. “It’s been like a family member,” Ehnes says. He first saw and heard the instrument in 1996 at age 20. He imagines the life of the instrument in context, “It’s incredible to think that you’re only a custodian for a short period,” his respect for the Stradivarius is unwavering, “I’d love to think when it leaves my hands it’s no worse off than when it came in my hands.”

His whole family will be joining him for this leg of his 40th birthday tour. For his children, whom are Canadian but live in the U.S., this drive from Vancouver to Winnipeg with concert stops along the way is a great way for them to experience their homeland. “I wanted them to see all these places across Canada that have been good to me.” Ehnes reflects with both patriotic and paternal pride. “I want them to see the scale.”james-ehnes-4557-5x7

Their family tour will be documented by filmmaker and close friend Nate Bauer who will be shooting footage from the road and backstage. As to what the collected documentary clips are used for, time will tell. Until then, it’s a marvellous family video.

Expect to see the cameras rolling as Ehnes and Armstrong take the stage at the Bella on May 13th, 2016. It will be their debut at this venue and Ehnes is excited. “I’ve been hearing wonderful things about it,” he admits, “lots of people have said it’s a great sounding hall.”

As he prepares to return to Calgary to team up with Armstrong and The Marsick at the Bella, there’s no doubt he’s glad he got to play Carnegie Hall to warm up for it.

-by JLove

 

 

 

 

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Ralph Maier: Renaissance Man

 

 

ce_mini_poster_ralphmaierI don’t know many vihuela (vee-HWAY-la) players.

In fact, I know one. Ralph Maier… and if I knew many more, he’d likely still be my favourite vihuela player. The instrument, he explains to me, “is the Spanish equivalent of a lute…except it’s shaped like a guitar.”  A gifted guitarist, he touts, “Over the last ten years, I’ve gotten into doing things on period instruments.”

Maier is not only an expert to those who have the privilege of hearing him, he’s backed it up with the academic research, he finished a Musicology PhD in Spanish Renaissance Music in vihuela. So, for those who are interested in hearing a master at work, check out his upcoming recital Ralph Maier & Friends on Sunday, May 1st, 2016 from 2-3pm in the TransAlta Pavilion of the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts.

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Ralph Maier’s CD: Variations

Not only will he be strumming a vihuela, Maier’s program includes some pieces on the Baroque guitar, which is a five-course instrument meaning it has five pairings of strings to strum. The strumming, traditionally, was meant to accompany dancing, so there are a series of universal chord progressions known to many players of the time; much like a Blues progression today.  The progression, Maier says,“became a staple. Then, composers would write a variation on it.” Among those composers, he lists Bach, who added his own touch to the Spanish plucking tradition. Maier’s study of the form has led him to complete his latest CD, aptly titled “Variations” which is available on both iTunes and CD Baby.

CONS_blog_insiders_button_250x125-rev2Musically speaking, he gets history. My personal history, having known Ralph for nearly two decades, is that there’s nothing he can’t play on a guitar. Tim Brady is a contemporary composer who wrote a piece for 20 electric guitars.  Maier was one of the twenty.  He was so inspired by this composition that he recorded it for his latest CD, playing all twenty parts multi-tracked. After recording it, he sent his interpretation to the composer.  His reaction, according to Maier, was, “he liked it and that was very reassuring.”

Recently, in addition to his teaching at MRU Conservatory he has been teaching university classes like The History of Led Zepplin, Progressive Rock Music and The History of Heavy Metal. “I’m all over the place, musically.”

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Oberon Guitar Trio

Maier will be reuniting with the Oberon Guitar Trio (Brad Mahon & Murray Visscher) as well as teaming up with flutist Tim Janz for this program.  As to what era their contributions might represent, it’s anybody’s guess.

When I asked directly what we could expect in this Spotlight Series Concert, his answer was confidently nebulous. “I’m not absolutely sure.”

Such is the secret of a true modern Renaissance man.

-JLove

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Jazz Hands Around the World

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On April 30th, 2016, you’ll find Herbie Hancock, Aretha Franklin, Diana Krall and Sting at the White House.  There will also be some jazz music featured in Bologna, Italy in the Jazz 4 Peace Celebration, and in the Quartet Diminished in Concert show at Niavaran Hall in Tehran, Iran.

Jazz music brings together the improvised solo expressions of individual instruments into an artistic whole in a combo.  That’s the message of UNESCO’s International Jazz Day, celebrated this year on April 30, 2016.

“UNESCO (United Nations Educations, Scientific and Cultural Organization) declared this day a day that celebrates creativity and diversity of Jazz music,” says in-the-know saxophonist Mark DeJong.

DeJong, who’s the new Artistic Coordinator at MRU Conservatory, has composed a special something to celebrate at the TransAlta Pavilion, “We are celebrating some of our renowned jazz alumni. We’re featuring a great local vocalist by the name of Aimee-Jo Benoit. She has a great following with indie bands like Woodpigeon. Joining her are some former grads of the Jazz Program.”

The program is made up of some jazz standards, “She’s going to dive in to the American Songbook for those ‘tin pan alley’ chestnuts.” DeJong continues, “then some jazz originals and really creative interpretations of some of her favourite Canadian icons like Joni Mitchell and Neil young.” No matter what the source inspiration is, DeJong insists that Benoit promises to, “breathe new life into them.”

He would know first hand.

DeJong is among the esteemed alumni joining Benoit onstage with saxophone in hand. “This is my first presentation as the new Artistic Coordinator at MRU Conservatory.” he says, “One of the things I wanted to do was be involved in the early shows both as a programmer and on the ground on the stage.”

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Tim Tamashiro – host of Tonic on CBC Radio 2

As a unique UNESCO moment, DeJong and the combo are excited to have CBC’s Tim Tamashiro take the stage as guest emcee. “Anyone who’s a jazz fan in Canada knows Tim… not only with his incredible career as a jazz vocalist, but as the host of CBC Radio 2’s Tonic.” The ‘drinky’ jazz crooner will be on hand to spread the harmonious message to the jazz community, “he’s such an energetic and creative personality,” DeJong says, “We’re really delighted that he’s able to join us.”

Benoit, DeJong and Tamashiro are warming their chops for April 30th. To celebrate UNESCO International Jazz Day with the rest of the world, click here, or head to the White House.

  • by JLove
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Painting Postcards

CONS_blog_insiders_button_250x125-rev2Akiko Tominaga is an artistic tour guide.  The worldly pianist, featured in the Spotlight Series from 2-3pm on Sunday, April 24th in the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts’ TransAlta Pavilion, called the program “Postcards from Afar” to take the audience on a musical journey. The best part is, they don’t even have to leave their seats.

Tominaga herself has experienced many cultures and their sounds.  Born in Japan, she grew up moving to the varied musical landscapes of Singapore and the United States, she’s traveled to Europe and Asia and makes her home here in Canada.  Along the way, she’s picked up sonic souvenirs that she’ll present to her audience. “Postcards from Afar” is based on pieces inspired from these different cultures,” she notes, citing specific references to Asian, Spanish and French influences. “Through the music, people can experience different cultures.”

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Akiko Tominaga

Much like travel, the program selections are a feast for all senses. “You can blend and paint with sound,” she states. Highlighting works by French master Debussy, Spanish rhythmist Albeniz and Japanese minimalist Takemitsu, she couldn’t select a wider variety of cultural palates to paint with. “Music goes into the visual arts (in one’s mind)” she nods. “We experience it through audio, but we can feel the temperature, texture and tonality.”

Each culture has evolved in its own musical influences. The listening ear can place the hint of an Asian-influenced scale compared to a more western aesthetic.   Tominaga suggests that accessing it starts on the page. “It all comes from the score.” She attests, noting composers’ own interpretive descriptions like ‘celestial light’ and ‘joyously’ on the printed page.  “I analyze and study the score, then reflect on what the composer wrote.  I see the images.  I hear it. I see shimmering gold. By envisioning it, I can play it.”

This particular program has, itself, traveled.  Tominaga played it in recital as a part of Roland Graham’s Master Piano Recital Series in Ottawa last month. As it travels, it evolves. “It’s never the same,” she expresses, “The whole dynamic performance experience is exciting.  It can only be created in that moment. That unique experience is what attracts me to live music.”

Take the trip with Akiko Tominaga.  All travel yields memorable experiences.  But, unlike most jaunts abroad, this Spotlight Series show is by donation only and includes one thing you won’t find at any airport… free parking.

Please RSVP if you’re attending the concert on Sunday, April 24.

-by JLove
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She’s Come a Long Way

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Ciara Hager & the Medicine Hat Rotary Music Festival Rose Bowl

Many musicians spend a lot of time on the road. Ciara Hager is getting a taste of that… and she’s still in high school.

Hager is the violinist who was just awarded the Medicine Hat Rotary Music Festival’s top prize, The Rose Bowl.   It’s an honour she shares with the Medicine Hat College Girls’ Choir.

This illustrious success hasn’t been without its significant sacrifices. “Since I live in Medicine Hat, I drive to Calgary about every second week to attend the program, and stay from Saturday until Monday night.” she explains.  “Mr. Van der Sloot offers me two 1.5 hour lessons while I am there, to make up for two weeks of lessons,” she says. An accommodation that, according to her violin instructor Bill van der Sloot, is well worth the effort. “On the outside,” he states, “one would question the immense sacrifice that Ciara and her parents make so that she can participate in MRU’s programs.  But, when one becomes familiar with the great love, hard work, and huge growth and achievement that has taken place, it is all well worth the investment!”Ciara Hager

Aside from the highway time, Hager is committed to the craft, “I try to practice a minimum of three hours everyday regardless of anything else I have going on in my life.”  To earn the coveted prize, she played the Concerto in E minor by Julius Conus. “I love the concerto, and feel like it really shows off the talents specific to my playing.”

With poise, she describes the victory, “I am honoured to have my name put on the trophy, along with all of the other talented performers who won it before me, including my instructor, Bill van der Sloot. It’s really exciting to know that the future winners will look back on the trophy and notice my name on it as well.

Van der Sloot agrees, It’s like the Stanley Cup…it gets taller and taller as year go by. If Ciara’s name is at the bottom of the trophy, you can find mine somewhere near the top!  That’s pretty cool for both Ciara and me.”

Despite the dedication, it was only recently that she started looking at the violin as a career choice. “I wasn’t sure of my decision until about a year ago.”

That decision was shaped, in part, by the Academy Program at MRU Conservatory.  Hager paints the picture, “I play in the program with so many other talented musicians, and it’s interesting to see how they overcome their struggles and how I can apply their improvements to my own playing.” She also mentions the positive reaction she has received from her Academy colleagues at this recent win, “We are all really supportive of each other.” She admits.

On the horizon, she’s excited for a masterclass with visiting Wyatt Series artist James Ehnes and another year in the Academy program.“I’m looking forward to focusing completely on music without the additional pressures of high school.” Beyond that, the road ahead hasn’t been charted, “I would love to teach violin, or to be part of an orchestra. I always listen to the orchestra parts and the different instruments showcased in movies, and could picture myself doing something like that.” Rose Bowl 7

And for those who are not as far down the musical road, “I would advise them not to give up even if they don’t succeed at first. If violin is something that they enjoy, performing as much as possible will lead to success.”

Success can seem like a long road, but Hager is certainly well on her way.

-by JLove

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What’s in a Name?

Sherwood Squeakspeare

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.

T. S. Eliot

… but how many names must a mouse have?

As it turns out… two.

Jennifer Orr, Speech Arts and Drama Instructor and Program Coordinator at MRU Conservatory, was pleased to announce the official name(s) of the character formerly referred to as ‘the Speech Mouse. “Introducing Sherwood Squeakspeare!” she proclaimed, with the appropriate amount of theatricality.

This is the official news that over 300 entrants had been awaiting for weeks. But for some, like Orr, the wait has been much longer. Created by graphic designer David Soltess to promote the A.C.T. (August Childrens’ Theatre) program, “the mouse has been a symbol to promote Speech and Drama programs for over 20 years.” she admits. Though the program has evolved, the mouse has remained a smiling presence, ready to tread-the-boards with another generation of dramatic performers.

“Lately,” Orr states, “he’s been used to promote our Presentation MRU non-competitive Speech Arts and Drama Festival.” In fact, it was at Presentation MRU in early March that the final entries were submitted.

Among the names that were passed over, some favourites emerged including:

Speechy Gonzalez

Speak-a-chu

Dr. Moustus (after Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus)

Nybalt (a cross between ‘nibble’ & ‘Tybalt’ from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet)

Algernon

Atticus

Sir Peter Patter

Sir Squeakums

And Julius Cheeser

“Squeakspeare made sense.” Orr begins, noting that there were three student submissions that were entered into the draw for the prize, a $50 voucher to the MRU Conservatory. “He’s a mouse, who obviously recites Shakespeare.”

His first name isn’t quite as obvious a link.

Who is the eponym for this dubious title? Orr explains,“Sherwood was suggested by a parent in the program. She was inspired by the portrait of Mary Belle Taylor (after whom the Bella Concert Hall was named). As luck would have it, her maiden name was ‘Sherwood’.”

Orr, who had the honour of going through all submissions herself before consulting with colleagues on the final name, indicates, “Sherwood resonated with me right away. I thought it gave an echo of Robin Hood. He does look a little like a merry man with the feather in his cap.” And adds, ”But, I really liked the nod to the Bella and the Taylor family.”

“We were going to name him Sir Sherwood Squeakspeare, but that’s too many sibilants.” A clear thought well-spoken by this Speech Arts instructor.

For a mouse, he’s always been a bit unique. “He doesn’t have a tail.” She remarks of his illustration omission. “It was probably lost in battle.”

Tail or not, at least he now has a story.

-by JLove

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