Wrapping up a successful Morningside Music Bridge


As another year of Morningside Music Bridge wraps up, we’re looking back at how the music training program for teens got its start.

We caught up with Gwen Hoebig, a founder and artistic co-director of Mount Royal Conservatory’s summer program, to talk about why Morningside Music Bridge still matters after 18 years.

Hoebig is concertmaster of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and has been there from the very beginning of MMB in 1998.

“With the Chinese students in those days, it was felt they reached their physical peak at age 16, and Andy Chan, our founder, couldn’t understand why the Chinese kids largely declined after the age of 16. So the middle school was really the best school (for music training), not the university. The Canadian students did most of their developing after the age of 16,” Hoebig said.

“The idea originally behind it was to bring the two cultures together to help the Chinese grow beyond age 16 and encourage the Canadians to grow a litte faster.”

Morningside Music Bridge was born. Bringing the top instructors from Beijing’s Central Conservatory of Music and Canada’s best local and visting faculty from Mount Royal Conservatory, music created a cultural bridge that made a difference. Eighteen years later, the educational partnership brings Poland into the mix, and the world’s leading musicians coming to teach teenagers from Canada, China, Poland, the United States and this year, Taiwan.

“It has worked in ways we cannot believe,” said Hoebig. “It has been so successful, the standard of the students that we see is much more consistent from country to country than we’ve seen before.”

Classical music training, including master classes, is typically offered to university-aged students and working musicians.

Morningside Music Bridge focuses on teens, but also children as young as 12, to help nurture and guide gifted young musicians.

“Music Bridge deals with a very special age group, it is high school students. I think a lot of programs steer away from that age group partly because they’re still kids. But we’ve been able to successfully sort out how to deal with that age and what excites us is the potential that all these kids bring to Music Bridge and to their music-making and the social aspect of it all,” said Hoebig. “It is just wonderful to see these young people blossom and to watch them come back so much stronger. It is just incredible the difference we see when the kids come back, which they do.”

The program is also enriching for visiting faculty, who hail from countries world-wide.

“My favourite part about the faculty is that even through we come from all over the world and come from extremely different backgrounds in training and teaching, we are all coming from different angles and we’re all aiming for the same thing: to make the students better to make the students’ understanding grow,” she said. “I might say something, Bill van der Sloot might say something, Tong Weidong, head of violin department at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, and Tadeusz Gadzina from Poland, and it’s completely different but we’re aiming for essentially the same thing. I think it’s so eyeopening for the children to see these different points of view but they’re all aiming for the same thing.”

By Sherri Zickefoose, Aug. 1, 2014

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