Sophie Serafino is a proud Academy graduate whose continued success onstage mirrors the education she received from instructors like Bill van der Sloot at MRU Conservatory. These formative musical memories are powerful motivators to propel careers, strive for excellence and, in many cases, to give back.
With the help of the Rotary Club of Calgary Downtown, she is creating a partnership to pay it forward. This last month, the TransAlta Pavilion at the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts in MRU Conservatory was filled with world-class talent and world-class Rotarians. Serafino sings their prasies, “The Rotary Club of Calgary downtown, is a huge provider of scholarships. They strongly support education right from basic literacy to adult education.”
This particular event, however, has a philanthropic twist. The funds, to the tune of $7000 in its inaugural presentation, are to go towards the students’ tuition costs at the renowned post-secondary music institutions they’re destined to study at.
“On a practical level,” Serafino explains, “giving a student the freedom from financial concerns to concentrate on the study of their instrument can make all the difference in a busy year of study.” The levels of need are varying, but the cost of Julliard is ever increasing. Serafino recognizes that, “If a very promising student cannot access the tuition they require, it might prevent that player from continuing their study at all.”
And she would know. Since her time in the Academy, she has successfully transitioned her violin studies into a thriving career. She has recorded several critically acclaimed albums and appeared with artists including Josh Groban, Amy Sky, Pavlo and one of MRU Conservatory’s Music To Your Ears 2016-17 Season stars, Chantal Kreviazuk. The passion with which she plays onstage is echoed in the passion she has to give another generation of performers a leg-up. “Supporting music education, and those talented students who may go on to professional careers with assistance is extremely important, not only for those students, but for our city, for the future art and culture in our city.”
The doors opened into the enchanting TransAlta Pavilion and each eligible student played to a rapt Rotarian audience and to a panel of esteemed adjudicators from the Calgary community. Joining Bill van der Sloot on the panel were Paul Dornian, President of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, John Kadz, Artistic Advisor and Coordinator for the Academy Program and Rolf Bertsch, conductor of the Calgary Civic Symphony.
With the array of talent taking the stage, their work was definitely cut out for them.
In Serafino’s words, “The standard of performance was absolutely fabulous. Very competitive, and impressive.” In the end, the adjudicators agreed that the inaugural scholarship funds were to be given to pianist Kevin Chen (12 and under), violinist Isabella Perron (13-16 years) and violinist Angela Ryu (17 and over).
MRU Conservatory is grateful to forge this insightful partnership and Serafino and her fellow Rotarians couldn’t be happier. “I am grateful that it came together, and that the funds went towards tuition of an amazing group of students. I would love to add a few 0s to the scholarship amount! I will work towards this scholarship increasing in the amount to a point where we could potentially send students to study at world-renowned institutions around the globe, and I want to help make that happen.
- by JLove
The MRU Conservatory is broadening their offering in a few different directions by adding new cultural music genres, digital music and dance to their already extensive repertoire.
Bleau states his reasons for the scope expansion, “When we first moved into this building and it’s called the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts. We do Music and Speech Arts very well, but we don’t do Theatre and Dance.” He continues, “Noting that we have dance theatres at our disposal and venues that are capable of holding more than music, it seemed like a good time.”
The introduction of dance seems like a logical step. “This grows from our Music with Your Baby class, where they use music and movement,” Bleau states, “now the students will be able to continue in both directions.” With Creative Dance courses offered by Jennifer Mahood for ages 4-5 yrs and 5-6 yrs, students can take their next ‘step-touches’ to grow as dancers. The Creative Dance Youth and Adults programs are poised to be a fitting continuation for the successfully trained younger dancers.
Bleau beams. “We’re expanding beyond just music as a performing art with a course called ‘Imagination in Motion’. It’s being taught by 2015 Enbridge Emerging Artist Recipient Mark Ikeda.” Students will range in their artisitic diciplines. It’s being described as an ‘Arts Incubation’ where, “a collection of artists will come together as an ensemble to create an art piece that could involve music, theatre and dance.”
Culturally, the new horizon is facing east. With Chinese classical musical offerings like Erhu (Chinese fiddle), Dizi (Chinese flute) and Guzhen (Chinese zither) along with (Chinese) voice classes under the direction of Shana Yang, who also directs the Calgary Zhi-Yin Choir.
Students can also be exposed to different sonic scales in the Indian musical traditions of Raga music. The East Indian tradition of Kathak Dance will be introduced, alongside the Indigenous Dance classes whose roots are from right here in the Canadian prairies.
Finally, MRU Conservatory explores the art of digital performance recording and production with courses in Garage Band, the Fundamentals of Sound, Introduction to Film Music and Podcasting. These courses aim to give instrumentalists the tools they need to compose, record and produce material to further their careers and potentially earn a Sound and Technology Certificate of Completion.
“It’s about all performing arts.” Jean Louis Bleau summarizes. “Canada is a multicultural place. Calgary is a multicultural place. For me, it’s a passion to listen to different types of music and to be inspired by that. There’s such a great variety of music and if we focus on one, we don’t actually get to enjoy and benefit from the others.
Bleau concludes, “We are recognized as one of the top institutions for training western classical music. We’re the place that should be known for doing that for all types of music.”
Interested in any of these styles of music?
Contact the MRU Conservatory.
- by JLove