Bramwell Tovey and the Arts Matter Finale

Langley Fine Arts School was host to conductor and composer, Bramwell Tovey, for the final installment of this year’s Arts Matter series.

Currently, Maestro Tovey is the Music Director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the L0s Angeles Philharmonic, and the Founding Host and Conductor of the New York Philharmonic’s Summertime Classics series.

Maestro Tovey is also the recipient of many distinctions – he has received many honorary degrees from places such as the Royal Academy of Music in London, the University of Winnipeg, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. He is the first artist to win a Juno in both composing and conducting; his composition, Requiem for a Charred Skull, received the Best Canadian Classical Composition Juno Award in 2003.

Maestro Tovey spent the day at LFAS, working with members of the Orchestra, Concert Band, and the Grade 9/10 Piano Trio.

“He was hilarious, and graceful, and patient,” one cellist recalled. “He did not speak down to the orchestra, but spoke to us as musicians. He was dynamic in his conducting and easy to connect to while performing.”

He conducted the Concert Band, playing Mars from The Planets by Gustav Holst, and the Orchestra, playing Nimrod from The Enigma Variations by Edward Elgar. The orchestra stayed on-stage during his talk, and a piano was moved to the front, allowing for Maestro Tovey to demonstrate his proficiency at playing and improvisation.

“I know I don’t want to pursue music but I know I want to pursue a career where I can truly feel the way he does about his music,” Lucy Clarkson, a Grade 12 Music Major, said about his lecture. “I thought that his presentation showed the best parts of music and being a musician, the passion the excitement and the non-onerous work that is involved in doing something you love. He talked to everyone like they were having a cup of coffee in his living room, and played like he was a 12-year-old boy showing off to his mom. It was pure naïve joy in the best way possible.”

Maestro Tovey was the forth and final guest in the 2011/12  Arts Matter lecture series, which was the brainchild of LFAS photography teacher, Donna Usher.

“When I thought of the idea, and how it would work in the school,” Ms. Usher said, “I thought of all of the opportunities and inspiration that it could potentially offer the staff and students. I hadn’t realized how much the artists would impact me as well. Each visitor inspired me as an artist, an educator, a communicator, and encouraged me to think of the world in a different way.”

“Those who were involved, including me, got buckets full of inspiration, motivation, ideas, and so much more from the Arts Matter series. I wish more people were able to participate – parents, community, and staff…. it seems that the students whose art focus related to the visitor got the most out of the experience; some students said it didn’t really apply to them because it wasn’t their medium.  I hope to discourage that prejudice in future years.”

Though the project was not without its challenges, with the teacher job action and difficulties of communication with the school community, it managed to come together with the support of the staff.

Bridie Robson took on the organizational aspect of the project, making sure the artists knew their itinerary, organizing the theatre with set-up and take-down, arranging the teachers, students, and techs, as well as planning and promoting the events. LFAS music teacher, Jim Sparks, working on his doctoral dissertation at SFU, and Dr. Susan O’Neill, an SFU professor, were in charge of the student-led Arts Initiative, which brought the speakers and their messages to the students of LFAS.

LFAS principal, Mr. Jon Bonnar,  was a huge supporter of the initiative.  Committed to the idea from the start, he was one of the people who made it happen.

Grace Kennedy

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