“Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air…”
– "Both Sides, Now" by Joni Mitchell
Andre Wickenheiser, a trumpet player in the Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble, is getting ready to play popular Canadian tunes by artists like Joni Mitchell for the nation’s 150th anniversary celebration at Olympic Plaza before settling down to plan his fall classes.
Han Ding, a classical composer, pianist and visual artist, is taking an unusually wide-breadth approach to his instruction this fall, while still focusing on purely classical music from the 16th to the 21st centuries.
They are just two of the diverse musical expressions being added to the instructor roster of The Conservatory for the benefit of students this fall.
Wickenheiser is jazzed. “Adding new programs is exciting. To diversify The Conservatory offerings opens music up to a broader audience.” A graduate of MRU’s former Jazz Diploma, he’s keen on the brass, jazz and other arts offerings like Carnatic Music and Kathak Dance.
Ding chimes in that, “The new Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts is a really unique place to work and teach. Being surrounded by other people involved in music will be really beneficial.”
Another new faculty member, Jia Jia Li, is excited to teach flute and the Chinese flute (Dizi) among the faculty’s talented musicians and educators. “Back 20 years ago when I was growing up in China, I heard about the prestigious Mount Royal Conservatory in Canada.”
Along with these new instructors, some established teachers, like Kristine Gray (saxophone) and Laurie Matiation (French horn), are adding new programs and fee structure options to entice new students. A special introductory rate of $69 per hour for a private lesson on the instrument of choice will make music even more accessible to Calgarians.
Piano and violin programs are still a major draw for The Conservatory, with Ding adding that teachers are always looking for motivated and hard-working students.
The brass program is growing under teachers like Wickenheiser, who explains that players and parents often believe private lessons aren’t needed if the kids are in the school band. He differs, saying, “In most programs, there’s not a lot of attention paid to individuals. It’s kind of impossible with the ratio of teachers to students.”
This is one of the reasons both Ding and Wickenheiser consider private lessons invaluable to a student’s enjoyment of music. Students can then build on this foundation to participate in the Calgary Youth Orchestra, Conservatory Sinfonia or a choral or Klezmer ensemble.
No matter what side your musical passion resides on, Ding agrees, “Making dedicated, qualified teachers available at an attractive rate gives more students the opportunity to study at a place where they can be surrounded by serious instructors and other students.”
“Especially in a reputable place like MRU,” Li adds.
And, as if to end on a high note, Wickenheiser adds, “It’ll be fun!”