Founded in 1964, Victoria Conservatory of Music was established to impart the enthusiasm of music into its students who understood music and arts. At the same time, it was geared towards ensuring that brilliance in performance is achieved. The initial location of the Conservatory was at the old Union Hall in city center Victoria close to Centennial Square. The Victoria gave it the use of Craigdarroch castle in 1968. The castle provided an amazing ambiance for concerts and lessons. When it became too crowded, the Conservatory was again relocated, this time to the annex of St. Ann’s Academy near Beacon Hill Park (Gorst, 2005).
This musical institution is registered as a not-for-profit society which caters for learners from all echelons of life. Originally, the school started with just a few students numbering forty though the number increased quickly hence allowing for new programs to be created with great enthusiasm. It also meant that the size of the home would have to be bigger than initially it was. It was made possible by an intermarriage of ideas from the Royal Academy of Music in London with other novel ideas.
Students poured in from the other provinces around as well as other lands as the faculty gradually expanded. Another supplemental site had to be found to cater for the larger population of students. This was found on the Broughton Street. By 1968, the student body had grown to number over four hundred students and thus still more room was required to accommodate the growing demand. Mayor Hugh Stephen’s offices provided a quick and an immediate solution to the problem. In 1978, a larger building was found by the help of the then BC Cabinet minister, Hugh Curtis.
The building however was still not large enough as the rate of growth of the student body was substantial and this requires much quicker change and expansion more so given that the rapid growth of the number of students started forcing instructors to teach some students out of their homes. Problems to do with larger home were only solved when the historic Metropolitan United Church (whose original part dates back from 1890) was acquired in 1997 and the search for bigger home was over. The building had to be changed and fitted with other structures to fit the needs of various faculties of music.
Along the course of preparing the building to be fit for the new functions as music school, venue for performance and the community’s cultural centre two factors had to be put into consideration which posed as challenges to the modernization of the building. First of all, while modernization was being carried it to be taken into account the fact that the building had a history that starts from way back in 1890; hence considerable amount of caution was necessary to preserve its history details. Secondly, extensive modifications were also required to make it serve the new roles as musical school.
For this reason, the building needed to have teaching studios, classrooms and office. In addition, the plumbing and the electrical systems needed to be updated, upgraded and structural reinforcement done. These tasks were systematically carried out and the building was ready for use in 1999. With its considerable size, the building offers two hall concerts, one of which is large and the other one the size of recital. The two rooms both have proven acoustics and they have studios in addition to other facilities are well designed and put in place to offer a state-of-the-art structure to match the highest ambitions of the Conservatory.
This is far better considering the over two thousand students that the conservatory caters for. In the present state of service to the community, the conservatory offers a wide range of professional programs, programs for children, community school, summer programs and programs for music therapy. These programs are presented in a packaged well mixed with blend of education, career training, therapeutic courses, and performance which give a mix of amazing experiences for the students of the institution (Braid, 2005)
As a registered institution, Victoria Conservatory of Music had an aim of becoming a center of brilliance for music through education, performance and music therapy. The mission for the institution is to enhance people’s lives by way of music as a local center of excellence open to all and accessible to everyone that desires to develop a meaningful link with music. Students from the institution have continued to exhibit exemplary performance out of the class (Gorst, 2005). Currently, there are over hundred teachers in the faculty of music of the VCM (Victoria Conservatory of Music).
They are responsible for training the students in numerous musical instruments. They also give thorough training in different other areas which include music therapy, theory and composition, voice and children’s programs. The institution has vastly proficient faculties which engage in performance, conduct, compose and then record. The students that are presently studying here come from different regions including others who come from abroad. The mix of students is well balanced with infants and adults both pursuing different areas of their interest.
The young group has interest in getting a music education as opposed to the senior people who mainly come to the institution to rediscover their skills and improve their lives. Among the accolades one would walk out of the institution with are: – Diploma in music or in Jazz studies, Certificate in music foundations and private reading is also available. The institution also offers individual lessons as well as master lessons in addition to lessons in conducting (Gorst, 2005). The Victoria Conservatory of Music gives one an opportunity to gain knowledge in disciplines and instruments of varied assortments.
These include woodwinds, history of music, voice, piano, jazz, guitar and many more. While one is offered a chance to train in the mentioned areas, there are opportunities for performance in choirs or recitals, in ensembles as well as in orchestras. For this reason, there are a number of people who have sailed high in various areas and uplifted the image of the institution both in Canada and elsewhere. Some students of the institution have and still perform on Debut. Debut is the first CD for the conservatory to ever produce.
It is not only that but they have also performed to significant approbation with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra, the Conservatory’s Opera Studio, and in recital. The promise shown by such achievements for the future of the institution and of music is worth being treasured by anyone that is music loving especially fine music. In the year 2006 the institution celebrated the music award for those who had been recognized nationally. Shika Card won the coveted Orchestra-Standard Life Competition which earned eight thousand dollars worth Standard Life Scholarship.
In the same year she received the 2006 Gold Medal for Theory, an award from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. This prize is awarded to the topmost theory scores for all students in Canada who sit for the ARCT exams. The previous year, 2005, had seen about sixty students recognized with prizes at the 29th Annual Awards day which is held every year in recognition of students who exhibit magnificent demonstration of stupendous musical abilities (Wood, 2006) Ensemble Sine Nomine is one of a number of vocal and instrumental groups that operate under the sponsorship of the Victoria Conservatory of Music.
The recording includes an eclectic array of selections encompassing those from Gregorian chant stretching to the thirteenth century organum hymns done by Hildegard von Bingen. There are also early motets that were done by Dufay along with others (Braid, 2005) Opera studio The opera studio of the conservatory was formerly opera workshop but more functions with gradual improvement in quality of productions have made it achieve substantial acclaim as part of the whole Victoria Conservatory of Music.
It was initially directed by Selena James who helped the workshop show a build up of high quality annual productions beginning from the mid seventies which got loyalty in following. The concept of the workshop was farther expanded in 1992 to incorporate support courses and have more extensive programs backed with intensive coaching in movement, portrayal and ensemble performance. The opera studio has a mandate to expose young singers with advanced training especially those who sincerely desire to pursue a career in professional opera. This wonderful organ of the institution has produced people of renown in the profession of music.
Such figures include Richard Margison- an internationally known singer, Benjamin Butterfield who is also an internationally known singer not forgetting Ingrid Attrot as well as other upcoming professionals. Carey Newman, Duncan Stewart, and Ken Lavigne all count as some of very strong emerging forces in the profession. Previous productions incorporated Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring, Mozart’s The Magic Flute and The Marriage of Figaro, Kurt Weill’s Street Scene, Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, as well as John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera (Wood, 2006)
The same as the stage standard operas, Opera Studio have specially made works mainly for its student productions. In March 2001 it presented the world premiere of Eyes on the Mountain, based on three stories commended by Canadian writer Jack Hodgins, with music and libretto by Conservatory alumnus Christopher Donison. Eyes on the Mountain received national press coverage and very encouraging reviews. Conservatory Faculty associate, May Ling Kwok along with former Head of Strings Sydney Humphreys perform two Beethoven Sonatas for Violin and Piano, the “Spring” in addition to the “Kreutzer” on this CD.
The Opera Studio has produced an exciting variety of productions which include Street Scene by Kurt Weill of December 1992, Tales of Hoffmann by Jacques Offenbach, November, 1994, and The Magic Flute by Mozart in 1995 among others (Wood, 2006). The conservatory has continued to demonstrate exemplary performance by bringing up many students who have become well known professionals (Slavin, 2004). The institution is headed by the Board of governors and those of departments who foresee the smooth operating of the whole system for common goal and objective of enriching people’s lives with music.
Board members include: Benning ric, Clint Nickerson, Sandy Stedman, Dr Catherine Like, Marianne Alto-Bond, Dr Anthony Nadolski, Wes Wraggett, George Easdon, Rick Stolle, Tim Francis, Ruth Currey, Carolann Steinhoff and Shaun Dolman (Gorst, 2005).
References List: Braid, R. (2005). Victoria Conservatory of Music. Simon Fraser University, 100-150. Gorst, J. (2005). Victoria Conservatory of Music’s History. Giles Publishers. 120-140. http://victoria. tc. ca/Resources/music. html Slavin, R. (2004). Major Development in Victoria School. 67-80. Wood, R. (2006). Victoria Conservatory of Music’s Opera Studio. University of Victoria, 40-69.
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