Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Music trip to Victoria

On March 23rd, Bill drove me to school in North Vancouver by 6:15 a.m. Thirty-seven of my band students arrived shortly afterwards, and by 7:00 a.m., the bus and one small car (driven by Gordon, one of our chaperones) were loaded with suitcases and instruments. The plan was to do two days of workshops at Victoria Conservatory of Music with five local musicians, and then to play in a music festival in Port Alberni on the 25th. This is the story of that trip.

We boarded the Tsawwassen Ferry at 9:00 a.m. Blue skies and lots of seagulls followed us as we made our way to Swartz Bay.

The conservatory has quite a history, with a move to this building in 1999 coming after it outgrew several other locations. The building was originally the Victoria Methodist Church, built in 1890. The exterior has been kept pretty much as it was. I love being in it, both for its physical beauty and for the music drifting through the halls. (This photo is taken from internet.)

Tanya, the second chaperone, took this picture of the pipe organ. I really like the angles and curves.

I brought a group to this same conservatory a year ago, and was looking forward to seeing the stained glass windows again. Marcus, the person who arranges to lease out space is an easy-going and very accommodating fellow. He managed to get us five different spaces in the building, one for the clarinets (and a saxophone), one for percussion, one for flutes, one for trumpets and one for low brass.

I would highly recommend the five teachers who worked with the students , should anyone be thinking of studying music in Victoria. They were fun, cool, knowledgeable, and hard working, and my students enjoyed their experience immensely.

The clarinet teacher was Roy Styffe. He played saxophone as well, and his group was the largest, so he worked in the Alex Goolden Hall, the same place where all of the band members met for a full rehearsal after their sectional work. I have a lot to learn about people photography and also about indoor photography, and you will see from the differences in colour that I was experimenting with different exposures and programs on the camera. However, here are a few pictures of Roy hard at work.

The trombone (and tuba teacher) was Scott MacIness, and like Roy, he was a very kind and understanding instructor. Two of the four students had only been playing since mid January, but the section came together beautifully after the two days of personal attention.
Here is Scott on the second day, demonstrating a beautiful tone and the harmonic series.

The percussion teacher was Kelby MacNayr. He had a philosophical style of teaching, and each time I walked into the room, I seemed to learn something from him. He, like Scott, arrived on his bicycle, and I later discovered that he is also vegetarian. He suggested great places near the conservatory for healthy and delicious food. I also learned that he is a motivational speaker. Here, he demonstrates the gong to my students. They each had a turn to try it out after that demo. The percussion room at the conservatory was full of treasures that we do not have at our school, and Kelby made sure to expose the students to as many percussion instruments as he could.
Demonstrating a useful technique to quieten the forearm and encourage efficient wrist action.

One of my students playing the tom set.

Here is Scott again, using the piano to help demonstrate the harmonic series. (I'm having a hard time with blogger today, and can't seem to move around the pictures as I would like.) Scott's web site is well worth taking a look at if trombone playing is one of your goals or interests.

This is Tom Ackerman. He taught flute for this workshop, but is equally at home on the clarinet and the saxophone. Tom is outgoing and multi-talented. More about him a bit later in this post.

The trumpet teacher was Alfons Fear. Like all of the teachers, a quick google will bring up his name, performing around the city of Victoria.
Here, Alfons appears to be dancing to the music. The teachers used a lot of different strategies to help the students gain better tone, and a better sense of time. Note the beautiful room with more stained glass windows.

After the first day of workshops, I was happy to give the students some "explore Victoria" time, which, for them, meant lots of shopping. Not much of a shopper, I set off towards the beach. Kelby passed me, as he was biking home, whipped around, jumped off his bike and walked with me for a bit, offering directions and thoughts about things I might want to see. Thanks, Kelby!

My favourite flower photo of the trip was this cherry blossom, but that says a lot, as there were colourful blooms everywhere I looked.

As I walked through Beacon Hill Park, this cat, out with his humans, was impossible to pass by. i stopped to take photos, and learned that it was the cat's very first time, ever, out of doors. He was reluctant to touch the grass, but seemed absolutely happy to lie on his human's legs and survey his world from that safe vantage point. What beautiful blue eyes you have, Mr. Cat. I'm sorry I forgot your name! Could it be Cirrus? I remember it had something to do with cloud formations.

It was a fairly long walk to the oceanside, and, when I arrived, I was happy to sit on a rock and watch seagulls.

This Bald Eagle was a fair distance out, but I'm pretty sure it was watching me, as it took a quick break from its snack.

This sparrow was singing lustily in the brush just behind me.

Almost time to go back to the hotel, I took a moment to try to capture the scene. The oceanside in Victoria has a wilder, more rugged feel to it than that of Vancouver.

One more bird photo as I retraced my steps through Beacon Hill Park. I am not sure what this little bird is. Maybe, a bushtit?

The next morning, two more hours of workshops were followed by a full rehearsal in the Alex Goolden Hall. We worked quite a bit on getting the students to maintain correct posture, and here, I asked them to show me their very best. The teachers were sitting in with the students.

Then, with no warning at all, I asked the teachers if they would like to perform a short song for the students. They talked together for about ten seconds, and then delivered a great tune. I have an extensive background in piano, a decent ear, and a degree in music, but, ask me to play something on the spur of the moment, and I confess that I'm paralyzed. Thanks guys. You were great!
Kelby, focused on the group, though he was sitting at the drumset at the back of the stage.
If you compare these photos of the group, you'll notice that they moved around as they played, making eye contact with the students and with each other. There is more to musical performance than playing the notes, and they really brought that home in these workshops.
Tom, with an ever present twinkle in his eye.

I took these flowers when we were walking from the Embassy Inn to our workshops on the second day. This orangey shade seemed to be a theme in the downtown area.

After another couple of hours of exploring the city, we all met at Milestones. They managed a group rate and menu that kept the majority of students (ten nationalities in this particular group) happy. The restaurant is down the steps behind these students, who kept themselves entertained, while waiting for everyone to arrive:)

After supper, we went back to the hotel, where a couple of the students had accidentally broken a window. The hotel staff were, I thought, very understanding, and although I felt sorry for the extra work this caused, I had to laugh. "Best trip ever," said one of the students. Times sure have changed. If I had broken a window while on a school trip, I would have thought it pretty much equalled total disaster. In the end, the cuts were superficial, and along with the 911 call (a genuinely innocent mistake), and a backdrop that was pulled down during the professional band photograph the following day at the festival, all formed stories to add to trip memories. Here, the student is using his uninjured hand to snap a photo.

After settling the broken window adventure, I headed downtown to hear Tom Ackerman play with his group at Pagliacci's Restaurant. Along the way, I took a few pictures. Here, the parliament buildings.

This is the Singing Tower. There are 62 bells and you can listen to a sample of their sound here.

I had fun photographing this tulip. It was in a small garden at a street corner, where some small spotlights showed it off beautifully.

It was my first time at Pagliacci's, and although I didn't sample the food, since I was still full from our supper at Milestones, several customers raved about their meals. I definitely want to go back there on my next visit to Victoria. The great thing is that it was perfectly okay to sip a drink and listen to Tom and his fabulous group, The Stomp Club.
You can learn a lot more about Tom and his fascinating life, by going to his web site. Be sure to check out the photos section and an amazing video of someone (I'm not sure if it is Tom) surfing the waves. The string bass player with the group that Wednesday was not the same person you will see if you check out The Stomp Club web site, and I did not get his name. I loved watching and listening to him, both for his playing and for his singing. There is so much talent in Victoria!
This is Ken Hall, an absolutely wonderful guitar player. These guys perform every other Wednesday at Pagliacci's. If you are ever in Victoria, go hear them. You won't be sorry!
This couple was so inspired by the music, they had to get up and dance.
I love Victoria! The music, the scenery, the flowers, the food, there is even a great latte place. I took this picture as I walked back to the hotel, after a great time at Pagliacci's. I noticed this morning that Jean, one of my favourite bloggers, has done a post on reflections. I have had these pictures loaded for several days. Graduation and end of term work at school has kept me fairly busy lately, and the blog has suffered a little, but after reading Jean's post, it made me smile to realize one more Victoria experience is enjoying the reflections around the tourist square.
This may not be one of the better photos, but I chose it to show the great location of The Embassy Inn. You can see the parliament buildings to your left, and that orange sign to the right is The Embassy. It is reasonably priced, and having been there three times with students, I can tell you that they love it.
On the third day, the weather changed, and busy with our performance in Port Alberni, I couldn't take pictures until afterwards. The Vancouver Island Band Festival was a very worthwhile experience for our international students. Listening to, and watching other bands perform, and meeting the adjudicators, were experiences I know they will remember for a long time. All of the hard work paid off and our rating of "Excellent" by the adjudicators made all of us very happy. I know I will forget some "thank you's" here, so apologies in advance, but here are the ones that first come to mind: first, to the directors of my school for sponsoring a large part of the expense for the trip, second, our chaperones, Tanya and Gordon for meeting the challenge so successfully of keeping everyone happy, and third, the outstanding clinicians who shared their expertise and love for music so generously. And, I cannot forget to mention our amazing bus driver, Toru. We even had time to stop for a few minutes at Cathedral Grove, before finally catching a very late ferry home. What a trip!


  1. What a wonderful accounting of a remarkable trip from the musical and photographic points of view! As someone who is about to move to Victoria, I was delighted that you were so enthusiastic about the scenery, the restaurants and of course, the music "scene"!! Phyllis

    Happy end of term to all the students and teachers!!

  2. Whew … what a trip is right! I so enjoyed this comprehensive recap of your wonderful journey. I particularly appreciated your focus on the musicians around town and the teachers who contribute so much to the confidence and musical skills of students. As a parent who attended many band competitions and entertainment events, I treasure my own musical memories. And although I don’t advocate destruction in any way, the broken glass incident does add pepper to the tale the kids will tell.

    Speaking of glass, the stain-glass windows are stunning, as is the curious expression on the face of the blue-eyed cat. I also clicked on your link to Jean’s blog and enjoyed viewing her wonderful photos of reflections.

  3. What a gorgeous old building! I love old church buildings, and this one manages to be bright and cheerful inside (some are not so much so). The stained glass is wonderful!
    Glad your students (and you) had such an enlightening, encouraging, and exciting trip. The enthusiasm of the instructors is very evident.
    And I agree with Penelope: the blue-eyed cat is very sweet and lovely. And I like how his collar/leash matches his eyes.

  4. Thank you for the music we heard in our minds...Thank you for your insight and beautiful photographs.

  5. Thanks for the comments, everyone!

    Phyllis, you will LOVE Victoria. I just know it!

    Penelope, I so agree about not advocating destruction. The two students had to share the cost of replacing the window. The bill just came last week, and it was really an eye opener for them that the greatest part of the expense was not the window, but the labor. I'm really hoping they have learned a valuable lesson. And yes, Jean's blog is great fun!

    EvenSong, great eyes! I hadn't picked up on that blue leash until you pointed it out. Thank you.

    MarinanneBill, great to hear from you. I am just beginning a holiday, and will be sure to check out your blog.

  6. How did I miss this post? The title came up on my blogger notifications, but there was no post so I thought perhaps you had deleted it. Weird - blogger must have been under the weather that day.
    I enjoyed hearing about the trip and seeing the photos. Victoria is among my very favourite cities in the whole world - it is beautiful, diverse, friendly, fun, and has great trails and parks. Phyllis, welcome to the island!