A camp for keyboardists held in Yorkton last week was a first.
While the Northern Lights Canadian National Conservatory of Music has been around for 14 years, holding a camp annually, until this year the event was always held in Ontario.
The reason to venture to Yorkton was a simple one, explained program head Debra Wanless.
“We have a huge following of teachers and students in the Yorkton area,” she said.
Asked why there is such strong support locally, Wanless said it’s usually a case “where key teachers get on board with the program, and it grows from there.”
The camp in Yorkton proved successful with nearly 50 youth enrolled ages six to 18. “Fifty was the target,” said Wanless.
Wanless explained the Conservatory has been actively looking to expand its workshop base with a move west, and there is a strong likelihood they will alternate the event every two years.
“So there is potential we’ll be back in two years,” she said.
“Basically it was first year students to Grade 10 students,” said Wanless, adding there were even registrants who had “never been involved in this kind of program (before).”
The two-day camp based out of St. Andrew’s United Church in the city also attracted youth from not just the local region, but Manitoba and Ontario.
In addition the camp held a program for professional development for piano, which attracted about 40 teachers from Canada’s five western-most provinces, said Wanless.
Founded in 2002, Northern Lights Canadian National Conservatory of Music (CNCM) is a national music academy with examination centres in seven provinces and a total reach of nearly 100,000 teachers, students and other music professionals across the country and abroad.
Like other national conservatory programs the CNCM has a piano examination program, but the overall approach to music sets them apart, suggested Wanless.
“We have a very holistic approach,” she said.
The Conservatory’s Piano Workshop Examination Program is a program which is designed to offer thorough training, flexibility, creativity and choice for both the student and the teacher.
As well “CNCM Coaching Classes are another aspect to their holistic approach to music education. Students may apply for a Coaching Class during regular examination sessions for an interactive session with a CNCM examiner. Coaching Classes create the ideal opportunity for audition preparation, short term goal setting, adult students, and students preparing for future examinations and festivals,” explains Conservatory material.
Wanless said their program also tries to be broadly encompassing in terms of music, allowing students to choose classical material but also to be able to “bring pop or jazz pieces into the repertoire.”
There is also a strong promotion of Canadian material through the conservatory.
“Supporting Canadian music at all levels and abilities is one of our mandates,” said Wanless, adding it is an aspect of the conservatory effort “students really embrace.”
To the goal of supporting Canadian music, the conservatory publishes collections of music by Canadian composers, which becomes a resource for teachers, students and others, explained Wanless.
This year’s releases debuting in Yorkton were a new collection of works for piano duets, and a collection of works by eight conservatory students entitled ‘Shoo Chopin’. The young composers ranged in age from seven to 17, said Wanless, adding it is again away to promote Canadian works by supporting young people.
Wanless said the dedication to Canadian music “fits a niche in the market,” for their conservatory, one which seems to resonate with many. “… From our experience it is something people want.”