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Thursday, 26 February 2015 05:36

MHC's Magic of Music fosters learning in different ways

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The Medicine Hat College’s Conservatory of Music and Dance has a strong reputation for having gifted and highly-educated instructors who can get the most out of their students by teaching them in innovative ways.


One such way is the special programs offered including the annual Magic of Music Masterclass series. Hundreds of students not only have the opportunity to learn from an impressive slate of guest instructors, but get a chance to learn from them different disciplines and the students are part of the teaching process.
The goal for Magic of Music is to get students ready for the upcoming music festival by developing a different perspective and therefore a greater understanding of their specific disciplines such as voice, piano or one of the string instruments.
The latest edition of the Magic of Music took place Feb. 18-20 and Adele Wilding, voice instructor for the Conservatory, was thrilled about how it unfolded.
Disciplines studied were piano, strings, voice, woodwinds, dance and percussion with the opportunity to explore different areas. Wilding said hundreds of students took part in the event.
She was excited about the Magic of Music program and the opportunities it brought the students. Guest visiting artists included Ronelle Schaufele (violist); Trudi Mason (brass, woodwinds); Frances Gintzer (soprano); Uwe Damruch (vocal); Elinor Lawson (piano) and Liz Tremblay (cello).
Tremblay was an engaging personality as Bow Island native Graham Schaufele found out firsthand.
During the first day Feb. 18, Schaufele sat on a chair holding his cello in position atop a wooden platform in a room at the Conservatory of Music and Dance at the Medicine Hat College.
In the room are a handful of fellow students and his enthusiastic guest instructor Tremblay.
Medicine Hat College cello instructor Christine Bootland sits and listens while accompanist Constantine Shandro expertly follows Schaufele’s lead like they have been practising together for years.
Drawing his bow to play the cello, Tremblay talks to him about the F sharp and the F natural sounds and where the emphasis of force should come from within the forearm. It’s that precise.
“We have an instrument that doesn’t decay like a piano does. The note goes and then that’s it for the piano — no offence,” Tremblay says in a thick British accent finally turning towards Shandro and some light-hearted laughter. “Don’t be so tense.”
This allows the teenager from Bow Island to continue and the session finally concludes with Schaufele and Shandro playing a piece together smoothly. One listening would think they were both seasoned touring professionals.
Taking part in the Magic of Music Master Class Series is different and Schaufele agreed it was a challenge, but it’s good to be out of his comfort zone.
Tremblay was constantly talking to him, throwing a lot of orders his way. He says that one major difference was they took a musical piece and then dissected it into many sections. From there, each special note would be fine tuned until it was done correctly.
As well Tremblay gets the students who are there to participate in helping her with the teaching. There was also discussion amongst the students as well getting input from everyone.
Such a fine tooth-comb approach was interesting for Schaufele.
“It’s different for me. There’s more interaction between the students especially,” says Schaufele who adds it’s motivating. “Liz takes it apart section by section too. It’s very fun, very informal ... very refreshing. I will incorporate some of what she’s taught.”
He said he was learning a lot and it was getting him ready for the music festival competition.
“It’s a wonderful thing to be gearing up for the festival (like this),” says Schaufele.
Brenda Lea MacPhail is a long-time supporter of the local arts scene, the college’s conservatory including Magic of Music event and has had two children who were involved in the arts.
She is a firm believer in what musical education can bring to an individual.
That’s the reason why Brenda Lea and her husband Ken have made a large donation in order to help with the Magic of Music’s costs.
“I believe in the development of arts in the community and it’s good for them to experience different avenues,” explains MacPhail. “Not too many are in a lot of disciplines so (Magic of Music) allows them to do that. I find that many of them will go, ‘wow, I really enjoy this (different instrument)’. Ken and I felt donating to Magic of Music was an important and critical part of helping them to prepare (for the Rotary Music Festival).”
MacPhail noted musical education in general helps people in so many ways.
“Music teaches them about focus, discipline, hard work and if they are going to want to excel at something, they need to learn to respect their teachers,” explains MacPhail. “Respect is a huge one for me. (They) need to learn how to respect others in life in general.
“It also teaches them the ability to adapt and think on their feet ... If you know a 10-page sonata, your brain is pretty active. Music transfers through their whole academic career.”
“It’s also fostering social skills,” explained Wilding who noted the Magic of Music’s emphasis on student participation in helping the instructors educate the other students gets everyone involved with each other a lot more than a normal music class.
Wilding said not only were Medicine Hat students of all ages studying at the conservatory, but they also had students from southwest Saskatchewan, as well as many from the counties of Newell, 40-Mile and Cypress.
Jenna Williams is the community relations officer for the college who works for the Medicine Hat College Foundation that tries to arrange for donors to help direct any contributions to the appropriate areas. She says the conservatory and its Magic of Music program does receive support and is recognized for its high quality.
“All of the feedback I’ve received has been positive,” explains Williams who agreed music contributes to life-long education.
“The kids are here to learn and they have the ability. We can sit down and will discuss any area they want to focus on, with any program like the Magic of Music, any certain area or in advancing skills.”
MacPhail is thrilled with the programs offered and hopes people appreciate what the conservatory has in regards to the quality of education.
“The caliber of education has gone up and they have world-renowned instructors; it’s second-to-none,” she added.
For more on Wilding and the other conservatory instructors and programs see:  https://www.mhc.ab.ca/ Conservatory.aspx

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor