Thursday, 04 February 2016 07:03

New conservatory manager wanting to compliment what is already at MHC

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The one thing people will come to quickly learn about the new manager of the Conservatory of Music and Dance is how down-to-earth, easy going and approachable he appears to be.


Talking to the amiable Brad Mahon is like talking to an old friend one hasn’t seen in a while.
Mahon who has been in Medicine Hat for a few months, after leaving as head of the Conservatory of Performing Arts at the University of Regina since 2014, also is as intelligent as they come.
He is excited to be in Medicine Hat and is a big fan of the city already. He has been an adjudicator here at various festivals including the Rotary Music Festival and was familiar with all of the local music festivals including Jazz Fest and Tongue on the Post.
Mahon has a lot of experience with southern Alberta and is familiar with the Medicine Hat College and its conservatory.
He is thrilled to have the opportunity to work in the refurbished visual communications area at the Cultural Centre, which is owned by the Medicine Hat College.
“I want to draw awareness of the programming available here,” says Mahon. “That means building partnerships with a variety of people including in the city and area. We have the Conservatory and the visual communications programs. To have that diversity is really good.
“When I was discussing the (manager) job with Terry Chapman (Dean of the Division of Arts and Education) I asked her ‘what is that you are looking for?’ She wants to be adding to the community portfolio. Going out to the community and selling it to the community.”
Mahon notes he doesn’t want to compete with arts groups in Medicine Hat and southeast Alberta, but wants to see how they can successfully partner or assist with different arts groups.
“It’s an awareness,” Mahon adds. “There’s a lot going on in southern Alberta and the college wants to be more active in community partnerships ... what can we add to complement what is already in place.”
“There’s a real mosaic here, it’s just a matter of identifying what we already have and it doesn’t threaten any existing programs (by adding new ones).”
Like many of the instructors and teaching assistants in the conservatory, Mahon has a impressive set of credentials and education behind him.
Mahon holds a Doctor of Philosophy (Musicology), a Master of Music (Guitar Performance) and a Bachelor of Music from the University of Calgary.
He also has an Associate Diploma (Guitar Pedagogy) from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and a diploma in music performance (Classical Guitar) from Calgary’s Mount Royal University.
He was a guitar instructor for Mount Royal University starting in 1997 and is a freelance adjudicator and clinician who has been a judge at numerous festivals in B.C., Alberta and Ontario.
He also plays guitar for whoever needs him.
He’s has a gift for music, but being an educator in the profession wasn’t his initial interest.
“I want to get out there and tell people about the staff here, they are very strong, the conservatory centres around the instructors here. They are the rockstars if you will,” says Mahon. “The instructors here are all great instructors, they are making learning fun. They connect with the students to make it fun ... if Johnny enjoys it while learning, he will still want to come (for years after).”
Mahon really would also like to get children as young as preschool involved in music and that’s how an interest in music is grown. He grew a program for the University of Regina.
The base includes children working on practical life skills, science, math, language, fine and gross motor skills, and kindergarten preparation. Focus will be placed on each child’s development using the fine arts as the vehicle.
Children will sing, dance, paint, draw, act, play instruments and create.
On the day he left, the Conservatory of Creative Preschool program’s latest session was for the first time, officially at capacity which is impressive considering its relative infancy.
“It wasn’t just music, it has an arts component to it, everything from drama to drawing,” explains Mahon, but he adds it’s not an exclusive type of thing. The idea is for a child’s mind to expand, and not just for the next young Mozart, Monet or MacLaine.
“They’re learning through play.”
 He appreciates the change in some students who he taught from the time they were five or six years old until they were in their teens. He says their progressions were inspiring.
Mahon also is thinking he wants to get seniors heavily involved too. There are a lot of opportunities to get them involved in the conservatory including utilizing the facilities which have open spots when not being used for classes or lessons.
Mahon also wants to fortify the summer camps the college offers with different arts programs and he hopes to get those solidified soon.
“People don’t understand that conservatories (of music) are the training grounds of musicians of any skill level,” explains Mahon. “Everybody thinks it’s just for child prodigies and that’s not the case. We have students who are recreational musicians and that’s great too ... lots of students just enjoy music for example and they’re not going to become prodigies but they excel at other things. They participate and it (gets their minds going).”
In a statement Terry Chapman, dean of the Division of Arts and Education, says she looks forward to seeing the direction Mahon’s leadership will take the conservatory.
“Brad has a depth of knowledge and experience that we feel will support the strategic direction of our institution in particular as it pertains to the arts,” says Chapman. “He respects the success that the conservatory has had and wants to build on that so that we can continue to attract students, partnerships and art enthusiasts to the Cultural Centre.”
“The options are really whatever you want them to be,” adds Mahon, who doesn’t look at his new role as a stepping stone or how is he going to personally benefit from the experience. “To be a manager you have to have a selfless attitude and seek growth for the conservatory and what is overall good for the community.”
To view Conservatory programs, visit online: www.mhc.ab.ca/Conservatory.

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor