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VSO's Tovey wows the kid crowd at Taylor Park

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra music director Bramwell Tovey composes a tune using the letters in the name of Grade 7 Taylor Park elementary student Tyler Carey-Banza, left, who was celebrating his birthday. Tovey was at the school presenting to students as part of the VSO Connects outreach program. - Wanda Chow/NewsLeader
Vancouver Symphony Orchestra music director Bramwell Tovey composes a tune using the letters in the name of Grade 7 Taylor Park elementary student Tyler Carey-Banza, left, who was celebrating his birthday. Tovey was at the school presenting to students as part of the VSO Connects outreach program.
— image credit: Wanda Chow/NewsLeader

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra music director Bramwell Tovey got something of a hero's welcome at Taylor Park elementary Thursday morning.

"Where's the red carpet?" asked one boy as they anticipated Tovey's arrival.

There was no red carpet but there were banners and a lineup of children welcoming the maestro outside. Inside the packed school gym were decorations and a song by the kids, days in the making.

Tovey was obviously touched by the reception before launching into his reason for being at the South Burnaby school, a presentation as part of the VSO Connects outreach program.

Taylor Park elementary and Burnaby Central secondary are the two Burnaby schools currently participating in the program—they'll receive two years before it rotates to two other schools in the district. The program includes visits to the schools by VSO musicians, visits to the VSO's downtown facilities by the students, and other music program collaborations.

On Thursday, Tovey's presentation to students included piano performances of jazz—which he dedicated to the adults in the audience—and classical works, an introduction to the concept of conducting and discussions about composers Beethoven and Schumann.

He also provided a birthday present to Grade 7 student Tyler Carey-Banza by composing a song on the spot based on the letters in his polysyllabic name which Tovey called "very musical." That ended with the maestro leading the whole school in singing "Happy Birthday."

While learning an instrument and becoming a musician requires discipline and study, Tovey said in an interview afterwards, "I think the most important thing is to show that music is tremendous fun."

He added that "with only technical scales, technical exercises, you're only learning the words of the language, you're not learning how to use them."

Tovey also wanted the children to see music's ability to express feelings that sometimes don't come as easily through words.

"I hope what they get out of it this morning is that music is not only fun but it has this expressive capability and that you can pluck music almost out of thin air."

Taylor Park music teacher Anne Kang said Tovey has been shown as an example of someone who loves music and incorporates it into his life.

"That's what I want the kids to do is to incorporate music into their lives. If they're sad, they can sing. If they're bored, they can play an instrument. If they're happy they can get together with friends and celebrate with rhythm and melodies," said Kang, who also serves as a Burnaby city councillor.

She noted the VSO Connects program includes some Taylor Park students composing with practicum students from the University of British Columbia, others learning about instruments with VSO players and older students attending a VSO performance and rehearsal.

"The maestro's appearance here today is a source of inspiration and encouragement to say music is not this far away from you," she said. "If you dream about it, if you love it, then anything is attainable."

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com

twitter.com/WandaChow

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