Sounds of piano, guitar, ukulele and voice training flow from the white walls of the grand, colonial revival style home as kids flood the grounds.
They’re eagerly awaiting their scheduled lessons, which are now back in session at the Vernon Community Music School.
And with programs ranging from Kindermusik — a method of early childhood education focused around music and movement — to adult ukulele group classes, the not-for-profit school hopes to have something on offer for everyone of all musical abilities.
“This place is full of bright people wanting to inflict music on others,” said Vernon Community Music School past president Sharon Lawrence as she is surrounded by five of the school’s instructors, all excited about the start of a new season.
“Kindermusik is very important because we train little people and bring all of the family to our music school,” said licensed Kindermusik instructor Jennifer Fawcett. “Ourtime (one of two Kindermusik programs aimed at ages one to three) is to focus on your child’s healthy emotional development as confidence, curiosity, self-control and communication begin to take shape. In Imagine That! (the second Kindermusik program aimed at ages three to five), we capture the child’s attention and engage them in creative and meaningful work. I’m very proud of this program.”
Sitting next to Fawcett in the large, open room adorned with rustic wooden features in school is Karen Rempel, a longtime piano and theory instructor.
“That’s the big thing — it’s a start,” Rempel said of instructing children. “It’s such a cool career that we get to do. We get to see them grow up. They love to practice and they love this music thing.”
Bev Martens, who teaches violin and Suzuki violin, agreed.
“I think one of the big things about kids coming here is it really is energizing,” Martens said. “You feel like a part of something bigger.”
With the wide variety of music lessons on offer from 21 different instructors, it isn’t uncommon for students to transfer from course to course, and consequently, instructor to instructor. When students graduate from the Kindermusik program, they often move on to other classes, such as Kim Van Wensem’s creative chorus and other youth chorus groups. In creative chorus, students take what they have learned to create their own musical.
“That’s really fun,” Van Wensem said of creative chaos, adding that it allows students to explore their own creativity.
Participating in multiple classes and musical experimentation is encouraged at the Vernon Community Music School.
“Diversity is really encouraged,” Martens said. “We all support the freedom to explore different things. We try to be really open and help them find the thing they love. This school has a unique reputation for defending that diversity.”
As the instructors discuss their various programs, Martens’ daughter Rachel Wyatt, artistic director of the Carriage House Performance Troupe enters the room and joins the conversation.
“Your life (as an instructor) is about creating musicians,” Wyatt said as she sat down at the large, round table. “I used to think we worked with kids, but we work with families. The main thing I look for is that kids really want to join. Every creative process involves facing challenges.”
The troupe is Wyatt’s theatrical performance class where students cultivate a story and perform it in front of a live audience.
“Getting up on stage is like bearing your soul,” Wyatt said. “Each step can lead to them being able to stand up in front of a group of people and express themselves.”
The instructors sitting around the table agree.
“I’ve had so many tears with the incredible talent they’ve developed,” Van Wensem said of her students.
For them, it’s about more than just teaching the kids to play music — It’s about helping them grow.
But the Vernon Community Music School doesn’t only have programs for youth. As the other instructors talk, Therese Parent, a longtime voice instructor and glee club instructor enters the room.
Parent’s glee club, aimed at ages 15 and up, is in its fourth season and performs hits from ABBA and The Beatles in concert.
Parent crosses the room and sits next to Aaron Jamin, a new addition to the Vernon Community Music School lineup.
Jamin, a bachelor of arts in music alum from both the University of Windsor and University of Victoria, teaches saxophone, trumpet, clarinet, French horn and more recently the ukulele.
“It was kind of a blessing in disguise,” Jamin said of leading the school’s new ukulele group classes, with programs for ages nine to 15 and for ages 16 and up. “You get a lot of people who maybe haven’t had the chance to experience music.”
And for Jamin, Rempel, Fawcett, Martens, Wyatt, Van Wensem, Parent and the school’s other instructors, that’s what it’s all about.
“The teachers are very invested in what they’re doing,” Lawrence said. “They’re like a bunch of grandparents.”
For more information and a full list of classes available from the Vernon Community Music School, visit www.vcmsonline.org.