A life’s journey through music

Vernon musician Henry Piovesan has had a life-long love affair with music and believes in the power of a musical education for children

Vernon musician Henry Piovesan works on a track at Pianojam Recording and Instruction Studio

Vernon musician Henry Piovesan works on a track at Pianojam Recording and Instruction Studio

Berklee to busking, harmonica to Hammond B53 organ, Henry Piovesan knows music.

With parents who played opera and classical music all the time and five siblings taking lessons on various instruments, he has always had music in his life.

As a teacher, performer and recording and production man, he keeps enjoying his own and other people’s music.

“I recommend to parents to start children on the piano because it teaches how to read music and basic music theory that all other instruments build on,” he said. “If I could, I would have all students in schools take piano lessons for at least a few years. Then they can decide which other instruments to learn.”

He’s disappointed to see live music instruction in schools being cut back, with some high schools not having a dedicated music teacher.

“Digital music is important now but with that, live music seems to be disappearing and it’s a shame to see that happen. There’s a kick to live music and we need to have room for both. It’s good when young people can see professional players and understand the time and effort and practising that goes into performing on a real instrument.”

He thinks people who want to start music at any age can benefit from some piano instruction. However, he works with his students, ages seven to 92, with what they want to learn, if that’s drums or singing Christmas carols for grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“Not everyone wants to play classical music and there is a lot of good contemporary music so that’s what I teach most of,” said Piovesan, who completed the Royal Conservatory of Music program and graduated from the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston where he studied with world-class teachers and professional musicians.

“It was a tough, intense course. There were 140 students starting when I did and only 16 or us graduated four years later,” he said.

He went on the road for awhile, travelling around North America with his harmonica to support himself and then taught in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and at the Centre for Arts and Technology in Kelowna for 12 years where he did film scoring.

“I wanted to teach on acoustic instruments,” he said.

He came to Vernon where he teaches  students of all ages a variety of instruments, including his well-received adult courses, with an emphasis on jamming, for Okanagan College.

“There are so many adults who used to enjoy playing when they’re younger and then life gets in the way and that guitar goes under the bed. You can always get it out and enjoy playing again. Or whatever you want to do musically. I had one adult student come to me with little singing experience and she now sings professionally with her own band.

“I always work with students towards their goals. Through years of teaching I’ve learned how to get good results quickly in theory and on an instrument. I use a creative visualization method with written notes for reference.”

He teaches piano, organ, guitar, bass, flute, saxophone, harmonica and voice, never forgetting what a good teacher means to a student.

“In high school I was always skipping my other classes and going to the music room. I’d help other students and the teachers would help me. Having good teachers was a big part of wanting to be a teacher myself.”

Piovesan does private lessons or puts together groups of similar skill levels for people who want to play with others. He teaches a band management program to help new and established bands with practising, rehearsal, preparing pieces and working together. He has been playing and travelling with bands since he was 15 and now plays with Kath and the Tom Kats and The Legendary Lake Monsters. He played Friday at Dancing with the Vernon Stars. And he still loads up the 500-pound 1955 Hammond B53 which he calls “a joy to play,” and hauls it out to gigs on occasion.

Pianojam Recording and Instruction Studio, custom built at his home, is always busy, recording local artists, mixing and mastering live band recordings and recording for singer/songwriters.

“Sometimes people want to record a single song as a gift and I can help them do that, or work with them on their song ideas or put poems to music,” he said.

“People like to make their own meditation CDs. I have worked on everything from rap tunes to music for film and videos. If people have the idea, I can do the technical work. Right now, I’m working on the music for an online children’s book.”

He has some more thoughts about music in life and the rewards of teaching.

“I take people from a place where they couldn’t do it to a place where they want to be. When students, particularly adults, are motivated, they can learn quickly even if they have physical or other limitations. Instruction can be personalized. People learn in many different ways. It is important to have a live teacher to help correct mistakes before they are learned and to make sure practice is done properly.

“Let kids, and older students, see live music as much as possible and have fun with music. Vernon has really cool things going on musically and some great venues. One interesting thing I have seen in the past few years is people giving the gift of music lessons to family and friends.”

Piovesan and his wife, Sharon van Buuren, are proud to be foster parents and like to introduce the children in their care to music.

For more information, see www.pianojam.com or call 250-558-9033.