Grade 12 Seaton school student Devon Opp has been accepted to London University of the Arts Fashion and Design in England.

Grade 12 Seaton school student Devon Opp has been accepted to London University of the Arts Fashion and Design in England.

Seaton students take on the world

Matt Harwood-Jones: Falling Deep Into Music

Matt Harwood-Jones will be playing with some of his musical idols when he goes to Berklee College of Music in Boston this fall.

The drummer, an 18-year-old Seaton school Grade 12 student, grew up in a musical family.

“My dad got me into a lot of good music. I didn’t like piano lessons but I knew I wanted to be a drummer as soon as I picked up my instruments. I was always fidgeting, tapping, full of rhythm. My parents got me a drum kit when I was 12 and I fell in love with it,” he said.

Lessons with instructor Mike Usik gave him the basics, and he gives a lot of credit to the experience of playing in the school Concert Band and a community jazz band. Other influences include Virgil Donati, Vinnie Colaiuta, Dave Weckl, Jojo Mayer and Kirk Covington.

“It’s hard to get experience playing and to get known when you come from a small community,” said Harwood-Jones, who was awarded the 2008 Gold Medal at the Richmond Jazz Festival, 2009 Best Rhythm Section Performance Award, B.C. Interior Jazz Festival, and was an opening act at the Rarearth Music Festival in Vernon in 2010.

“My music is quite demanding of technical skill and improvisational skill. I like to jam with my dad. Playing jazz is about holding back, not over-playing, listening to the rest of the band and blending in well,” he said. “It’s just in the past couple of years that I have fallen deep into music and wanted to make it my career. I want to always keep learning and playing.”

Instructor Aaron Anderson said of Harwood-Jones’ playing, “In over 25 years of professionally drumming in over 10 countries, I have never seen a young player play like Matt Harwood-Jones.”

The road to Berklee, a pre-eminent jazz school which gets students playing in the community as well as learning in the classroom, began with an online application, including an essay on why he wanted to study music. He was selected to apply and in February he went to Seattle for an interview and audition and he is hoping to receive one of the scholarships for Canadians.

“I felt good after I walked out of that audition. I don’t think there is any job that would make me as happy as being a musician. Your job is a big part of your life so it should be something that makes you happy,” said Harwood-Jones.

To hear him play see www.mattharwoodjones.com.

Devon Opp: Seeing is Designing

Devon Opp carries on a family tradition of creating and sewing when she starts her studies at London University of the Arts Fashion and Design in England this fall.

The 17-year-old Seaton Grade 12 student said she has heard a family story that her great-great-grandmother was tailor to the Queen of Sweden. She was always playing with her mother’s sewing scraps and when she took sewing in school in Grade 8, she liked it so much she took every course she could.

“I got serious about making clothes three years ago and researched the designers who inspired me: Alexander McQueen, Elie Saab, and Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs and Canadian Eran Biddell. I found out that Alexander McQueen went to London University of the Arts so I decided to try to go there,” said Opp, who describes her style as elegant and high fashion, not necessarily for what she would wear but for the person she might want to be. She admits to being obsessed with clouds and the shapes and designs she sees that could be applied to clothing designs. She designed the costumes for the Seaton school production of In My Life.

She applied to the university and had an interview and showed her portfolio in Vancouver last November with a university representative who came from London.

“They have only recently opened up to Canada and I was fortunate to be accepted right then,” said Opp, who will be in a four-year program. She is waiting to hear about a scholarship as finances will be an issue. She had extensive treatment for scoliosis when she was younger and most of the money that would have been saved for education had to go for travel expenses for treatment in Montreal and Vancouver.

Opp credits her teachers, Maija Daughtry at VSS where she is taking extra sewing classes, and Karen Vance, Seaton sewing and textiles teacher for five years, with encouraging her.

“Devon is so inspirational and self-motivated. She is a delight to teach and we are so excited for her,” said Vance.

Opp doesn’t know where her career will take her.

“I’m completely overwhelmed to have this chance to learn more about what I love. I would like to design for a big fashion house or maybe eventually go out on my own. I think my ideas will totally change with what I learn in London,” she said.