The sweet sounds of mixing it up
Posted on June 21, 2016
As seen in Metro on Monday, June 6, 2016.
The saying, “music to my ears” takes on a literal meaning at Vancouver Community College (VCC), where in just two years the music diploma program prepares students for careers as professional musicians.
“Our students are out there working,” says Ken Morrison, VCC’s music and dance department head. “Because we equip students with a variety of knowledge, they don’t have to work outside of the field while waiting for their big break. They can write, arrange, play, teach and so much more. If that big break doesn’t happen, they aren’t limited in their options to have a satisfying life.”
Offered for the past 42 years, the program, says Morrison, is rooted in classical and jazz studies but includes and welcomes instrumentalists and vocalists in rock and popular music as well as music traditions from other cultures. In fact, it is currently undergoing a curriculum review in an effort to integrate more aspects of contemporary music.
The school’s diverse approach is showcased through its range of ensembles, which students must join as part of their studies. Among them are: VCC Concert Choir, Jazz Orchestra, Latin Jazz Ensemble, Brass Ensemble, Electric Jazz (Fusion and Funk) Ensemble and New Music Ensemble.
“We’re trying to break down barriers,” says Morrison. “Categories aren’t really relevant and people are interested and have access to all types of music. Music education institutions are responsible for giving students well-rounded knowledge and we do that through academic and skills courses and performance opportunities.”
Another factor, says Morrison, that sets VCC’s program apart is the diversity of students to whom it caters. Not only is there no cap on enrollment (meaning students can still enroll for the fall semester), but the school also prides itself on accepting students at all career stages.
“Smart, talented and committed are the three criteria we look for during auditions,” he says. “Beyond that, we look for potential. So, we get this great mix of new and experienced musicians, which creates a really interesting dynamic.”