Pablo Diemecke of the Die Mahler Quartet gives an elementary school students a quick violin lesson during a concert made possible by the Selkirk Pro Musica youth engagement program.

Pablo Diemecke of the Die Mahler Quartet gives an elementary school students a quick violin lesson during a concert made possible by the Selkirk Pro Musica youth engagement program.

Student engagement program nears completion

Selkirk Pro Musica paired students with professional Kootenay musicians.

Selkirk Pro Musica’s youth engagement pilot program is nearing completion and organizers hope the successful venture—which pairs School District 8 kids with touring musicians—will be able to continue next year.

“That experience of having professional musicians play for the students has been tremendous. It’s been very, very successful,” said project coordinator Elizabeth Cunningham, who has overseen the first five of eight concerts held in Nelson and the surrounding area.

“This made it possible for all the kids to have a chance to experience the music really close up.”

In some cases, students even got a chance to interact with the musicians themselves. During one memorable concert Cunningham watched as musician Liz Massey played an impromptu jig while a student performed a Scottish dance.

“This girl with long curly beautiful hair, she just started dancing spontaneously around the gym. It was a very special moment that I think many people will remember.”

She said the experiences are more valuable than we may realize.

“In many cases these students have never had a chance to listen to classical music live before.”

In general, the school concerts were paired with pre-existing Selkirk Pro Music shows. But due to a budget windfall, they were able to raise the number of concerts to eight.

Cunningham said the program recently received news that the grant they’d applied for from the BC Touring Council had not been approved.

“In order to continue we will be doing a fundraising campaign. We’ve only talked over a few possibilities, but there’s a chance we could throw a little year-end gala, celebrating what we’ve done.”

Three more concerts remain in the series, and will be performed at South Nelson, Hume and Blewett Schools. Cunningham said the feedback from the school communities has been warm.

Performers at the upcoming concerts will include Alex Nichol, Jeff Faragher, Rob Fahie, Craig Korth and Bessie Wapp.

Cunningham said it was important to her that the series include communities such as Kaslo and Salmo, rather than staying Nelson-centric.

“We really wanted to reach those smaller places that don’t normally have a chance like this.”

Cunningham said ultimately they would like to see the program expand.

“We would really love to build on it, and continue. We’ve been able to reach most of the schools in the area, but not all of them…yet.”

For more information, visit Selkirk Pro Musica on Facebook.