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Creativity Counts

Support the Arts

April 28, 2010


The Vancouver School Board is budgeted for an 18 million dollar deficit which means that they are not being funded adequately enough to cover their costs. As such, all band programs across the board are going to be cut, unless we can get the provincial government to put more money into the budget.

We are looking for stories of any professional artists, actors, musicians or other, that got inspired due to their school program. “Did art save you?” What about the kids that don’t excel in academics or that don’t like sports, where do they go?

Please e-mail your stories to We will make sure the Minister of Education gets the message.

Thank you for these stories …


Diane Brown
Artistic Director
Ruby Slippers Theatre

I am a multi award-winning director, actor and the co-founder/Artistic Director of one of Vancouver’s most enduring independent theatre companies Ruby Slippers Theatre. We have, for twenty-one years now, produced and created smart social satire that is infectiously entertaining and relevant. We have a national tour coming up of our latest production A Beautiful View, and over fifty Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards to our credit.

Without a comprehensive music and theatre program at my junior and senior highschools, there is no question that I would have spent those formative years doing things self-destructive and ultimately socially destructive.

Learning to become a positive, contributing and active member of society starts as a child and is fostered by our education system. An education without a strong arts component is no education at all.


Steve Wright
Sound and Music Educator

I have many stories to tell about the power of art as I am now a music teacher but I was saved by art in Grade 9. I was completely, utterly un-interested in any academic pursuit and had pretty much resigned to the fact that I simply didn’t fit the system, when my English teacher commented to me that I was always doodling and scribbing. He asked me what I was writing and I told him “just poems and songs and stuff.” Since I was uninspired by anything else in the curriculum, he told me in private that if I filled up a binder full of songs, poems and drawings he would mark it equally as the other assignments. In that one moment I was given a gift. I was astounded, and felt like what I wanted to do had value. Not only that, but it gave me hope knowing that even in the rigid school system a teacher could be an individual and make personal judgement calls.

I wrote like mad and was critiqued, applauded, questioned and marked. It was our secret. It went on through grades 10 and 11. I went on to be a songwriter and musician performing with various groups and bands including the CBC Radio Orchestra. Years later I wrote that teacher a letter and told him how much his embracing my creative force inspired me and changed my life. He wrote back saying “I recognised your handwriting right away…”

Read more.


John Oliver

An Open Letter to the Vancouver School Board and the Government of British Columbia,

On the subject of closing music programs and Programs of Choice in the Vancouver Public School System and province-wide.

I write to you today, on “Music Monday” May 3 (link to press release below), to argue against the closure of music programs and Programs of Choice in BC Schools. My name is John Oliver. I am a full-time freelance composer whose works have been commissioned by major Canadian musical institutions, including the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and Canadian Opera Company. My composition, “Five-ring Concerto,” was commissioned by Vancouver’s Turning Point Ensemble as part of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics Cultural Olympiad. As part of my collaboration with Turning Point Ensemble, I am working as an invited guest with young composers at a Metro Vancouver secondary school. This music program is so vibrant that there are over 20 young composers eager to learn from a professional composer. I am also the father of two daughters, aged 11 and 13, enrolled in French Immersion programs in the New Westminster school District and active in the school music programs.

I attended Lord Byng High School from 1973-77. At that time, the Byng Band did not have a string section, but it was a respected band program. When I was growing up, there were no band programs in elementary schools at all, but most high schools had music programs with concert band at the core. Because I had demonstrated music talent early, my family paid for private guitar and clarinet lessons while I was in elementary school, though we had to pinch pennies to do so. It wasn’t until I entered the high school band program that I was able to explore other instruments, such as flute, the various saxophones, bass clarinet and percussion.

In grade twelve I designed a special “directed-study” course, investigating music notation history from the earliest examples of music being written down to the most avant-garde and contemporary music notation. I was able to do this because during grades ten and eleven I had taken part in a satellite program for gifted, self-motivated students at Byng called “Self.” This self-directed studies program encompassed English, History, and Physical Education. Students were required to design their own course of study in these subjects, picking their own activities and topics for study and essay-writing. We also produced our own theatre productions and planned educational trips.

I owe a great deal to the program offerings at my high school. I became a composer because of the breadth and depth of experience I gained within the Vancouver public school system Programs of Choice.

Read more.


Bramwell Tovey
Music Director and Artistic Head of the VSO

One of the modules we present is a “Meet the Maestro” program. I have visited dozens of schools in this program as a guest speaker and performer, speaking to the whole school community, students, parents who wish to attend, and of course, the teachers whose dedication and skill is so inspiring. I talk about music, the VSO, the language of music, the elements of composition and of course, I play the piano- the highlight is usually a short movement by Beethoven whose music always connects with young listeners.

I make the point that Beethoven had a seemingly insurmountable handicap for a musician – he was deaf. He lived in a world of silence yet understood the language of music better than any of his contemporaries. He created some of the most extraordinary music to have captivated hearts and minds during the last two hundred years.


(Read more.)


Lisa Soro
Masabo Culture Company

I am writing this to you on behalf of Fana Soro and his group Masabo. Fana is a traditional West African musician and dancer who came to Canada 13 year ago now and almost immediately his music, dance and life-story were recognized as important to share with Canadian people, more importantly with kids. The Vancouver School Board as well as Arts Starts in Schools and the Royal Conservatory for Music all took Fana on an Artist in Residence where he has gone onto share his music and culture with thousands of children over the years.

Some years back, The Vancouver School Board, through a grant, sent Fana back to Africa to collect the indigenous materials needed to build 30 balafons (traditional xylophone’s) with three different Grade 6 classrooms, each would build 10 xylophones and learn how to play them. The three different classrooms and the entire project was filmed by Randy Rotheisler, a videographer for the VSB and it was called “Yamo, Yamo!!!. Even though the kids in these classrooms had the unique experience in working with raw hides and African gourds and learned how to carve and tune the different keys and then also learned a repertoire to play – the most important lessons. I feel, were learned in the cultural sharing. One of the students when asked “What did you learn about Fana Soro?” he said, “You know I learned a lot about Africa – I was surprised to learn that in Fana’s tribe, people sleep in round huts, but animals sleep in square huts! I think it is amazing that his mom cooks over a fire every day and doesn’t have electricity. But mostly what I learned about Fana is that he likes being black.”

This is HUGE! Imagine what this means? This means that there are kids out there who believe that black people do not LIKE being black…

I want also to put a good word in for the traditional arts and traditionally trained professionals who did not go to “school” to learn their art and do not have a degree and letters to put behind their names. Fana was invited to do a massive project funded and administrated by the Royal Conservatory of Music. Part of the prepping for this project was attending several meetings with the organizers and the artists. Fana was given a large binder of papers and was told that after each class, the artists had to to take qualitative and quantitative data in order to demonstrate to the Conservatory that the project was successful. Fana, an artist trained in his village since the age of 7, a hereditary master and a member of the National Ballet of the Ivory Coast for 9 years with a formal education of Grade 3 – pushed the binders back and said. “When I see the kids smiling and moving and learning and asking questions about my culture and happy to see me the next time I come back – then it is a success. These papers are not how I learned, these papers are not how we teach music and dance in Africa, so these papers are not part of who I am as a musician or a teacher.” Fana went on to teach a remarkably successful program and the Conservatory also learned something about how we need to be adaptable in how we value music…and other cultures.

I hope these two short stories will help our cause to be SAVED BY ART!!!

Lisa Soro


Barbara Livingston, opera singer

My name is Barbara Livingston and I have had a career as a professional singer. I have performed with opera companies and symphony orchestras across Canada and the U.S., including the National Arts Centre Orchestra, San Francisco Opera, the Vancouver Symphony and Florida Grand Opera. School arts programs are DIRECTLY responsible for opening my eyes to the possibility of a career in the arts. I sang in school choirs and played in school bands and because of these experiences, I dared to dream about studying music in university. My teachers encouraged me all along the way and without that encouragement, coupled with the school programs, I would not have achieved what I have in my professional life. I started teaching voice at a post secondary level several years ago and have now completed a post secondary program in arts administration because I want to be able to give young people the same opportunities I had. I served as the president of the Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival for the same reason. Without the support of arts programs in schools, the next Sharman, Heppner or Gould may never be heard. What a monumental loss for everyone.


Gabrielle Burke, visual artist

hey there!

I attended Walnut Grove Secondary School (grad 06) and am now in the fall going to be finishing off my final year at Emily Carr. In Gr 12 I was kicked out of my house by my mother and had to support myself. I worked five days a week at Willowbrook Mall at Bryan’s. While going to Walnut Grove I was constantly in the Painting/Drawing room, as well as the Ceramics. When I was living at home I was allowed to stay later after school with the teachers and work on projects because I was not comfortable going home. The fantastic Arts Program at Walnut Grove gave me an outlet at a time when I felt like there was no where else to turn to- I was literally on my last threads.

I got accepted to the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design by going to portfolio day- after the direct urgings of my painting teacher. At that time I dealt with a lot of emotional problems and I wasn’t going to apply because I didn’t feel I was good enough- what a surprise that was to get an acceptance letter in the mail.

Knowing how the Arts Program literally saved me, I am scared to think of you youths that will not have the chance to feel comfortable- to not know they have someone, and somewhere to turn to when things get tough.

As I am graduating next spring, I felt it was necessary to do some volunteer work. I am currently helping out the Ceramics classes at Walnut Grove Secondary, as Gail Schneider is retiring as of this summer. I hope that in the hours I have spent, and will spend with the students I can offer them something that perhaps will come to frutition like my meager aspirations have.


Gabrielle Burke is a Visual Arts student at the Emily Carr University: after being invited to study in 2006. Here she is entering her fifth year, and has honed her ceramic practice, which has been her obsession for the past 6 years. Gabrielle has had her work displayed in the the One of a Kind Show(Vancouver, BC.) Regalia Boutique (Victoria, BC.) Black Starr Studios (Invemere, BC.) and Barefoor Contessa(Vancouver, BC.) and Paper-Ya on Granville Island. (Vancouver, BC.) Since early on she has made her products marketable, and arranged sales at her high-school; organized the Emily Carr Annual Ceramics Auction; curated ‘Limited Edition: Artist Multiples’ (ECUAD) created an account on Etsy; and sold her art Portobello West (Vancouver BC). She is also producing work for the Fairmont Pacific Rim in Downtown Vancouver.


Valerie, musician

here is my story. i am a classical guitarist. i have also founded a festival for which i continue to serve on the board. i have many years
teaching experience and know firsthand, the profound influence that music instruction has on children and youth. when i was in high school i played in the school band. when i was in elementary school i learned the recorder, guitar and sung in the choir. this was standard in my generation. i am so thankful that we had these opportunities and a consistent exposure to music in school. being painfully shy, i was not attracted to group sports or to theatre. but playing in band allowed me to be confident in a group situation. in band, i felt like an integral part of something creative and meaningful and i could simply “belong.” i hate the thought that this generation will not have the opportunity to be touched by that experience.

in music, we strive to improve individually, so that as a group, we are even better. it is a way to learn to be a better citizen. why is this
not valued???

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