Keeping the hills alive with the sound of music

For decades parents have been supporting their children’s dreams and keeping Lynn Valley’s hills alive with the sound of music. The 36th Annual Argyle Music Association fundraiser Cabaret is taking place this weekend.


Annual Cabaret funds scholarships


“It’s for students graduating from the Argyle music program, “ said Sheila Balzar, parent and volunteer fundraising coordinator. “It varies from year to year, but last year we had, I believe, 25 applicants and everyone received something.”

The annual evening of music, silent auction and dining will take place at May 12 at 6 p.m. at Mulgrave Theatre in West Vancouver. This year’s event – titled Jazz to Jukebox will showcase the talents of students as they perform their skills in an industry-level performance. As a fundraiser, it is one of a handful held throughout the year that supports students, the curriculum and trips the students take.

“Cabaret is strictly for scholarships and bursaries,” said Balzar. “Over 100 students will be performing. It is the pinnacle of the jazz students curriculum – they are expected to perform as if they are a professional and this is a paid gig.”


Exceptional program, bright futures


For those who have not been through Argyle, they might not be familiar with the school’s extremely well-regarded music program. Parents with a child in music automatically become a part of the Argyle Music Association and their dedication is essential to the program.

“We are there to support the music – these teachers put so much energy and time into creating this quality program. They need to be able to focus on teaching,” said Balzar.

The investment in students is paying off in so many ways, she said. From outstanding opportunities to tour in Europe to creating foundational music and technical abilities that have students stepping out of high school and into industry jobs while pursuing post-secondary education, and ultimately full-time employment.

For her son and daughter, it has not only meant a passion for music but technical skills to support the performances as well.

“My son discovered sound and lighting in Grade 7 when a teacher suggested he help with the school play,” she said. “That dovetailed nicely into the sound and lighting crew at Argyle. He had the opportunity to become a leader at young age, putting in incredible hours and now is working in the industry at 19 doing events at Rogers Arena.”


Exceptional program, bright futures


“Music is a huge part of these students,” said Balzar. “The program at Argyle is outstanding. There are opportunities to perform with members of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. It is elevating their musical experience – the level of commitment, the preparation, the excellence to do that. Just to put themselves out there to perform at the level – its huge.”

For some the music program is an opportunity to be part of something bigger – to be part of team.

“There is a sense of belonging in the music program – working together,” said Balzar. “The progress is phenomenal throughout the year and to see them from Grade 8 to Grade 12  — it’s exponential.”

Senior choir at Bach’s Tomb

The work is paying off. During the school’s most recent senior trip to Europe their reputation for excellence afforded them the unique opportunity to perform Bach while at Bach’s tomb – something that could only happen because of their skill, said Balzar.

“It’s a massive program,” she said. “So many people put so much energy, so much love in to 300-plus students to enrich their high school experience and change the rest of their lives.”


How to help


There are plenty of opportunities for the community to support this program. In addition to attending Cabaret or donating auction items, the teachers have wishlists, she said.

“With a new school being built, we need to remember it is just the shell of a school and to run an excellent program there needs to be equipment,” said Balzar. “This is not in the capital budget; this is not in the operating budget.

“There are so many ways to help: come out to concerts and performances,” said Balzar, noting there is a list on their website. “If a student knocks on your door – try to say yes to purchasing some pie or chocolates.”

To create a lasting legacy of support contact the Argyle Music Association for current needs at fundraising@argylemusic.ca. The group has come up with some fantastic passive fundraising options as well that support students throughout the year. If you shop at SPUD you can purchase your produce and support students – details here or purchase SPUD gift cards and use them later – details here. Same goes for fantastic North Shore Two Rivers Meats – details here.

Lynn Valley-made Spring Break Solutions: Art

With March Break fast approaching there is always a bit of panic: how will the kids keep busy when you are at work? LynnValleyLife is looking at three made-in-LV solutions to engage and challenge children and provide some experiences far different than the classroom.


Growth through art


From textiles to Picasso to Murakami, Kudzu Studio will be offering four classes this spring right here in Upper Lynn.

Artist Jeri Engen has been working with children for decades from creating grassroots arts education programs in the Seattle, to launching programs with the North Shore Arts Council, to guiding students through the Vancouver Art Gallery. Even with all those plates in the air, for the last few years Engen has been offering popular classes through her home studio.

“This is something I am incredibly passionate about – not necessarily to grow fine artists but to create an excitement about and a passion for art,” said Engen.

Kudzu Art StudioThroughout out the year Kudzu Studio offers classes to children from preschool to teens. The popular classes tend to fill up from word-of-mouth praise, but she is open to creating new classes if there are at least four students interested. To get a taste of what Kudzu is like, Engen is offering four classes this Spring Break as well as week-long camps throughout the summer.


Life Skills


“Art is a great share with kids social and historical events,” she said. “It also gives them an opportunity to make sense of their own world – often they can’t verbalize it but they sure can draw. It’s such a privilege to work with kids and share in their experience and get them excited.

“To see them gain confidence in what they are doing – to seem them take risks, take chances. To learn that mistakes are okay. That’s part of life. To think ‘Oh no, I don’t know what to do’ and still give it a shot and if doesn’t work give it another shot – and again. It’s a great safe way to do that.”


Kudzu Art Gallery


For elementary age children they will explore the latest exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery by Takashi Murakami and other art currently featured in local galleries in Art Around Town.

“My biggest objective is that they have fun and create but my second objective is to get the kids excited about art and the artist – to start a relationship that will inspire them to see the original work. They can take their parents and have an experience beyond the studio here,” said Engen.

Her second elementary program will feature the works of Picasso and fostering courage and resilience.

“I think everyone knows Picasso but there is so much more to Picasso than people think,” said Engen. “His always did the things he didn’t think he could do in order to learn to do them – and that is the underlying theme of this camp – go forth and do things you can’t do. Taking the techniques of Picasso like drawing upside down and having the child draw what they want – but upside down. We always have one child who love cats – so that will be their subject matter ”

There are also two tween/teen camps featuring textiles and drawing. In textiles students will explore silk, felting, embroidery and much more. In drawing Engen will cover basic foundational skills and then introduce new techniques that students likely won’t have tried at home – but could if they resonate.

“It is about creating art and it is also about learning some life lessons and having the courage to try something new,” said Engen. “These things they don’t always realize they will carry forth into other aspects of life.”

For details of classes and dates visit the Kudzu Studio website. For registration visit her here or call 604-971-1147. 

Are you or your organization offering spring break art activities in Lynn Valley? Feel free to let the neighbourhood know by posting directly onto our Facebook page!