ABC Music Studio owner and instructor Alison Edgar has plenty of musical talent of her own—she has a B.A. in music—but developing it in others is where her real passion lies. After earning a graduate degree in education from McGill University, she served on its faculty for four years while also racking up experience working with younger students. Her career has taken her through stints directing children’s choirs and high-school bands and working as a music specialist at the elementary level, and through it all she’s built up a 20-year resumé of private lessons. Edgar is open to working in any style toward any of the student’s goals, whether it’s to play recorder in a student talent show or to found a platinum-selling recorder band.
A quick glance at Vashti Fairbairn’s resume is telling. At local theatre company Fighting Chance Productions, she has directed the critically lauded Little Shop of Horrors and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, both of which magically combine music with dramatic arts. At her own Music Box Music and Theatre Academy, Fairbairn, along with a team of dedicated teachers, does the exact same thing on a daily basis. Children’s group classes give little ones as young as 6 months old a chance to strut their stuff on the dance floor, belt out their favourite show tunes, and learn to tickle the ivories like a seasoned elephant sitter. Private lessons are open to adults as well, and expand the instrumental scope to include strings, music theory, and the speaking arts. The latter comes in handy during the school’s drama clubs, which teach kids 3 years and older how to use their imaginations to create real-life and fantasy scenarios. Outside of their educational programs, the facility entertains visitors to the River Market with free music and theatre performances in the Music Box Presents series.
Nadia and Masha know art. Nadia spent years designing and making props for the stage before adding degrees in teaching and child psychology to her art diploma and focusing on art education full-time. Masha, who recently pitched her art skills on CBC's Dragons' Den, specializes in design, painting, and drawing. The two combine their forces at Pinocchio Arts & Craft to teach burgeoning Van Goghs aged 5 and older how to find their inner creativity.
Yet the instructors' focus is not on skills alone. Their curriculum is broad enough to build well-rounded creators who understand the different cultural influences of art and its many movements. This is true in their classes and even in their birthday parties, which focus on portrait painting, re-creating famous masterpieces, or working in the style of Picasso, Matisse, or Emily Carr. Children's sessions are divided by age, not medium, and focus on international cultures. In past classes, for example, kids have painted the Taj Mahal, built a Chinese-style dragon, and learned what part of the world has deserts hot enough to melt clocks. Adult classes, on the other hand, explore more advanced media and concepts, such as the laws of abstraction and cubism.
An associate of the Royal Conservatory of Toronto, Victoria Warfield has dedicated her life to music. Experienced in performing as a concert pianist and directing choirs, Victoria also offers private lessons that tutor music-makers as young as 3 years old in specialized Parent & Tot sessions. Older students can tailor their efforts toward the Royal Conservatory of Toronto examinations or veer into pop or jazz styles. Adult lessons shake off rust from years of neglect or fruitless attempts of practicing the flute on a hollow churro to give students a new artistic outlet during classes that focus on music appreciation.
A host of professional DJs armed with a suite of sound-shaping implements staff School of Remix, a mixing and scratching academy where fledgling DJs earn their wings. Turn fertile brainwaves into tuneful soundwaves with the aid of an hour-long introductory course in DJing, where knowing soundsmiths illustrate the principles of beat-matching, simple mixing concepts, proper use of equipment, and techniques to induce crowds to pump fists at the ceiling rather than your face. Professional DJs from Vancouver's club scene lead School of Remix's one-on-one sessions, where their encouragement and individual guidance sets neophytes on the path to party demigod-hood.