Bryan Billhimer refers to the ukelele as "the gateway instrument." For him and his fellow teacher Ashley Shepherd, these tiny, four-stringed wonders represent a doorway to an ever-growing world of music—one that's accessible to anyone. The duo hosts online classes on the Center Stage Ukelele Academy website, gearing their lessons toward total beginners.
The academy's video seminars cover fundamental techniques as well as popular songs, including "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," "Wagon Wheel," and Taylor Swift's "Shake it Off." Additionally, students are encouraged to submit lesson requests for songs they'd like to learn. Each video aims for the utmost clarity with a split-screen setup and shots from multiple angles, enabling players to perfect their finger placement without so much as a dollop of superglue. The academy also supplements its classes with resources such as tabs and helpful diagrams.
What services does your business offer and what makes your business stand out from the competition?
My students choose what they play!
My training allows me to write down and teach any song just by hearing it. The guitar sounds great playing every style of music, so whatever you're into, let me show you how to play it!
Do you provide any materials? What should your students expect to bring?
All you need is your own guitar!
I create a personalized lesson plan for each student that is based on musical interests and skill level.
Each time we meet, I will provide clear, hand-written instructions about any song you choose.
Kids and adults both practice more when they choose the music!
What was the inspiration to start or run this business?
After receiving my music degree from Colorado College in 2004, I realized that I truly enjoy the experience of sharing music with others.
What do you love most about your job?
I love to play guitar.
I am always looking to improve my abilities and I have experienced the value of a good teacher giving me a hand up.
When I see other people start to discover the world of music and I can give them a hand up, it is a satisfying way to contribute to the musical community.
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.
Churning out diplomas since 1981, School of Mix sends its students through a variety of structured cocktail curriculums for both interested civilians and those who seek a career in professional drink slinging. Establishments around the Vancouver area and in international locales recognize School of Mix certificates and diplomas as indicative of all-around mastery of bar keeping and maraschino-cherry sculpting. Additionally, 75 per cent of those who finish a bartending or wine education go on to work with the school's event-staffing arm, Mix Event Staffing.
In rooms packed with synthesizers, computers, and turntables, School of Remix's team of seasoned DJs and production engineers packs students' minds with the latest spinning and mixing techniques and technology during comprehensive courses. Coming from all walks of life and musical influences, the eclectic group of turntablists and producers bands together through their passion for music and talent for passing on their tuneful wisdom. Eyes open anew to software such as Logic Pro and Pro Tools, and equipment such as the Traktor Scratch Pro 2 and Serato Itch gets novices started on the right foot as more experienced students graduate to more sophisticated nicknames, such as DJ Shmee Jay.
Stepping to the tune of her husband's guitar, celebrated flamenco performer Rosario Ancer bridges continents with her knowledge of dance. She trained in Spain and toured in multiple countries before opening Centro Flamenco in 1989, where she and her instructors pull from cultural, musical, and choreographic teachings to guide their students. All the while, Rosario deftly walks the tightrope between authenticity and evolution. Her regular travels to workshops and shows in Spain imbue her lessons with history, yet she hopes to see the art form flourish in experimental ways, inciting guests to stretch their creative muscles during classes.
Rosario exposes amateurs and advanced dancers alike to flamenco's commanding rhythms. As her pupils progress, they learn more about the social significance behind the moves, and eventually sync their kicks to stylized guitar strums. Whether they are mastering simple beats or preparing for a theatre piece, the studio sets them on a structured track, which ends when their smouldering glance can set a tablecloth on fire.