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Stringing new musicians along, Okanagan pros draw new audiences

No stings attached: Calvin Dyck, instructor with The Strings the Thing summer camp draws in participants of all ages for a music lovers experience that celebrates playing rather than competitive practice. Below: Rosemary Thomson. - contributed
No stings attached: Calvin Dyck, instructor with The Strings the Thing summer camp draws in participants of all ages for a music lovers experience that celebrates playing rather than competitive practice. Below: Rosemary Thomson.
— image credit: contributed

Nine blind mice and upside-down music—this is not your average orchestral training camp concert.

Coming up from Penticton for one evening next week, the instructors from the Strings the Thing string instrument summer camp for kids and adults are out to break any preconceived notions of the what playing the violin, viola or double bass are all about with an evening concert to showcase talent and love for music.

"It's not a competitive camp like the National Youth Orchestra. These people are there for the love of playing," said Calvin Dyck, a featured instructor up from Abbotsford.

The National Youth Orchestra is an auditioned summer camp for youth aged 16 to 25 years old. The students audition to get in, audition for the seat they will hold during the camp and generally wind up auditioning for a job as a paid musician in an orchestra. Four out of every ten orchestral players in the country were once youth orchestra members.

So rigorous is the experience, last year's camp director, Barbara Smith, told Toronto.com they have a signup sheet for cold therapy with the nurse and she figures she'll one day write an autobiography titled "I Woke Up Screaming" the job of managing it all is so intense.

Penticton's Rosemary Thomsonversion is somewhat more tame. Originally, the city hosted the Penticton School of the Arts; after that disappeared, Strings the Thing was created by John Suderman and Elizabeth Lupton to fulfil a small portion of the mandate, offering a fun way for people of all ages to play the instruments they love.

As such, they have some medical doctors who are using their week off to come to camp to play. There are a few moms who are bringing their families to Penticton to camp while they go off to play—music that is. And there's a raft of younger pupils too.

"Attendance is up 30 per cent this year from 28 students to 40," said Dyck. "So it's really building."

The instructor's concert is intended to showcase this fun approach to music. With Rosemary Thomson, director of the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra, on piano,  Suderman and Lupton on violin, as well as guest musicians Joel Stobbe and Dyck, the instructors will be playing around with the music.

Dyck is planning a Nine Blind Mice rendition (up from three) on Accordion and then there will be the upside-down Mozart composition—the piece is played right-way-up by one musician and upside-down by another. Leroy Anderson's Fiddle-Faddle is on the bill along with Viola Four Hands by PDQ Bach.

The pieces will never run longer than five minutes, everything will be played in good humour and it just might make you pick up an instrument or two too.

The concert runs Thursday, July 12 at 7 p.m. in the St. Michael's Cathedral Church in Kelowna. Tickets are $12 at the door and $6 for students. Doors open at 6 p.m. For more information contact the Shatford Centre in Penticton at (250) 770-7668.

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