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Thank you to all the alumni that came out to sing with the Choir at our 40th Anniversary Celebration on Sunday December 21, 2008. It was wonderful to see so many alumni and friends and family in the audience for this event.
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Forty Years of Excellence - A look at our Alumni Accomplishments -
Exerpt from BCBC Newsletter fall 2007
Over its four-decade history, approximately 800 boys and young men have participated in the British Columbia Boys Choir. Paths taken and careers chosen vary wildly among these alumni, but they have one thing in common: a shared experience that instilled a love of music and singing, and enriched their lives. Here are brief updates from just a few of them.
Since Peter Alexander’s five years singing with the BCBC ended in 2000, he has been fortunate enough to continue exploring his passion for music as a profession. He is one-twelfth of musica intima, a chamber vocal ensemble that has just exploded onto the international music scene and will be touring Europe twice this summer. Peter spent five years singing with the Vancouver Chamber Choir as well as a number of years in many local community choirs. He says, “All this choral experience has allowed me many wonderful opportunities to be heard on the radio, in concert halls, CD recordings, television and even with Ballet BC.”
Alex S. Carter is a client support specialist with RBC Dominion Securities. He’s also a film critic and president of Reel Toronto. He studied film and business management at Ryerson University, and completed several programs with landmark education. Alex is co-founder and former president of set monkeys inc. He is currently establishing a film production/investment company.
Tom Dobrzanski graduated from UBC in 2005 with an honours degree in business. While attending UBC, he also studied audio engineering, and built Vertical Studios, a professional recording facility where he now produces and records music full time. He also continues to play in his own musical project, Lotus Child, with fellow former BCBC member Zachary Gray. “In the last year, we’ve toured western Canada four times, eastern Canada once, and showcased at the Canadian Music Week festival in Toronto. Our hugely successful debut record, Gossip Diet, led us to join Canada’s largest music agency, and sign with an elite manager. Currently, we are making plans to record a follow up record this fall.
Foodstylist, television host and journalist Nathan Fong was a top graduate from the Dubrulle French Culinary School in 1989. After having cooking stints with some of Vancouver’s top restaurants and establishing a successful catering company, Nathan combined his applied design background with food and has established himself as one of Canada’s premiere food and props stylists for culinary print and film advertising. Nathan is on his 14th year as a regular contributor on Global BCTV’s Saturday morning news segment, “Saturday Chef, which has some 225,000 weekly viewers, as well as his food and travel articles as Contributing Editor for EAT magazine, and as the food, styles and trends columnist for www.evalu8.org. Other television segments have included BBC and Sky Television, The Discovery Channel, both from England as well as the Food Network, USA and Canada. He was heard nationally on CBC Radio One on The Roundup as the program’s food specialist and is now a weekly columnist on CBC Radio One’s On the Coast. www.fongonfood.com
Zachary Gray received a BA in History from the University of British Columbia, where he played on the varsity ultimate team. He is currently a musician and songwriter in the Vancouver-based rock and roll band, Lotus Child.
In 1995 Julian Haigh made a CD called Blessings, which proved to be a financial success as well as a beautiful keepsake of a boy soprano voice. Julian attended the University of Western Ontario, in London, where also sung with the St. George’s Church choir for four years. After moving to Ottawa, he sang with the Capital City Chorus (Barbershop) for a year, and hopes to become involved in another choral group soon because as he says, “Music is part of my life. Many thanks to Donald Forbes and Gerry van Wyck who helped shape my early musical life and give me ‘a love of music’.”
Cameron Haney and his brothers, Ronald and Donald, were charter members of the BCBC. He shares some of his recollections of those early days: “The singers that founded the choir in that first year were children of the Sixties and we lived in a very different time. Today, when many children are escorted to and from school under the eagle eye of their parents or guardians, the 1968 choir waved goodbye to their parents and confidently headed off on a two-month tour much of which took place behind the Iron Curtain at the height of the Cold War! Talk about your Innocents Abroad! We were in Austria on our way to the old USSR when the Americans landed on the moon. We visited Auschwitz and walked over the rubble of crematoria just over two decades after the liberation of the camps. It was an afternoon that became one of the defining experiences of our protected young lives. We crossed the Danube in Romania by ferry with a caravan of horse drawn carts and we entered Berlin through CheckPoint Charlie. And in Scheviningen, Netherlands we gave the final concert of the tour, experiencing the special bond between the Dutch and Canadians. And now forty years later, when many of the alumni soprano section are now grandfathers, the choir still enjoys the Holland/Canada connection, the template having been set back in August of 1968.“ Cam is a member of the Vancouver Chamber Choir.
Harley J. Harris was a soprano soloist with the Choir during the 1983 European tour. “It was glorious to hear one’s voice (and the entire choir) reverberating in the cathedrals...” Following his years in BCBC, Harley sang in school choirs, university musicals and at church services, and at UBC was involved with drama and acting. He is now a commercial litigator at Owen Bird Law Corporation. “Every time you appear before a judge or in front of a tribunal (or even with some clients) you have to provide your best possible performance. You have to be prepared. You have to be fully confident in what you are doing and you have to enjoy every minute of it. The skills acquired with the BCBC come in very handy every day.”
In 1997 Andrew Huzyk made a break from the music business, and moved to Whistler for a job doing IT support for Delta Hotels and Resorts. This was the start of a stellar career in the IT field, which has taken him to Los Angeles, to Dubai for a highly successful four-year stint, to Hong Kong, back to Vancouver, and then once again to Los Angeles. Despite the major projects on his plate now, he finds them “pleasantly lacking the crazy working hours and stress found in Hong Kong, and the dearth of arts and culture lived through in Dubai for all those years... Got music all around, got good work-life balance, got sunshine and beaches, and got interesting work projects to carry me through for years to come. Thinking I may finally be in one place for a while!” He adds, “Through everything else I still have a passion for music deep inside that wants to cry out every chance it gets.”
Stuart Mau has been singing continuously in a variety of choirs — from school chapel choirs to madrigal societies to large choirs and musicals — since moving to Australia. “The Sydney University Musical Society is a larger choir that frequently performs larger choral works. It is also associated with twelve other university choirs from around the country that stage a two-week festival each year in different city. Through SUMS and the Intervarsity Festival I have had the chance to sing a range of works, and have a lot of fun and see a bit of the country.” After graduation Stuart started working in Infrastructure Strategy for the Australian Rail Track Corporation. He also joined The Cathedral Singers, a roving cathedral style choir that sings in a variety of parishes throughout Sydney.
Justin Morissette, currently in his third year at UBC, focuses now on drama, acting, playwriting, and had great success with his high school Improv team, winning first in Canada for Improv. He also tried his hand at North Shore Light Opera and enjoyed a role in a Gilbert & Sullivan production. At one time he sang lead vocals with his band. He also writes for the UBC paper, Discorder.
Jason Nett is one of Canada’s exciting new composers. The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Vancouver Island Symphony Orchestra, the Aventa Ensemble, the Vancouver Guitar Quartet, and the British Columbia Boy’s Choir have performed his works. Jason’s music is capturing audiences with its unique sound — a blend of his passion for art music, fused with rock and jazz roots, resulting in an exciting sound full of rhythm and life. Jason is also a sought after performer and studio producer. He is Composer-in-Residence for the Vancouver Island Symphony.
Barry Rector has spent a lifetime in the world of performing arts as a singer, whistler, director, producer, adjudicator and educator. Forty years ago he and Donald Forbes co-founded the BC Boys Choirs, with whom he fulfilled the multiple roles of assistant conductor, soloist, fundraiser and whistler for their theme song, “The Happy Wanderer”. Twice winning the Regional Metropolitan Opera Auditions in 1974 and 1975, Barry sang tenor with the Vancouver Opera Company for twenty-one years. As an educator, Barry is proud to have had the opportunity to nurture countless students, many of whom have gone on to their own careers in the performing arts. Also a champion whistler (a pursuit he turned to following two episodes with vocal cord nodules), in 1991, he became the International Champion at the Whistlers’ Convention in Louisburg, N.C. and in 2005 was given the prestigious Whistlers’ Hall of Fame Award, one of only two Canadians so honoured. Barry has become well known and highly respected for all of his artistic endeavours, but particularly as a passionate performer with a commanding stage presence, eclectic programming and unique skill in combining his excellent vocal and whistling talents. He credits his Boys’ Choir experiences and mentoring under its founder, Donald Forbes, as having been the catalyst for his love of music and rewarding career in the world of the performing arts.
After three memorable years in BCBC, Grant Rowledge studied music at the University of Victoria, partially paying for his tuition by playing organ in a variety of churches. In the early ‘80s, employment at CBC Radio beckoned to him and he surrendered. Twenty-six years have passed and he still has an office there, still pledging to commit radio. One of his pleasures at CBC is as liaison for BC’s entries in CBC Radio’s biannual Choral Competition and as liaison for choirs hoping for broadcast on CBC Radio. His longest tenure has been with the weekday Radio 2 program DiscDrive. Grant and also enjoys producing and engineering CDs: of the countless CDs he has recorded, several groups’ discs have been nominated for Juno awards. Outside of music, he hurries hard from end to end.
While Andrew Rusk was in the Choir he was also debating at the regional, provincial and national levels. In 2006 he became Captain of the Canadian National Debate Team, which went on to place fourth in the world. A Millennium Scholar at the University of Toronto, he is now studying International Relations and Peace and Conflict Studies. He is heavily involved in his college’s student government, and founded and directs Concerts for a Cause, a non-profit organization that organizes benefit concerts for charity. He is currently working on a new project, Talk It Out (www.dialogueanddebate.com), which aims to integrate dialogue and debate into classroom curriculum.
Currently singing with Downton Singers, Dave Scougal previously sang with Vancouver City Singers, BC Tel Choir and the Westside Singers, and also performed for two seasons with Theatre Under the Stars. He is a graduate of Langara College’s Professional Photography Program, and is director and second vice-president of the Professional Photographers’ Association of BC. He is owner of Right Light Photography, Ltd.
Alastair Smyth is in the midst of a four year Voice Performance degree at the University of Toronto. He credits his ten years with the choir, under both Gerry and Tony, for having a definite impact on his decision to pursue a life in the arts.
Joel Stephanson has stayed involved in the performing arts through a lot of other paid and volunteer experiences. Some of those include summer musical theatre at Barkerville National Historic Site and McLean Mill Historic Site in Port Alberni, and a lengthy run (about 230 performances throughout BC, Alberta and Yukon) of The Klondike Rag with the Canadiana Musical Theatre Company. “One of the neatest things about these gigs has been the chance to learn new instruments (stand-up bass, musical saw, mandolin) or do some arranging, with which I’m sure my Boys’ Choir background helped a great deal,” he says. “The music has often been a great way of restoring balance in my life, and the choir specifically a source of some really great memories.”
As well as the BCBC, Kyler Storm sang with the Vancouver Waldorf School community chorus and Tony Araujo’s Corpus Christi College Chamber Choir. Most of his spare time now goes toward his hobby of photography. He holds a diploma in Computer Science from Capilano College, a BA in Geography from UBC, and is currently completing an advanced diploma in GIS (Geographic Information Systems) from BCIT. He is GIS Analyst for District of North Vancouver.
One of America’s foremost character bass-baritones, Peter Strummer has been hailed for “giving a role maximum impact” by the Toronto Star and for his “warm, firm and agile voice” by Opera News. His thirty-five year career as a professional singer is impossible to condense into a few lines, so he suggests that you visit his website to read about his career, and hear musical excerpts. He was an original member of the BCBC, and was their soloist on the Choir’s first European tour. www.peterstrummer.com/
Composer, broadcaster, organist and conductor Peter Togni lives in Halifax, where he is host of CBC Radio Two’s national program, Weekender, and director of the Togni Consort. Choirs throughout Canada, the United States and Europe sing Peter’s choral works. He writes regularly for the musical trio Sanctuary, of which he is a member. In 2006, Peter was nominated for a Juno award in the category Classical Composer of the Year for his work, Illuminations.
Max van Wyck started in the BCBC when he was seven. “Boys Choir was a big constant in my life: I changed schools and moved houses several times, I met new friends and fell out of touch with old ones, I went through elementary, middle and high school, but Boys Choir was something I could always count on. And for a little bit of effort I traveled all over Europe and North America. From grade one to grade eleven, from seven to seventeen, I was in boys choir and the hardest decision was to leave. But now I am completing two years of college for classical voice, have just enrolled in the opera program at UBC and am looking to continue the love of my life: music. And it all started in September 1994, fourteen years ago.”
After stints in San Francisco with Grammy Award-winning a cappella vocal group Chanticleer, and originating the role of Haldir in the world-premiere stage adaptation of Lord of the Rings, Fraser Walters is involved with a new project called the Canadian Tenors. Following a cross-Canada tour with the Power Within conferences (where they shared the stage with such luminaries as Bill Clinton, Quincy Jones, Anthony Robbins and Hilary Swank), they will soon embark on tours of North America, Asia and Europe. Their debut studio album was recorded both in Stockholm, Sweden and Toronto with Grammy and Juno winning producers and will be released in the fall. See canadiantenors.com for more info.
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