Powell River Academy of Music
Powell River Academy of Music. Non-profit music school in Powell River, BC, founded in 1980 by Don James (music director) and the boards of directors of the Powell River Boys' Choir, Girls' Choir, and Youth Choir. Incorporated in 1982. Home of the International Choral Kathaumixw.
The Powell River Academy of Music has its roots in a youth choral program that was active between 1974 and 1981. This included the Powell River Boy's Choir, which was formed in 1974 by Ken Peterson (conductor), Don James (accompanist) and Harold Carson; the Powell River Girl's Choir, founded in 1977; and the Powell River Youth Choir, founded in 1980. Other choral groups were established after the academy was founded, including the Academy Singers, founded in 1984, and the Academy Chamber Choir, founded in 1995.
Choral music has been the primary concern of the academy, but it has offered private instruction in instrumental and vocal performance and basic music skills, and an early childhood education program using Kodály and Orff techniques. Initially located in St David's Anglican Church, the academy moved in 1987 to a location at Timberlake Park. In 1990, it moved to the J.C. Hill School.
The Academy accepts students at all ages and levels and encourages excellence in music, dance and theatre through instruction as well as exposure to excellence in performance. It incorporates the entire community in its goal of cultural education. Due to the academy, Powell River has been dubbed 'a rare town. It seems everybody sings or plays an instrument' (Vancouver Sun, 2004).
The academy has grown from a choral beginning to a school of performing arts that encompasses music, dance and theatre, with an enrolment of 700 and a faculty of 28. The ballet school alone boasts an enrollment of 250 students.
The Powell River Academy's choral program, involving five choirs, has provided continuous participation for children, young adults, and adults. The Powell River Boys' and Girls' Choirs have achieved international recognition and toured Europe in 1988, singing in Paris, Vienna, Budapest, Pecs, Hungary and Völkermarkt, Austria. The academy's success in choral singing led to the founding of the International Choral Kathaumixw in 1984. The academy's choirs have given 26 international concert tours and they have appeared on TV and radio broadcasts in Canada, US, Mexico, Austria, Poland, Italy, France, Spain, Hungary, Venezuela, Russia, the Czech Republic, Great Britain, Finland, and Japan. They have also competed in the CBC and BBC amateur choir competitions. In 2004, the academy created its Symphony Orchestra Academy of the Pacific, which included 88 players from 16 countries.
Awards, Scholarships and Special Activities
As the academy grew, it developed its own summer program and its own concert series. In 1982, Music Director Don James invited Dal Matterson to chair an international choral festival in Powell River. A committee was formed and the first International Choral Kathaumixw took place in 1984. Kathaumixw, a Salish word meaning a gathering of people from many nations, is now recognized internationally and it is one of the largest choral festivals. It operates with the assistance of large grants from Heritage Canada. In 1994, Peter Taylor led the first Vocal Jazz Summit, bringing together high school and college ensembles with international jazz artists for a weekend of concerts and workshops. In the summer of 2000, the academy launched its first Festival Powell River, featuring international and local performers. The academy also offers scholarships to outstanding students annually.
Academy director, choral conductor, and pianist Donald Wesley James, b Enderby, BC, 6 Aug 1946; ARCT 1965, BA (Seattle Pacific U) 1970, M MUS (Washington) 1972, became a Member of the Order of Canada in 1990.