Creative BC News

Mentorship, skills development, and meaningful representation offered to violin and fiddle students at the Serena Eades Academy of Music

Jun 17, 2022 | Funding Recipient, Music + Sound Recording

Founded in picturesque Roberts Creek by director Serena Eades (herself a veteran 25-year music educator, armed with dual music degrees from the Berklee College and Brandon University), the Serena Eades Academy of Music offers budding violin and fiddle players of all backgrounds the opportunity to thrive.

The Academy’s founder, Serena Eades, in a moment of celebration with two Academy members.

Thanks to a recent investment from Amplify BC’s Music Company Development program, the Academy has been able to extend this opportunity to even more musicians through the launch of a new site in North Vancouver, while also hiring more staff to support its other locations throughout B.C.

Upon launching in Roberts Creek in 2019, the Academy immediately drew interest from community members, youth, and families hungry to learn the violin and fiddle. Quickly, the Academy’s community-focused operations grew to a regional scale. During the early days of the pandemic, the Academy was able to sustain momentum by offering online classes to students. Thanks to this continued growth, and supported by an initial investment from Creative BC, the organization soon opened two new locations: a space in qathet (Powell River), alongside additional teaching studios on the Sunshine Coast.

In any given year, the Academy now serves nearly 150 students with a core faculty of regular violin and fiddle instructors, supported by guest clinicians drawn from studios and concert halls the world over. Instruction basics include the rudiments of music theory and musicianship, individual and ensemble performance skills, and an introduction to chamber music. In-person instruction (including structured workshops, and more spontaneous ‘jam sessions’, often led by special guest artists) is available for local students; online options are also offered to those beyond B.C. proper. Students currently range in age from 3 – 75, and span a gamut of abilities from complete beginner to pre-college level. At the Serena Eades Academy of Music, staff are dedicated to creating a sense of enduring community between instructors, students, and their families. All are welcome!

Intergenerational learning opportunities are an Academy highlight. 

 When asked about the Academy’s broader mission, Serena offers, We are not merely a source of music education: we are instrumental in the development of the life-long skills of discipline, critical thinking, self-empowerment, and creative problem solving through music.  We aim to broaden the scope of cultural awareness and knowledge of our students by exploring repertoire beyond the traditional white, Western European canon, and hosting instructors of diverse ethnic identities. We strive to create a respectful community of students and educators across generations, gender and ethnic identities, physical and mental abilities, and geographic locations.”

Since receiving this most recent support from Creative BC in mid-2022, the Academy has responded to increasing regional demand for its services by expanding its quathet (Powell River) space, hiring two new permanent instructors for its Sunshine Coast studios (bringing the Academy’s permanent instructor roster to seven), and launching a fourth location in North Vancouver. Private and group classes are already available in each of these spaces. To drive engagement, a comprehensive marketing and business development strategy is already proving integral to student recruitment and retention efforts, and to creating increased awareness of the Academy’s unique opportunities for collaborative music-making. By increasing its visibility and connection to new and prospective students, the Academy can offer bursaries and scholarships to those in need, while also maintaining flexibility for those whose finances require it: thereby ensuring that no one is turned away from instruction for financial reasons.

The Academy’s leadership is excited at the potential for these investments to drive its mission on an even broader scale over the longer term. Serena continues, Funding from Creative BC has been instrumental in our ability to support and grow our community of students and families by allowing us to hire more staff, market to new locations and demographics, supply our studios with PPE to keep our teachers and students healthy, and develop a studio-specific curriculum and BIPOC string composers’ database.  We have also been able to expand our offerings beyond private lessons by presenting workshops, partnering with local businesses, and developing chamber music ensemble and fiddle group programs.”

Teaching the basics of reading music.

Beyond these investments in capacity, access, and service delivery, support from Creative BC has also enabled the Serena Eades Academy of Music to plan for longer-term projects that build community, and that engage new demographics at a time where the fields of classical and concert music confront deep questions of equity in an era of systemic change.

In the coming months, thanks to Amplify BC’s support, the Academy will present an inaugural string workshop summit, open to existing and new prospective students. The event will bring together string players drawn from each of the Academy’s home communities to learn music and works developed specifically by Indigenous, Métis, and Black composers. Over the longer term, efforts like these will enable the Academy to extend a hand of welcome to many for whom individual or collaborative string musicianship may have once seemed unwelcoming – or, at the very least, out of familiar reach. The Academy’s commitment to Reconciliation is palpable: beyond undertakings like these, the team has also donated proceeds from past student recitals to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society, and the Syiyaya Reconcilliation Movement in Shíshálh (Sechelt).

Dene Nation fiddler (and friend of the Academy) Wesley Hardisty.

As Serena and her team contemplate this longer term, they also recognize the role that funding agencies like Creative BC have played in the Academy’s ability to strategize and plan longer-term, and dream bigger than ever before. When asked to reflect on what insights her own efforts have yielded that may support other organizations seeking similar resources, Serena offers, My advice to anyone considering applying to Creative BC for support is to be clear on your vision, flexible in your execution, and passionate about your purpose.  Ask for advice, believe deeply in your project, and the support will come!”

Serena concludes, “We are incredibly fortunate to have this institution in B.C., and not a day goes by that I am not grateful for both the financial support that Creative BC has provided, and the confidence that this support has given me in delivering my projects.”

You can learn more about the Serena Eades Academy of Music here.

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Photos and artwork courtesy of the Serena Eades Academy of Music.