Growing up in Ontario, music teacher Katie Avery was part of a music school that held regular recitals featuring groups of students from different teachers. They were opportunities for music students to get to see and hear other musicians whom they otherwise may not have.
When it was clear that the Yukon would have to keep waiting for the Rotary Music Festival, to come around again, Avery was inspired by her days as a student to create a new festival with the Yukon Registered Music Teachers’ Association (YRMTA), similar to the ones she participated in growing up.
“The pandemic killed the ability to run that festival,” she said of the Rotary Music Festival. “It was just too big and too complicated. But I wanted to still have something the music teachers would do together, so our students could hear each other play.”
The idea started out as a series of recitals, throughout the year, until Avery and the rest of the organizers decided it would be more doable to host the series as a festival over one weekend. The inaugural Yukon Music Festival runs from April 21 to 23, with performances taking place simultaneously at Riverdale Baptist Church and Whitehorse United Church. The recitals will consist primarily of solo players and singers, though some ensembles will take part as well. The festival will see 130 students, from 16 teachers, performing a multitude of styles, instruments and levels.
“Generally speaking, the music world skews towards beginners, so there will be a lot of sweet little children playing adorable little tunes that are about 30 seconds long,” said Avery. “But each recital also has a handful of more-advanced students, to show off that higher range of ability that we’re able to cultivate here.”
As a teacher, Avery said she finds it “enlightening” to see her students perform their pieces after working with her on them for so long. No matter how well-rehearsed a student is, performing is always much different than practising.
“You learn things about our students [that] you didn’t know before, both in terms of what they’re good at and what they need to work on going forward,” she said. “They achieve a type of focus, through the nerves, that you just can’t get practising or at a lesson.”
For students who have not taken part in a festival or recital before, Avery will have them run through their entire performance routine, complete with a bow and all, during lessons and rehearsal. She said she finds it makes a big difference when the students know what to expect from having rehearsed fully.
“Even if you’re nervous at your lesson, it’s not the same as when you go up to perform,” she said.
The Yukon Music Festival is presented by the YRMTA, in partnership with Whitehorse Concerts. For more information and performance schedules, head over to https://yrmta.ca/concerts-events or https://whitehorseconcerts.com.
“I think everyone is really excited,” said Avery. “I find it really hard to teach when there’s no goal you’re working towards.”