International piano school planned for Kimberley

Southeast Asian parents will travel for music lessons for their kids, says Hong Kong piano teacher

As long time Kimberley residents could tell you, it’s at this time of year that many were used to hearing the sounds of accordions coming out of the Platzl. The Kimberley International Old Time Accordion Championships were always held the first full week in July and since their demise a few years ago, a lot of Kimberley boosters have been trying different things to attract people to the Platzl and the city itself. There have been successful ventures, like First Saturdays. And new ventures, like the upcoming Medieval Festival this weekend (more on that in tomorrow’s Bulletin).

Another Kimberley booster, Pianist Arne Sahlen, has come up with another idea that he hopes may attract some visitors to Kimberley, from Asia as well as Canada.

Sahlen’s idea is an International Piano Summer School and he, with his partner, Anthony Tam of Hong Kong, plan the first session in July of 2016.

“This can be one small replacement for the festivals we have lost recently,” Sahlen said. “For me personally, it’s also a way to give back to my splendidly supportive home base.”

Sahlen and Tam met in 2007 at a Canada-US music conference in Toronto. Both report instant friendship.

Both are renowned piano teachers, examiners and adjudicators.

The school would be marketed to both Canadian and Asian students, with the intention of cross-cultural understanding.

“Each can learn from the others experience,” Sahlen said.

And Tam says there is a definite market in Southeast Asia for good music teachers and destination schools.

“In Asia now there are lots of students doing music lessons,” Tam said. “Every year in Southeast Asia, parents will travel to other countries to seek more knowledge for their children. They are willing to travel all over. There are some music schools in Southeast Asia but we lack a lot of good teachers. This will work well for young children. Parents are eager to travel to seek advice.”

Tam thinks many families would be eager to come to Kimberley, although perhaps only in the summer.

“Arne tells me it is extremely cold in Kimberley in the winter. Too cold for Asians,” he said.

Sahlen says there are plenty of resources in Kimberley for the students, including a good grand piano at Centre 64 and plenty of churches with good pianos. Accommodations for families would be no problem and he would be looking for home stays for older students.

“We have a rich resource of teachers locally. I think it’s a great way to market Kimberley and encourage repeat visitors.

“The idea has been hovering in the back of my brain for a while, it just took Anthony to brig it to life.”

Anthony Kam is an internationally-renowned pianist and teacher; a Senior Music Examiner for two British music examination colleges and is a Chief Examiner for Music Education Board of Southeast Asia.   Has served as the Jury Chairman of Steinway Piano Competition and Mozart Piano Competition in Thailand, and in Summer 2014 ran a Summer School program in Italy, workshop and master-class clinician throughout Southeast Asia.

Arne Sahlen has been an examiner since 1981, was President of Western Board of Music and examiner for Royal Conservatory; the only Canadian to develop syllabus and grade books for three different exam boards.  Co-Directed Victoria Piano Summer School 1983-2008; Visiting Music Professor at Cambodia’s Royal University of Fine Arts since 1992.  Adjudicator of well over 100 festivals, called ‘the Robin Williams of adjudicators’ by a happy parent.

Each has had many award-winning students and extensive international experience: both around SE Asia, Anthony in England, Arne in Canada and USA.

“With our combined experience and the formats from both Piano Summer School and Kimberley events, we hit the ground running and are already well on the way in preparation,” Sahlen said.