W hen one thinks of violin music, images of a symphony orchestra playing Strauss in a grand concert hall come to one’s mind.
]Seventy energetic children moving their bows simultaneously to a fiery violin song, however, is not the image one might expect — unless you live in Cranbrook.
Nestled on the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains, our city is home to this very unique club. We are not aware of any other children’s club in North America where the music teacher volunteers all of his time so that any child in our community can have the opportunity to learn the violin.
Long after the school dismissal bell one can find Cranbrook Violin Club director Kim Lutz in the music room of Kootenay Orchards Elementary School teaching four groups of violin students twice a week. By composing original songs as well as lively backing tracks to the songs he teaches from the Suzuki books, Kim is able to generate excitement in the children while they learn this very challenging musical instrument. The students easily identify with this contemporary approach to classical music.
Helping children see beyond themselves so that they will want to give back to their community and world is as important a goal of the Cranbrook Violin Club as learning to play the violin. Global citizenship is encouraged by providing the children with opportunities to give back to their community to start with. The Violin Club members perform every year at local seniors homes. In this past year, the children in the Cranbrook Violin Club raised over $3,800 for the local SPCA. During the previous three years, club members raised more than five thousand dollars for the fight against cancer. Club director Kim Lutz has been willing to dress up in a pink flamingo costume, take a pie in the face as well as sit in a dunk tank and be duct taped to a wall as a a way of motivating the children to raise money for the charities.
In addition to their music director, other positive role models which the children of the violin club have had the opportunity in the past five years to learn from, be inspired by and perform with include guest artists Lindsey Stirling, Natalie McMaster and Aaron Meyer. Each of these artists are an inspiration to the children for more than their musical expertise, from Lindsey’s message of celebrating one’s uniqueness and talents, Natalie’s strong family values to Aaron’s devotion to bringing music to children in the most remote villages of Southeast Asia.
In search of other positive role models, The Leahys are also a natural choice to bring to Cranbrook. Iconic, original, energetic, intensely musical and best of all, Canadian — who doesn’t love the Juno-award winning family group The Leahys?
They have toured internationally, headlining themselves, opening for Shania Twain on her in inaugural world tour and earning an immense fan-base well beyond Canada’s borders. Their Celtic-inspired brand of traditional music is heartfelt and honest. What one might not know is The Leahys’ devotion to the musical education of children and youth. For the past 10 years they have hosted the Leahy Music Camp which focuses on instruction in singing, step-dancing, musical instruments as well as audio engineering, recording and music technology.
When it comes to The Leahys, evolution is a constant force that fuels artistic expression. The group of siblings we have come to know as “The Leahys” grew out of the original “Leahy Family”. Now six members of the same family are step dancing down a new path. Julie, Denise, Siobheann, Maria, Erin and Frank are delving further into their love of singing and song-writing. Drawing from their individual interests and influences in music, The Leahys blend not just their voices, but their stories, instruments, musical styles in a harmony that can only come from siblings. While their continued passion for instrumental music is evident in their show, there is more emphasis on vocals and song-writing, allowing the group to explore new directions and push their musical edges further. As Erin, the youngest of the six, explains: “To thrive, an artist has to keep moving and growing. This is a natural continuation of a musical life. We are responding to music within, music that we love and wish to express.”
There is one thing, though, that remains constant – The Leahys’ new music defies categorization. Celtic, contemporary, folk, pop, roots, – it’s all there, highlighted by melodies and harmonies that can only be imagined and achieved in the blood of six siblings. The new sound is identifiable yet fresh, captivating and stirring.
The Cranbrook Violin Club is proud to present The Leahys at the Key City Theatre on Thursday, November 12th, 2015. The concert starts at 7 pm. The tickets are $40 general admission and can be purchased through the Cranbrook Violin Club (250) 417-9543 or the Key City Theatre (250) 426-7006.