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New chamber music summer academy launches

By: Anna Borowiecki

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Mar 26, 2014 01:45 pm

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Summer music academy

• Classes will be held Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Vital Grandin School. Cost is $500 per week.

• Registration deadline is Tuesday, April 15. A brochure, registration form and waiver are available at If there are questions email

Piano teacher Nancy Watt has a dream – to make St. Albert the chamber music capital of Alberta.

Watt, who four years ago founded the ongoing St. Albert Chamber Music Series, is well on her way to accomplishing that goal.

In addition to the chamber music series, Watt along with a team of dynamic classical musicians, are launching the inaugural St. Albert Chamber Music Summer Academy.

A one-week camp running from July 7 to 11, it will provide instruction for young musicians studying the violin, viola, cello, bass, flute and piano.

The academy’s goal is to nurture young musicians by providing the opportunity to develop their technical skills, reinforce their passion for music and socialize with peers.

“It brings together different disciplines,” says Watt. “Playing an instrument can be solitary and there’s a lot of repertoire for small ensembles out there. Musically, playing in an ensemble benefits a player. It makes them better listeners. Just being able to adjust your dynamics so the sound is important to learn.”

The five-day intensive will combine private lessons, group workshops, team building exercises, ear training and development of good practice habits.

Students will be grouped according to age and level of development. Free concerts open to the public will be held at Don’s Piano Showroom on Thursday and Friday.

“For me it’s always been about teaching,” Watt says who has taught for close to 32 years.

Shortly after receiving an education degree from the University of Alberta, Watt moved to Baffin Island with her husband where she taught children English as a second language.

“Music was a way of developing a connection with the kids.”

Approximately 18 years ago, Watt moved to St. Albert and opened her doors to eager young pianists.

“Through the St. Albert Chamber Music Series, I was able to give young artists the opportunity to be on stage and this (academy) seemed like a natural progression.”

In addition to Watt, there are four additional instructors excited about the prospect of mentoring young minds.

Pianist Ina Dykstra, also from St. Albert, has more than 30 years experience as an accompanist, performer, clinician and teacher. A graduate of the University of Alberta in piano performance, Dykstra has worked with a broad palette of students from the very gifted to special needs.

“Ina demands exceptional ability and dedication. Working with her can inspire a student and help them achieve more than they thought was possible. In a good way, she brings out the best in her students.”

Cellist Julie Amundsen has completed graduate levels both at the University of Alberta and The Musik Hochschule in Hannover, Germany. A regular performer with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, she also plays with the Boonie Doon Trio and teaches privately.

“She has a positive attitude, enthusiasm for music and the instrument. She develops a nice pleasant connection with students and is very comfortable to work with.”

An Edmonton pianist, Janna Olson instead is a sessional instructor at King’s University College.

“Janna and I go back a long way. We run into each other at conferences and festivals where our students take part. She has a positive approach and I’ve seen her students play. They play well and she’s a very multi-talented teacher.”

And last but not least, Brazilian violinist Vladimir Rufino of the Vaughn String Quartet joins the team. A violin instructor at Visionary College, Rufino received a Master of Music Violin Performance from Azusa Pacific University.

“He’s an exceptional player and again brings a love of chamber music. He’s respected in the community even though he’s been here a short time. He loves music and is a fresh face.”


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