At first glance, music teacher Lara Hyrak, 18, is an average young woman.
But when she delicately removes the violin from its case, rests it under her shoulder and plays one of the masterpieces that have endured for centuries, it emotes like a human voice.
Under her masterly hands, the violin sobs, laughs and sings. It can be sorrowful, flirtatious, romantic or merry. She transports the listener to a different world.
Hyrak, a 2013 Bellerose High graduate, is one of those Ä‚Ä˝ber talented young musicians that have dedicated their life to music.
She performed with the Edmonton Youth Orchestra and received several St. Albert Rotary Music Festival awards as well as the prestigious Youth Artist Award at the Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts Gala.
In a few days, she will be joining the ranks of University of Alberta students to study for a fine arts degree in performance.
But last year was a gap year – a time to consider multiple options. At the invitation of Carolyn Dagenais, president of the Music Enrichment Program, Hyrak was invited to teach young, aspiring musicians.
“I’d never considered teaching, but now I love it. I love to work with them and see their development. You start to see their dedication as they practice and I love to see them grow,” said Hyrak, who plans to continue teaching.
The music program used to be operated by the Edmonton Public School Board, However, two years ago the more than 50-year-old program fell victim to budget cuts. Parents of children in the program understood its value and re-established it as a registered charity.
Last year the string program expanded to St. Albert offering violin, cello and bass, and continues to do so. This year guitar lessons were added.
“The heart of our program is the orchestras. In addition to offering lessons, we have four levels of orchestras based at Victoria School of Performing Arts. After taking one year of lessons, we encourage students to audition for one of the orchestras,” Dagenais stated.
Ted Tessier conducts the junior orchestra, Mathias Silveira stickhandles the Intermediate Orchestra and Michael Zakhary steps up to the podium with the Senior Orchestra. The much-lauded Petar Dunjerski conducts the top tier Singing Strings.
After school lessons in St. Albert will be held at the following host schools: Ä‚Â©cole Father Jan, Vital Grandin, Neil M. Ross, Ä‚Â©cole Marie Poburan and Richard Fowler.
A minimum six students are needed to hold a class and a maximum of 12 are permitted. Last year 30 young musicians enrolled. This year the program target enrolment is 75.
“One of the challenges we’ve had is getting the word out. It’s a new program but we’re hoping to up the enrolment,” Dagenais noted.
“We also found it a challenge to get quality teachers. There’s a strange mentality with people not living in St. Albert that it’s a different country.”
Hyrak will teach violin students while Tessier handles both guitar and bass classes. And Timothy Wong has been hired to run cello classes.
Hyrak, who joined the music program eight years ago as a student, praises it for instilling discipline and stamina.
“You develop a strong work ethic practicing every day,” said Hyrak who also applauds the addition of the orchestras.
“When you’re learning, you’re mostly playing on your own, but in the orchestra you play in an ensemble. There was a sense of being a teammate. Everyone liked it. We were there because we wanted to be.”
Beginner lessons start at $330 annually and the remaining five levels run at $390. To register email registrar@firstname.lastname@example.org or call 780-983-9715.