A series of recitals open to the public during the week of the annual Summer School for the Solo Voice began this week with a performance by the school faculty – a world-class group of artists.
Founder Lisa Hornung along with returning faculty Mark Turner, Chris Kelly and Bernadette Fanner of Saskatoon, Heather Mcnab of Maple Creek, Dr. Laurence Ewashko of Ottawa, Ont., Paul Suchan and Naomi Piggot Suchan of Montreal, Que. and the newest member of the staff, John Reid Coulter of South Africa, presented a concert Tuesday evening at Third Avenue United Church, the venue for the summer school.
Further recitals featuring SSSV students will be held as follows:
• Thursday, July 9, SSSV Advanced Student Recital 2:15 p.m.;
• Thursday, July 9, SSSV Advanced Student Recital 3:30 p.m.;
• Friday, July 10, SSSV Advanced Student Recital 2:15 p.m.;
• Friday, July 10, SSSV Musical Theatre Recital 7 p.m.;
• Saturday, July 11, SSSV Advanced Student Recital 11:15 p.m.;
• Saturday, July 11, SSSV Final Concert, SSSV Choir 1:30 p.m.
An international program held annually in North Battleford, Summer School for the Solo Voice is a non-audition, week-long intensive study and performance opportunity for singers, accompanists, teachers and choral conductors at beginner, intermediate and senior levels. It is a non-auditioned program open to participants aged eight and older, regardless of experience.
There are 80 students in this year's program, coming from across Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and even Pennsylvania.
Hornung says, "For many adults and youth, this is their first time singing in public, while others have participated in music festivals for years, and yet others are university students pursuing a career in music."
This is the 18th year for SSSV, which has grown to accommodate a wide range of ages and abilities by employing highly qualified instructors who excel both as teachers and as performers. Collectively these instructors offer three to eight classes simultaneously. Each participant is given personal choice for daily classes, enabling them to custom make their own program, specializing in the areas they find most interesting and useful.
"Enrolment is limited to ensure a high teacher to student ratio, allowing for individualized instruction throughout the week," says Hornung. "The goal of Summer School for the Solo Voice has always been to offer the highest level of instruction for the lowest possible cost so as to allow anyone who is interested the ability to participate."
A portion of the budget is always allotted to help children and youth with financial disadvantages to attend.
"We believe music should be available to everyone and work hard to create partnerships and build community through the learning and sharing of music," she says.
Hornung never fails to thank the local business community and individual arts supporters for their support of the program, or Third Avenue United Church for its contribution to the arts as a welcoming venue for rehearsals and concerts.
Over the years, says Hornung, SSSV has diversified to include advanced singers and accompanists, musical theatre, musical pedagogy, speech arts, theory, composition and jazz programs within the larger structure. Because of the expertise of the staff, students are able to choose classes that fit their age, ability and level of experience as well as specializing in an area of particular interest to them.
"Saskatchewan, being widespread and largely made up of smaller rural communities, has no one 'cultural hub' that effectively serves all of its residents. We are fortunate to have larger centres that bring in clinicians for a day or two, but these workshops are by and large for a specific group of students and not usually open to public participation," says Hornung.
"Saskatchewan is rich with talent and potential in the performing arts," she says. "Unfortunately, its distance from bigger centres hinders access to teachers of the calibre SSSV provides and that its advanced singer program offers, leaving many of our artists at a disadvantage."
SSSV works to level that, she explains, and the inclusion of many different programs within the school ensures a place for singers, teachers, conductors, accompanists and speech artists of all levels in our community and province.
"To the best of my knowledge, no other such program exists."
Dr. Laurence Ewashko, a highly respected international conductor, singer and master teacher has said, "I don't think anything like this exists anywhere else in the world."
Ewashko credits the success of the summer school to Hornung.
“I believe [its success] is through the vision of the foundation of this institute, created through the vision of this one woman …” he has said.
Hornung says SSSV goes to great lengths to accommodate participants with mental and physical challenges, further affirming a commitment to the goal of music for all. The age group that benefits from SSSV is from eight years to 80 plus.
"Some of our oldest participants have been … 81-year-old grandparents attending and singing with their grandchildren," she points out.
Singers, conductors, accompanists and teachers of all ages and levels of experience not only benefit from what they learn and the performance opportunities they receive, but they then take this knowledge and boosted confidence back into their communities, says Hornung.
"SSSV has proven to be a wonderful experience that boosts confidence, hones skills, teaches new skills and creates community leaders in the arts."
SSSV also contributes to the local economy, she notes, by drawing a large number of students, staff and families to the Battlefords for seven to 10 days.
"During this time they stay in our hotels, motels and campgrounds, eat in our restaurants and shop in our stores," says Hornung. "Having had a wonderful tine here, as indicated year after year on the evaluation forms, they leave with many reasons to return and plans to encourage others to visit the Battlefords as well."