Music academy celebrates 20 years

The Penticton Academy of Music is offering a special concert Saturday, in celebration of the academy’s 20th year.

Unusually for the academy, this will be an all faculty concert to kick off their celebration of the anniversary, according to artistic director Tracy Stuchbery.

“We wanted to celebrate this wonderful teaching that has been going on for 20 years,” said Stuchbery, adding that in most recitals, they prefer to highlight their students. “For 20 years we’ve had some great teachers here and that is really the backbone of the school. If we have good teachers, then we are going to have good students.”

Winterlude, Stuchbery explained, is a little play on words; an interlude in the middle of winter. The program contains a wide range of music: early English songs from the 1600s, Beethoven, Haydn, Celtic music, and even some Gershwin songs.

“It’s a wonderful mixture of all the types of music we teach,” said Stuchbery, who also teaches piano at the school.

It was 1994 when the society was established and that first board came together with Kathleen Jasper, Liz Davis, Anna McIvor, Sandy Carr, Janiese Karpa, and Peter Armstrong as the first administrator.

The history of the school goes back before 1994 though; it traces its roots to the Community Music School, which opened in 1988 at the instigation of Eva Cleland and other music lovers in the community, as an offshoot of the Okanagan School of the Arts.

“It was really the vision of Eva Cleland. She was a very passionate advocate for the  arts,” said Stuchbery.

Becoming a non-profit charitable society was a game-changer, allowing the academy to apply for government grants.

“We are supported by B.C. Gaming grants and other grants, which is just a huge asset, because with that funding we can provide summer programs and group classes at as low a cost as possible,” said Stuchbery. “That’s very much part of the mandate, to make music accessible to all ages, all abilities and regardless of means.”

The academy maintains a bursary fund that gives out over $4,000 a year to students. Winterlude, and an accompanying silent auction, will help support that bursary, along with a new scholarship competition being introduced as part of the 20th anniversary.

In its heyday, the late 90s, early 2000s, there were over 500 students going through that building or taking private lessons.

“Leir House was overflowing and they were renting space at the First Baptist Church as well, they had another three studios up there,” said Antonia Mahon, flute teacher and the academy’s executive director. “I remember how wonderfully busy it was and especially how collegial it was, there was some amazing faculty that have been here at one time or another.”

There have also been amazing students and a few have gone on to music careers, like Layla Claire, who is a Lindemann Young Artist at the Metropolitan Opera, Genevieve Moore is continuing her voice training at the Guildhall School Of Music and Drama in London and Jasper Meikeljohn is pursuing music studies in Victoria.  In the end, Mahon said the important thing for the teachers is enriching the lives of students, a sentiment Stuchbery agrees with.

“The thing that attracted me to be part of this school as opposed to doing (teaching) it on my own was the collegiality among the teachers and as a collective, we are able to inspire our students even more, as they hear each other and hear different instruments,” she said. “That’s really what it is all about is bringing people together to make music.”

Winterlude takes place Feb. 22 in the Penticton United Church, 696 Main St. Doors open at 6 p.m. for the silent auction, with the concert beginning at 7 p.m.  with a reception at Theo’s Restaurant after the concert.

Tickets for either event can be purchased at Leir House, 220 Manor Park Ave. Concert tickets are available at the door. For information, visit


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