Three years ago, Jennifer West had an idea. After noticing that the prices for cultural events seemed to skyrocket after one finished being a student, she decided to do something to make the arts, specifically classical music, more accessible in Vancouver.
“…As we know, the real estate market here and the cost of living here — there’s fairly low wages compared to other provinces and that means budgeting for cultural events is not top priority,” West says. “I wanted people to be able to access really high quality cultural events without having to break open the piggy bank, because I think that cultural events are what builds community…I believe that bringing music to the community — so that everyone in the community can come to the concert, not just people that have access to financial means — is a way to make Vancouver a more fair, equal and fun place to live.”
Together with Diana Chan, West co-founded Müzewest Concerts to do just that.
Every few weeks, Müzewest puts on evening concerts and a variety of music series that take place at local churches. Performing artists hail from both near and far, providing an eclectic mix of talent. “We’ve had people come from as far away as St. Petersburg, Russia; we’ve have people come from Kitsilano,” adds West. The shows are intended to cater to everyone, with tickets for adults ranging from $20 to $30 and admission for students never more than $10. Proceeds contribute to paying the venue, the musician, and Müzewest’s other initiative — the Masterclass.
Akin to an artist in residency and held at schools in East Vancouver or inner city areas of Burnaby, the Masterclass has Müzewest’s latest performing musician give a class on their particular instrument to students, as well as a free concert. “We had a wonderful cellist come from Salzburg, Austria and he let the kids try different notes on his cello, and he played Bach for them, and it was very, very cool,” West enthuses. “For the kids to be able to touch that cello and see ‘even I can make sounds, too,’ it kind of inspires them to try to get involved in culture, as well.”
And while the emphasis is indeed on the classics, Müzewest will soon be presenting, for the first time, a jazz concert. Titled JAZZ: Triology, the show will be held at St. Mark’s Anglican Church on February 27 and feature notable Juno Award-nominated artists Jodi Proznick, Bill Coon, and Miles Black. This will begin what West hopes to be a yearly occurrence in their programming and continue to help strip away the often-imposing facade of classical music.
“One of the biggest intimidation factors, believe it or not, is ‘what should I wear to the concert?’” says West. “Honestly, I get this a lot. I get questions or email sent about three hours before our shows, ‘what’s your dress code?’ And I say, ‘what were you wearing two minutes ago?’ Just come… We just want them to hear the songs, hear the music.”
When: February 27, 2016
Where: St. Mark’s Anglican Church
Tickets: Available online via Müzewest