Arts and Entertainment

Two local musicians talk music, share plans for Caledon Music Festival

August 24, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

The passion and joy that Kai Rousseau brings to his music carries conversations away, as this young man talks about his career in music. Having been chosen to play with the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, (NYO Canada) he told the Citizen, “This is my third year. Such a great program of six to seven weeks basically living with 83 people, plus one which is a saxophone this year. It’s a great opportunity; everyone is talented and hard working.”

He does not really remember how he started playing the violin. His parents played Baby Einstein to him, and he liked the violin, which gets to play all the melodies.

 “The the violin is the ‘diva’ of the orchestra,” quoth he. Kai plays his 1840 Luigi Fabris violin.

The Caledon Music Festival was originally Belfountain. Dr. Zachary Ebin ran it for some years, and young Kai, living in Caledon, used to help him by setting up. When Dr. Ebin passed the festival to others, Kai was already playing with some solos. All his students played. 

Dr. Ebin was Kai’s private teacher from age five to 25.

“He made me love it,” said Kai. “And he was very blunt, which was sometimes hard but good.”

Praise for Caledon Music Festival (CMF) artistic director Terry Lim’s incredible method of organizing the way Kai and the other young players are playing with TSO musicians is such an honour for him.

“I’ve never played along side a musician of that calibre,” he said. “I’ve definitely had classes but never played along like this. This is why I’m so excited.”

With no music program at the full French high school he attended, he kept to private lessons performed in the occasional gig but usually played in isolation.

“It’s almost like meditation,” was his comment. “Sometimes, when you’re just playing, you’re just feeling the music. Then I feel more focussed.”

Some of his violin friends were also doing the Suzuki playing lessons and like him, went into violin at four or five years old. Kai is still talking to people he played with at four years old.

His father made him practice every day, learning how important it is to express yourself, and he told us he always enjoyed performing. He looked forward to it. People are clapping and “you are proud of yourself.” 

The NYO Canada was playing Mussorgsky’s Pictures in an Exhibition, and he talked about “playing with people who love’Bydlo’ [this picture is of an oxen pulling a vehicle with wheels]. It is triple forte, so incredibly heart warming that we’re able to create something like this.”

Kai is grateful to his father for pushing him to enjoy this as much and his teacher who really pushed him to work hard, saying, “I think he knew that I loved playing.” 

Later, Peggy Hills was his teacher who pushed him to go into music at university.

He has attended Wilfred Laurier, now in his fourth and final year.

Of the Caledon Music Festival, Kai says, “First of all the musicians are so incredible. Some played in the NYO Canada. The Mendelssohn quartet is so beautiful, Douglas Kwon is playing.”

In our second interview, we spoke to Emily Vondrejsova, Soprano

Living in Erin, Emily has been with the Caledon Music Festival since it was the Belfountain 2015/16.

Said she, “I’ve been fortunate. Among others, Sarah Bohan kept the festival going for some of the years and she has been a supporter of young adults in music. Even going through different hands, I feel honoured to be invited back every year.” 

Emily also attended Wilfred Laurier and started playing piano quite young but was more drawn to voice and being able to perform.

As she developed, Emily began to feel there was a bit of a gap in her technique, and research found a teacher who works in Greece. So, she went to Athens and lived there for a few months.

“It was really a lovely time for me,” she told us. “I went by myself and had a time to find myself as an artist. Athens is very much booming now and there’s a big art scene there. I was in a little borough, artsy and a bit grungy. I first went in spring, 2022 and at the end of my trip, my mom suggested living there for a little while. The pace of life is slow even for a city; they just really enjoy the present.”

The Island of Lefkada [white rock] on the Ionian Sea held music festivals. She and the friends she met there to perform, as singers who work with her teacher as well.

She painted the picture, “We lived together; shared experiences. It was so lovely to learn from each other. The younger learned from the older. We were between 16 years to mid-50’s, from Germany Belgium, Greece. The Greeks were so welcoming. It’s such a joy to be there.”

Emily feels her technique has solidified, and she has worked closely with her teacher on what her next step should be: to do a young artist program, found on the website YAP tracker, which sends information to young artists. She will submit videos and applications to various studios, which might invite her to audition personally. While Emily is 27, she knows most opera singers do not really begin their real careers until their 30s.

Of the Caledon Music Festival, for her, the attraction is the quality of the musicians.

“I feel really honoured to be a part of it,” she said. “I think it’s important to keep classical music alive. Live music is completely different from recordings. The authenticity is there, and there’s so much beauty in live performing. 

“Live performance gives the performers space.”

“It’s important to take a step back and listen to the music, this choice of music is very accessible.” was her opinion.

“It’s thrilling to see a musician at the top of their careers. To see a master performing,” said Emily Vondrejsova.

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