Lesley Sutherland recently joined Powell River Academy of Music as its new youth choir conductor. For the past 25 years she has worked as a composer and musical arranger in the film and television industry, as well as conducting.
"It’s great to have such a vibrant person with great energy and personality join us,” said academy artistic director Walter Martella. “She’s very musically trained and we’re grateful that somebody with her background is here to work with us.”
Sutherland and her family relocated from the Lower Mainland last month. She said she is amazed by the talent she has encountered so far on the upper Sunshine Coast.
“I’m so impressed with the calibre of musicians and teaching at the academy,” said Sutherland. “The wonderful commitment to music and the arts this community has, I find it so exciting.”
Sutherland said she brings a unique approach to her conducting.
“Being a composer, it’s a different type of choir,” she added. “I write music specifically for the choirs I work with, which is fun because, especially for youth, it’s really important to make the music relevant and exciting to them.”
The opportunity to create a bespoke repertoire for the choir extends to the participants, said Sutherland.
“I’m also opening it up to the kids,” she added. “If they want to work on their songwriting skills I’m interested in helping them develop that as well, so we may be singing some original work from the kids themselves.”
The choir is open to youth aged 14 to 25, and is actively recruiting singers as well as instrument players.
“I am searching for percussionists to play and an oboist,” said Sutherland.
Despite discovering a vibrant artistic community in Powell River, it was not what initially attracted Sutherland and her family to the area a decade ago.
“I had no idea it was a musical town” she said. “I literally was just trying to find a nice beach for my family. I have three kids, and we stumbled upon this beautiful little rental on Lang Bay and just fell in love with it.”
She and her family continued to visit Powell River, eventually buying a house here a few years ago. The opportunity to lead the youth choir and live in the community full time is a dream, she said.
“The thing I’m interested in is getting people singing,” said Sutherland. “People are sometimes afraid to make a noise, to make mistakes, but what I’m all about is just ‘let’s make some noise and let’s enjoy it and create together.’”
Sutherland will be offering a free vocal class in the lobby of Vancouver Island University at noon on Wednesday, November 14, open to everyone aged 14 to 25. Experience is not necessary.