Campaign hits the right notes for Oak Bay High

Rotary, alumni collaborate to tickle the ivories on piano project

Steve Price

Some residents figure the old upright piano just doesn’t do justice to a 420-seat, state-of-the-art theatre.

The new Dave Dunnet Commmunity Theatre at Oak Bay High is already in heavy rotation as a venue in Greater Victoria, says theatre manager Steve Price. There’s an expectation for a concert piano in a theatre of that size and scope. It would also appeal to a wider audience, giving, for example, local small orchestras the opportunity to bring in soloists – expanding the diversity.

“We’re hoping to encourage things like the Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival to come in. We’re hoping to branch out to give everyone an opportunity,” Price said. “It offers our students to have the opportunity of a concert-grade piano here to practice on and make use of.”

Price chairs the piano project committee leading the year-long campaign Key(s) to our Success, kicking off this weekend at Oak Bay High with an alumni (and friends) event.

“The last jewel in the crown to finish the theatre is the concept of a concert piano,” Price said. “We have some great partners, the Oak Bay Rotary Foundation and the Oak Bay Alumni Association. They spearheaded this drive.”

“We’re working alongside the Oak Bay Rotary Foundation and the senior administrative group at Oak Bay High School and the greater community,” said John Falkins, president of the Oak Bay High Alumni Association. “Our mandate is to promote the heritage of excellence at Oak Bay high school and we’re well known in the community for having a very strong fine arts program.”

With a little money in the bank the alumni opted to spread its wings beyond the social alumni atmosphere and direct some focus to fundraising.

“In order to promote this performing arts theatre to its full extent, it would be a great draw if there was a concert piano,” Falkins said. “The acts that they’re drawing will be significantly enhanced with a concert piano, so we thought it would a worthy augmentation to this world-class theatre we have.”

He hopes to see it come to fruition much like the theatre itself did, Falkins said, noting early plans sought to have an old gym renovated into the theatre.

“With the generosity of Oak Bay municipal council they contributed $1 million dollars to the project that allowed the school district to revisit the architectural design. They were able to put the performing arts theatre where it was intended to be, literally the centre piece,” Falkins said. “That was a really big win in terms of the whole concept of a centre for community learning.”

The plan appears malleable, dependent on funding, but they hope to raise roughly $100,000 which could purchase a seven-foot concert piano.

“The thought in the community is that we could draw some pretty substantial performers with a Steinway piano for instance, if that’s what we can raise enough money for,” said Joe Blake, an avid Oak Bay concert organizer and music writer.

“A few weeks ago the jazz society brought David Braid to that space … on a nine-foot Steinway they brought over from Vancouver – totally acoustic – it was awesome.”

Surplus funds from the Key(s) to our Success campaign for a concert piano for the Dave Dunnet Community Theatre would go toward the school’s fine arts programs. The first fundraiser is the annual alumni event, a wine and cheese at Oak Bay High on May 14 hosted by principal Dave Thomson and Falkins.

The event features Leadership students offering tours of the new school as well as a mix and mingle and live music performed by Oak Bay students on a seven-foot Steinway on loan from Tom Lee music – for a tangible look at the sort of instrument they hope to purchase for the school.

Learn more at oakbay.sd61.bc.ca/our-school/alumni/ or email OakBayAlumni@gmail.com.

For those wishing to donate, Oak Bay Rotary Foundation will provide charitable receipts. Cheques should be payable to Oak Bay Rotary Foundation and delivered to Oak Bay High School or Oak Bay Rotary Foundation at #210-2187 Oak Bay Avenue, Victoria, BC V8R 1G1.

For more information call 250-595-1500 or email secretary@oakbayrotaryfoundation.org.

 

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