Arts of the past will be present in the new Oak Bay High.
While there’s some uncertainty about exactly how they’ll be honoured, the first 10 fine arts instructors and students of the past will be inducted into the Distinguished Fine Arts Alumni on Thursday night.
“We thought that with moving to the new school next year we wanted to preserve a little history but also look ahead to what could happen in a new space with a new fine arts wing and theatre area as well as visual art area,” said Jeff Weaver, director of bands at Oak Bay High. “We’ve had almost 100 years of graduates come out of Oak Bay with some of the most amazing fine arts teachers. Oak Bay has always attracted high-calibre educators and I think that those educators have turned out some high-calibre fine artists.”
As Oak Bay High gets ready to move into its new state-of-the-art school, complete with theatre, art, drama, music and dance spaces, the Distinguished Fine Arts Alumni is a way to celebrate the history and bridge the gap between the old and new. Hopes are to have a prominent artist design something to display the alumni for the new school.
For Oak Bay High grad Dick Auchinleck, being on the list of distinguished alumni is “unexpected”.
“All I’ve really done is give some financial support for the music program,” he said, adding the artists themselves or developing young artists, are those who deserve the spotlight. In fact, his support of the program is rooted in his days playing trombone under teacher Dave Dunnet, also among the 10 on the distinguished alumni list.
“I played in the band from Grade 9 through to Grade 12. It was a great program,” Auchinleck said. “We had a phenomenal teacher who really got the most out of us.
“I learned a lot of things in band that I took into business,” added the former CEO of Gulf Canada Resources.
He learned that while there are some amazing individuals, a group dynamic can create something incredible, plus there were the bandleader’s leadership skills.
“We had so much respect for him, you didn’t want to disappoint him,” said Auchinleck, who still calls Oak Bay home.
The music program provided lifelong friends, some of whom he still meets up with for the occasional round of golf. His return to the program at Oak Bay came a few years ago, in the days of court challenges over extra fees for students.
“I was concerned, the band program was so important to me, and I worried it would go,” he said. So he started funding the program at his alma mater, subsequently he thought the new school would be in need and ponied up more to keep the program up to snuff.
“I leave it up to them as to what to spend the money on,” he said. “They know better than I do what they need.”
His former teacher, Dunnet, a longtime music teacher and promoter of arts education in B.C., will also be recognized at the event. Fellow teacher/artists on the inductee list include Bevan Bigalky, former Oak Bay art teacher; Colin Campbell, band director and teacher well-known for his music in Victoria and his incredible inspiration of many former students at Oak Bay High; Eileen Cooper, choir teacher at Oak Bay and instrumental with the district music library; and Alana Charlton, former Dance Program co-ordinator and vice-principal who started the dance program in the Greater Victoria School District.
When Charlton retired as principal at Reynolds secondary school in Saanich last year, many couldn’t correlate her with the former dance program, and those who knew her as a developer of the dance program had a hard time relating her with an administrator’s role.
She was among those who created a Dance Program in the school district in the late 1980s based at Oak Bay High. A program that pre-dates the current academies system of introducing sport-specific programming in schools, the academy started as just dancing in the gym in 1988.
“Then it became a regional program,” Charlton said. A year later they built a studio complete with bars and mirrors for students from across the region to utilize in Oak Bay.
“We had experts come in at the senior level doing jazz and tap and ballet,” said Charlton, who lives only blocks away from Oak Bay High.
They hosted showcases and fine arts evenings into the early 1990s. Grade 8 students took a tour through all sorts of fine arts including drama, dance and music encouraging a future in fine arts.
“I think kids thrive in that culture and environment,” she said.
This distinction harkens back to something she was a part of before leaving Oak Bay High to take the helm at Reynolds in 2005. They held a 75-year reunion with a fine arts gala incorporated into the four-day affair.
“What an honour to be in this group,” she said, noting Roy Henry Vickers on the list of distinguished fine arts alumni. He’s among students who thrived and found careers in the arts that are on the inductee list. Perhaps the highest profile is one of Canada’s most celebrated artists, Vickers – class of ‘65. The world-renowned artist’s work can be found in private and public collections and galleries around the world including the National Museum of Man (Ottawa, Ont.), University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology (Vancouver), the McMichael Canadian Art Collection (Kleinburg, Ont.) and the National Museum of Japan (Osaka).
Vancouver painter, printmaker and photographer Joe Average, a member of the Royal Canadian Artist Academy and pupil of Oak Bay High, is on the list. As is composer John Beckwith, a graduate of Oak Bay High, CBC composer and member of the Order of Canada who has five honorary doctorates from Canadian universities including the University of Victoria. He has worked as a performing musician, actor, critic, radio commentator, writer, lecturer and broadcaster.
Oak Bay resident Tobin Stokes rounds out an impressive list of music supporters. The composer and Oak Bay High grad writes for everything from film and opera to soloists and large events. He was commissioned by the 2010 Olympics and the XV Commonwealth Games and has scored films and series for the BBC, Eden Channel, CBC, ABC (Australia) and his choral works are performed regularly in various countries and published in Canada, the U.S. and France.
Most of the inductees will be on hand for the event that starts at 7 p.m. with a toast to fine arts followed by certificates, speeches and a little food and wine.
Oak Bay High School Distinguished Fine Arts Alumni Induction is Thursday, Nov. 27 in the Oak Bay High theatre lobby. Anyone with a connection to fine arts in Oak Bay is welcome – rsvp to firstname.lastname@example.org.