Local music lovers are in for a first class treat with the Dale Wheeler & Friends Recital set for Feb. 24 on the Arts Centre mainstage.
Wheeler, a pianist and instructor and chair of the performing arts department at RDC, will be teaming up with mezzo-soprano Sharon Braun, Melody McKnight on oboe and English horn, and Lucie Jones on flute.
“It’s one thing to talk about music and get others to perform music, but it can’t match the satisfaction of personally making music. I know some people who teach and never play. But I could never survive that way.”
During the course of his teaching, Wheeler said he plays often for his students as a means to enhance lessons.
“But it’s not the same as playing in public where you’ve really polished a performance. Also, the fun part of playing with other people is that sharing of ideas,” he adds. “There’s that back and forth dialogue that makes you think.”
The performance, which begins at 7:30 p.m., has been described as an eclectic chamber recital featuring works for piano, voice and winds.
Highlights include Bach’s Trio Sonata in G Major, Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben; Trio for Flute, Oboe and Piano by Madeleine Dring, Three Pieces for English Horn and Piano by Kenneth Nichols and Tarantelle for Flute, Oboe and Piano by Philippe Gaubert.
Wheeler has taught at the post-secondary level for more than 25 years. He holds a doctorate in piano performance and pedagogy from the University of Oklahoma, as well as degrees from the University of Saskatchewan and Trinity College of Music, London.
Looking back, he points to his growing up years as key to his career as a musician.
“My dad played mandolin and violin,” he recalls, adding that his mother was a self-taught pianist/organist as well.
“It was not until I was about 10 that my parents actually got a piano, and I started taking lessons. I think the thing that really helped me too was that my dad was a pastor of a small church, so right from the beginning I was playing all the time,” he explains. “There was always a reason to play – I played at church, at seniors’ homes. There was always a place to play music.”
Interestingly, through school, he had his sights set on science – astronomy, astrophysics. But it was during his Grade 11 year he was asked if he’d like to attend a master music class once a month – free of charge. And ultimately, it came down to science or music. His passion for music had grown and the choice became clear.
It’s turned out beautifully. “I tell my students I have the best job in the world. I get to teach, I get to work with colleagues that sharpen me, I get to teach piano privately, I get to teach courses, adjudicate, and examine students for the Royal Conservatory. I get to travel. I have a stage I can play anytime.”
McKnight has a similar story in that music was a key part of family life early on. She is the executive director of the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra and also a performer with the RDSO as well.
“My parents took us to symphonies all the time. They just revered any professional musician. So in my mind, I grew up thinking it was even better than being a doctor,” she adds with a smile. “I knew from when I was little that I was going to be a musician. That was never a question. Growing up, I remember being confused by other people who didn’t know what they were going to do, because for me it was always really obvious.”
But oboe, surprisingly, wasn’t her first choice. In university, she even opted for a piano major and a violin minor. “Then I realized I wanted to play in an orchestra, so I dug out my oboe reluctantly and made a career out of it.” And it did eventually grow on her.
“I’m at the point where I do like the oboe and I do enjoy playing it. And I’ve always enjoyed the orchestra work.”
For both Wheeler and McKnight, a passion for music remains as powerful as ever.
“I love the fact that you are never done,” says McKnight. “You can be 93 years old and you still have a whole new world of information to learn. You can never be complacent. There’s always more you can learn, or do or try. You can also play the same piece with different people and it’s completely different. You can’t get bored.”
“It’s the spirit in the music. It’s beyond the sound – even if I didn’t play in public, I would still play and practice because of what you get out of the music. There is also the sense that you are touching base with someone else –when I’m playing Beethoven, Bach or Debussy, I’m sharing in an idea from another human being that is intangible. You can’t put it into words.
“That’s also the neat thing about being in a concert or even hearing a recording – you are hearing a piece of music that millions of people around the world have shared together. You are meeting around a common thing. You have this common and shared experience.”
Tickets are available through the Black Knight Ticket Centre at 403-755-6626 or at www.bkticketcentre.ca.