Her title of principal may be new, but Carolyn Granholm is not an unfamiliar face at Langley Community Music School.
Since taking her first music lessons there as a child in the early 1980s, she’s never really left. Having served as a member of the capital campaign committee that saw the school’s new facility built in 2001, as president of the board of directors, and most recently, as assistant principal of the school for the last nine years, taking on the lead role as principal is a natural transition.
“I’ve always had a strong connection to the school, so this is a real privilege to now have the opportunity to take on leadership of the organization,” Granholm said.
“It’s always been very important to me to stay connected to music and the musical community, and I think that’s part of why I stayed so involved with this school. It gives me tremendous reward to facilitate music education and to see others grow and achieve and benefit from the programs here.”
The non-profit Langley Community Music School was opened in 1969 by Marilyn Lamont, Linda Bickerton-Ross, Leonard Woods, Peter Ewart and Dr. Keith Lamont, who all shared a vision for creating an arts centre in Langley.
Beginning with just 28 musicians, today the school serves more than 900 students and has a faculty of nearly 60 teachers.
In addition to providing music education, LCMS also operates several student ensembles, a reserve string quartet, and hosts many music festivals and concerts for the public to enjoy.
While excited for her new role, Granholm knows she has big shoes to fill.
Outgoing principal Susan Magnusson is retiring from the position after 18 years of service.
Much like Granholm, Magnusson has been a staple at the school for many decades, having joined the faculty as a piano teacher in 1973. Since then she’s served a variety of roles, including assistant principal, at a time when the school went through considerable growth and change.
Just one year after she was hired, Magnusson got started on one of her first major initiatives — bringing the Suzuki Method of learning into the school. At the time, the system — which teaches music through listening and repeating — was revolutionary, and today it forms the basis of most of the school’s string programs.
Magnusson has also worked through generations of families in Langley, with many former students now returning to the school with their little ones for lessons.
“I’m very proud of that,” she said.
But with the 50th anniversary of the school set to take place next year, Magnusson felt it was time to move on.
“I have been here since 1973, so that’s most of my life. My children attended this school, so it’s a real part of me. In years past I wondered how I would be able to give it up, but the time is right, everything is in place to do just that,” Magnusson said.
Although she’s retiring from her role, she is not leaving the school completely. Magnusson has been given the title of Principal Emeritus, and will remain on the faculty as a piano teacher.
A NEW CHAPTER
Moving forward, Granholm plans to continue many of the traditions founded by Magnusson — and her principal predecessor Ian Hampton — that have earned LCMS its reputation.
One of the most important is the school’s mandate of community.
Over the years, the school’s directors and teachers have built internal communities of students and professional musicians within the school, but have also connected with residents throughout Langley by hosting professional concerts and playing fundraising events.
Many of these initiatives have been made possible by generous support from donors, volunteers, and a $1 million contribution from the BC Arts Renaissance Fund endowment program.
“It just really shows that a community school with all of these connections to professional musicians is a valuable resource within the community,” Magnusson said.
“We are very proud to be able to offer entertainment for a lot of the civic events, and we’ve built up relationships with donors who have much confidence in the organization. They continue to support initiatives like the resident string quartet that we have, the Rose Gellert String Quartet. The purpose of that ensemble is to take music into the community. They perform at schools, at seniors facilities and at major fundraisers, and of course, we can provide that free of charge.”
Granholm is also passionate about promoting local Canadian music. She hopes to continue the school’s popular Canadian Music Festival each November, and to expand the commissioning of new work.
“One of the things that is very important to me about the legacy of the school is the tradition of supporting and encouraging the performance and creation of Canadian music,” Granholm said.
“That is an important part of who we are and what we do. It is a point of pride that our students also get involved in the celebration of Canadian music.”
CELEBRATING 50 YEARS
With 2019 marking 50 years since LCMS first opened its doors, the school has planned a number of celebration concerts that involve former students.
To kick off the year, on Jan. 26, 2019, honourary patron and renowned pianist Jon Kimura Parker and his wife, violinist Aloysia Friedmann, will present special performances of piano and violin repertoire. Parker played an instrumental role in the school’s campaign for a new building, and gave one of his first public performances there.
Then on April 13, jazz pianist and composer Renee Rosnes, who is also a LCMS alumni, will travel to Langley from New York with her husband, pianist Bill Charlap, for a concert on two jazz pianos. Together they will play original works and jazz standards.
Other 2019 concerts include performances by alumni pianist Susan Tang (Feb. 10), baritone Stephen Duncan and pianist Derek Stanyer (March 10) and cellist Roland Gjernes and pianist Paul Williamson (May 5).
“The 50th anniversary is an opportunity to invite, reconnect with our past alumni, past supporters and give the community an opportunity to help us secure a legacy for the next 50 years,” Granholm said.
“I think that it’s a tremendous milestone in the history of our organization.”
For more information on LCMS and its 50th anniversary celebrations, visit www.langlemusic.com.