NAOC Adventures in Vancouver, Canada

Chamber Music in Vancouver: clockwise from front left: Christina Wolf, Minah Ahn, James Hill, Stephanie Griffin, Middle: Coda the Dog

I am always trying to remind ACMP members of the fun and adventures they can have if they get in touch with ACMP members on their travels. So, this summer, I decided to give it a try myself!

Within the United States and Canada, ACMP’s greatest resource for this purpose is the North American Outreach Council (NAOC), chaired by former ACMP board member Celeste Chau.

When I first took on the position of Executive Director of ACMP in August 2020, I noticed that we did not yet have an NAOC Councilor in my home town of Vancouver, BC, Canada. To remedy that, I called my dear friend Anita Zaenker who I met at the tender age of ten through the Vancouver School Strings program (which is how I got my start on the viola). I ended up taking piano lessons with Anita’s mother, Ailsa Zaenker, and Anita and I both ended up at the same High School. Anita and I have stayed in touch through all of these years, and I knew her to be an active amateur violinist. When I asked her about potentially serving as our NAOC councilor in Vancouver, she said that she knew somebody else who would be perfect for that role: violinist Christina Wolf.

Back then, I met Christina Wolf on Zoom. She even invited me to give a brief talk about ACMP for a Zoom event through her community orchestra, the West Coast Symphony. We since co-organized an online Play-In on SonoBus. When I emailed her to let her know I would be in Vancouver visiting my parents this July, she organized not one but TWO chamber music gatherings at her home in downtown Vancouver! I enjoyed reading quartets by Haydn and Mendelssohn with Christina, Minah Ahn (violin) and James Hill (cello), who had actually started teaching music at my High School shortly before I left. Christina’s fabulous dog, Coda, was at the center of all activities, as you will see in the photo, above.

The following evening I came back to play quartets by Haydn and Beethoven with Christina, Yoko Ito and Caroline Jackson (with Coda in tow, of course.)

Chamber Music in Vancouver, clockwise from left: Coda the Dog, Christina Wolf, Yoko Ito, Caroline Jackson, Stephanie Griffin

There’s nothing quite like reading quartets with a view of the mountains in Vancouver! And after each session, we enjoyed wine and snacks outside on Christina’s beautiful back deck. I hope to meet up with Christina, Minah, James, Yoko and Caroline next time I come back to Vancouver, and I am already cooking up a plan for the Worldwide Play-In weekend next year (May 17-19, 2024.) Thank you, Christina, for your hospitality!

A few days later, I traveled to Vancouver Island. While there was not enough time to organize a chamber music session this time around, I got in touch with our NAOC councilor on Vancouver Island, Gary Hayes.

After meeting so many wonderful new people through Christina in Vancouver, I thought it was my turn to introduce Gary to some of my friends near where he lives. We had dinner together with a view of the ocean and the mountains at the home of my dear friends Jim and Marion Welsh in North Saanich. I enjoyed getting to know Gary and his wife Florence, and hearing Gary’s stories from his experiences as a classical music producer for CBC radio.

Left to right: Stephanie Griffin with Florence and Gary Hayes on Vancouver Island

Next time I come to this area (hopefully in May!), I look forward to meeting up and playing music with all of my new friends.

And, if you haven’t yet been to Vancouver or Vancouver Island, I highly recommend that you come here some time. The best time to visit is July through September, but it’s beautiful all year round. I recently got wind of a number of chamber music workshops in this area that are not yet in ACMP’s Directory of Events and Workshops. Stay tuned for a follow-up on those soon.

Meanwhile, even if you have no plans to travel – is there an NAOC or IAC (International Advisory Council) member anywhere near you? Maybe it’s time to send them an email and see if they can connect you with more players in your area!

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