Amped and inspired during my trip to Vancouver

Science World at Telus World of Science in Vancouver. Credit: Evan Rothery.

I don’t often travel. Never did that Europe trip. Never tried my luck in a bigger city. I’m simply a home body. So when I do go places, I’m very aware of how different they feel.

For example: I just flew to Vancouver the other week to see Science World’s Amped exhibit and to visit the Sarah McLachlan School of Music. Calgary was suffering through its first real cold snap when I left (-20 C) while Vancouver was hovering around the freezing mark. I still felt very cold on the coast. I’m used to a dry cold. I can’t hide from a wet cold.

I also noticed I was out of step with Vancouverites. I walk a lot at home and I’ll very easily get into a flow while I sail through Calgary’s downtown. In Vancouver, I had to constantly change trajectory or face an on-foot-collision, or I felt as though I was in the way on the sidewalks, referring to maps and bus schedules on my device.

Despite these differences, what struck me most is how in step our cities are when it comes to music education and how museums can participate. Science World’s Amped exhibit, which opened in October and runs until January, was built on a shoestring budget. It was designed in-house with heavy sponsorship from Roland, who provided almost all of the gear. Science World also raised money through crowdsource funding, which is a very interesting way to engage the community (not to mention, it’s good to see that regular folk see the importance of such exhibits and will even chip in).

Amped exhibit inside the Science Centre. Credit: Evan Rothery.

Amped was built for the musical gearhead—anyone interested in how technology and music fit together. At a series of booths, a person can try loop pedals, DJ stations, electric guitars, synthesizers and electronic drums, getting a feel for how they work and hopefully gaining a desire to use them further. People can upload their work to a Soundcloud account from a tablet and listen to it here: At the time of this writing, there are over 450 clips posted by Amped visitors. It felt a bit like stepping into the future NMC, where students will get similar opportunities to try new instruments and spark new interests.

Visiting the Sarah McLachlan School of Music (SoM) also felt like stepping into the future of NMC’s Guitar Club. Both programs provide the opportunity for underserved youth to learn an instrument, free of charge, but Guitar Club has been in operation for almost four years, while SoM has been going for the last twelve. We have an average of 16 students a week, while they have over 300. We meet once a week, while SoM has classes five nights a week from 3:00-9:00 pm. While our two institutions are at different stages of development, we both believe that learning an instrument can be a catalyst for social change. Everyone should have a chance to gain the confidence that comes along with learning an instrument, but not everyone can afford it. If you provide a safe place to learn (and a snack!) you will develop a crowd. It’s inspirational to see how far this model can be taken.

Outside the building at the Sarah McLachlin School of Music. Credit: Evan Rothery.

Entrance to the music room. Credit: Evan Rothery.

In the end, I’m glad I had the opportunity to visit our friends to the west, where our shared belief in the importance of music education provides a beat we can all march to in lock step.

Evan Rothery

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