Keeping The Dream Alive

By Charelle Evelyn on November 16 2015 

In the realm of the performing arts, mainstream works often follow a standard form: the movements in a symphony, the sections of a sonata, the acts of a play.

But Jeremy Stewart is well known for eschewing artistic convention, so it’s no surprise that his latest venture with wife Erin would also seek to break the mould.

Since it opened its doors in September 2014, Dreamland School of the Arts has sought to carve out a new niche in the world of education and community. “The big thing for us is a belief in access to performance experience and the social aspect of music in general,” said Stewart, who noted that most studios and schools have a regular, albeit limited, schedule of student recitals. “We’re still getting it off the ground, but a big part of the concept was that we would have a venue space in our building so that we could have an accelerated schedule of recitals and more performance opportunities for students.” To that end, the Stewarts secured a lease on a downtown building that not only had the classroom space, but also a sizeable framework suitable for performances.

The 1010 Fourth Ave. location was practically purpose built for Dreamland, given its previous incarnation as a dance studio kitted out by Judy Russell. But don’t think you need to be a student to walk through the doors and be a part of dream.

In January, Dreamland launched Later On – an afterhours coffeehouse borne out of a suggestion by friend, Dreamland teacher and frequent collaborator Raghu Lokanathan. Set for every odd-numbered Friday of the month (i.e. Feb. 13, Feb. 27, etc), Later On offers the opportunity for arts-minded individuals to let their freak flag fly with music, poetry and all the coffee they can drink when all the other venues have turned in for the night after 10 p.m.

“After he suggested that idea I really started to run with it and think about what kind of experience would we like that to be and for it to be something that’s darker, edgier, more surreal, stranger, more absurd than other events,” said Stewart. “I started to realize this is something that we’ve never had where those kind of aesthetic values are the focus of any concert series here. To me, it’s so Prince George. I think the surreality of daily life here can be a major topic of conversation for people. “

Another major element of the Dreamland ideology is the ready availability of group and ensemble programs.

“It was a common problem when I was teaching at other studios where I would have students who would get to the point where they’re not going to make a lot more progress unless they can start playing with people – they’ve become fairly advanced and it’s time to branch out and acquire some new experiences. And they would say to me ‘who should I jam with?’” Stewart recalled.

Instead of putting up a flyer at the local music store looking for collaborators, students and teachers are encouraged to work together – regardless of instrument.

Slowly but surely, the formula seems to be working. In less than six months of existence, Dreamland and its 10 instructors had about 100 students.

Dreamland offers instruction in voice, guitar, bass, piano, violin, accordion, banjo and drums as well as some visual arts. And just because something isn’t on the curriculum doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a place at the school.

Stewart said he believes Dreamland has more potential than it’s currently realizing and welcomes ideas and suggestions that will take advantage of the school’s infrastructure and platform.

“Our program didn’t come down from the mount on stone tablets. We want to keep it growing and keep it really dynamic. “ Find Dreamland online at http://www.dreamlandpg.com/ or on Facebook.

CHARELLE EVELYN

REPORTER FOR THE PRINCE GEORGE CITIZEN

Journalist, west coast native, music lover. Made in Canada.

Website: pgcitizen.ca

M2015, MusiciansNorm Coyne