New Music Program at FVCC Features Worldly Faculty, Enhanced Transfer Opportunities

Flathead Valley Community College is expanding its music program this fall, welcoming a new Music Associate of Arts to its curriculum.  The program will provide students the first two years of a music major at Montana State University in Bozeman as well as the first year of study for a Bachelor of Arts in Music or Music Education at The University of Montana in Missoula.

The program is designed for students interested in pursuing a minor in music.  To teach the program, FVCC has brought together a powerhouse of talented and seasoned faculty.  Joining Glacier Symphony and Chorale Music Director and veteran FVCC music faculty John Zoltek will be renowned local classical guitarist Steve Eckels; Jack Waller Quintet member Sky Thoreson; owner/operator of The Voice Studio Amy Chisholm; and award-winning husband and wife orchestral artists Wai Chan and Idara Mizutani.

Eckels will return to FVCC this fall to teach “Beginning Guitar” and “Intermediate Guitar.”  Nationally certified through the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, Eckels will bring 27 years of teaching experience to the classroom.  Throughout his career, he has taught at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Northland College in Ashland, Wis., New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, N.M., FVCC, Montana State University in Billings and at the high school level for Kalispell Public Schools District 5.  He has numerous published works on teaching classroom guitar, guitar essentials and ensembles and fingerstyle guitar.

Thoreson will return this fall to teach “Jazz Ensemble I,” a new course launched at FVCC this spring that offers community members an opportunity to be a part of a jazz ensemble.  Having a classically trained singer as a father, Thoreson grew up in a musical family in the Seattle area.  He attended college at Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash., where he studied jazz extensively and earned his bachelor’s degree in classical trombone performance.  As a student, Thoreson was lead trombone player in the award-winning Whitworth University Jazz Ensemble, and he had the opportunity to study under and play with renowned jazz artists such as leading jazz musician and composer Terence Blanchard and Grammy Award-winning musician Kenny Garrett.

Chisholm also will return this fall to teach “Keyboard Skills I” and “Keyboard Skills II” this fall.  Before opening her own voice studio in Whitefish, Chisholm taught music at various institutions such as Western Oregon University in Monmouth, Ore., Pima Community College in Tuscan, Ariz., and Gila County Community College and Payson High School in Payson, Ariz.  She is a former choir director for The PRIME School of Music in Tuscan and was a member of the Arizona Choir at The University of Arizona, president of the Chamber Chorale at The University of Montana, member of the University Singers at The University of Maine in Orono, Maine,  and a master class performer in Vienna, Austria.  She is well versed in piano, flute, saxophone, theatre, dance as well as multiple languages.

The college will welcome Wai and Idara to teach the college’s new “Orchestra” course that provides an opportunity for persons  interested in performing in a string ensemble.  Wai is a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music and Manhattan School of Music.  A former teacher at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music in New York, Wai will bring to the program his orchestral experience including performing on the Hong Kong Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic and Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, among others.  He has performed as a soloist for various orchestras across the globe such as the West Coast Symphony Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, Korean Symphony Orchestra, Taipei Sinfonietta in Taiwan, Puccini Sinfonietta in Italy, Moscow Chamber Orchestra and Manhattan Symphony Orchestra.  Wai has been recognized for his noted performances in Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall as well as for securing top honors for the Taiwan International Competition and Five Towns Violin Competition.  Wai also is a Music Teachers National Association State and National Award winner.  Throughout his career, he has performed with other artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Arnold Steinhardt, Glenn Dicterow, Kurt Masur and Zubin Mehta.

Idara will bring professional experience from performing as a soloist and as a member of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, West Coast Symphony Orchestra and Vancouver Chamber Sinfonietta to the program.  Throughout her career, Idara has created over 200 compositions and arrangements for solo, chamber and orchestral music.  She began teaching music at the age of 13 and, in addition to owning and teaching at her private violin studio for 19 years, she has taught at prestigious institutions throughout British Columbia, Canada, such as the Western Conservatory of Music, Surrey Academy of Music and  Whatcom Music Academy.  Along with performing in tours in Canada, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan, she is a five-time gold medalist of the Kiwanis Music Competition, a four-time first prize winner of the Canadian International String Competition, a two-time first prize winner of the American International String Competition and a three-time top honors recipient of the Royal Conservatory of Music Examinations.

“This program is ideal for talented students in our area high schools or who are being homeschooled who are interested in pursuing a major in music but are not ready to leave the Flathead Valley,” said Music Program Advisor Karla West.  “This presents a new outlet for local students to pursue their college education here at home or for students who have a passion for music to take music classes as electives, getting them closer to their degrees while allowing them to take classes that will challenge and inspire them.”

Both “Jazz Ensemble I,” and “Orchestra” are open to anyone with a musical background who can read music and can supply his or her own instrument.

Registration for fall classes at FVCC is currently underway.  The course schedule is available at www.fvcc.edu/schedules.html.  Scholarships are available to music students.  For more information, contact the FVCC Foundation at 756-3963.

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