When Kathleen Hovey arrived on the Coast in 1994 to assist the Sunshine Coast Music Society, she hit the ground running. There were two rehearsals scheduled for her moving day. It’s been a whirlwind of activity like that ever since for the violinist who has taught or been a part of many classical musical groups including her most significant one, conductor of the Youth Orchestra.
“I feel a great commitment to my kids,” she told Coast Reporter, meaning the many youthful musicians who learned from her.
Hovey leaves the Coast soon for a new home in Victoria after 22 years of musical involvement. When she arrived, the Sunshine Coast Community Orchestra was new and Michelle Bruce led the first orchestra for kids as well as initiating an interest in fiddle music. At first Hovey worked with choir director Lin Vernon putting on musicals and concerts in the schools. For her own enjoyment she played with the Seacoast Chamber Ensemble that included Nicholas Simons on cello and Blaine Dunaway on viola until each musician departed to other careers.
Summer music camp in the 1990s with Hovey, Bruce and Lynne Dickson attracted lots of kids to music and Hovey decided to continue it with a chamber music camp for mostly kids. It was popular and clearly demonstrated an interest in classical training. With this in mind, Hovey took up the leadership of what she calls her first generation of Youth Orchestra – 28 kids, many of whom went on to music careers. It included these professional musicians: Beth Currie Buono, Erin MacDonald, Mark Andrews, Neil Andrews, Holly Beckmyer, Serena Eades, Sara Fitzpatrick and Chelsea Sleep.
Sleep, who teaches fiddle, has this to say: “As a teacher Kathleen was a guiding light for me. She was my go-to person when I had questions about registering my students in the music festival and, not being much of a classical player myself, never made me feel dumb when I had to inquire which class a piece belonged in. We had quite a few cross-over students over the years, taking classical violin from Kathleen and fiddle from me, and I had a lot of respect for her being so accepting and supportive of that.”
The kids learned, they grew up and moved away, but Hovey continued with her second group of Youth Orchestra. This time the ensemble was awarded a gold standard at the annual Con Brio Music Festival in Whistler in 2012. A student, Louis Dillon, went on to study opera while other students, Oliver Gidora, Simon Gidora and Hanna Crudele, went on to music careers. Hovey is quick to point out that all the students learned from other music teachers, but as she says, “the Youth Orchestra was a foundation to build on for the students.”
Joy McLeod, who taught and led a community choir for many years, describes Hovey as “a positive force in the music community on the Sunshine Coast.” Her contributions included almost two decades on the Festival of the Performing Arts board and her role on violin in the string ensemble that accompanied The Messiah Choir.
“In Madeira Park,” McLeod said, “I had a pair of sisters whose father had been one of her students so her ability has been passed on to at least an entire generation of violinists on the Coast. Fortunately my grandson, Jonathan, was one of those students and the kindness she and her husband Ed always showed to him and the family endeared them to us all. Jonathan’s love of music was certainly nurtured at his weekly lessons with her, and his current teacher in Nova Scotia has commented on the firm foundation he had been given in his early training.”
The third generation of the Youth Orchestra, ages 11 to 16, is in good hands with conductor Sarah Poon. In the fall of 2017 she was hired to carry on Hovey’s work. “This ensemble … gets the opportunity to work together on music ranging from Baroque to arrangements of modern pop songs,” she writes. “Personally, I am sad to see my friend and colleague leave. Kathleen has provided a firm foundation to me as I was getting established on the Coast after years of teaching in the city) as a music teacher and conductor. I am forever grateful for her mentorship, her dedication, and am delighted to call her my friend.”