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Surrey City Orchestra Aiming to Spark Local Arts Scene

In case you weren’t aware, it costs a good chunk of change to run an Orchestra. That’s why the Surrey City Orchestra is about to embark on fundraising mission early in 2019.

An article from the Surrey Now-Leader promoting a fall concert for the orchestra stated that the City of Surrey granted the non-profit organization $10,000 for the event.

“That $10,000 is not even enough for 24 musicians for an hour concert, just to give you an idea how expensive it is to have a professional orchestra,” musical director Stuart Martin told the Now-Leader.

Despite the costs involved, the Surrey City Orchestra is a young organization with big ideas over the next few years. They recently put on two shows for their “Messiah” performances early in December. The orchestra will then focus on fundraising in 2019 before their next performance in May.

The chair of the Orchestra’s board of directors, Ellen Farrugia, also talks about having a different vision of the orchestra to attract interest from Surrey’s diverse population.

“We want to do programs with all of the stuff that they don’t do in the Vancouver Orchestra. We want to partner with local groups to bring a different feel to the concerts. There are so many great choirs out here and classical Indian traditions too. There’s a huge Korean community out here as well and they’re really into Korean opera.”

However, Farrugia notes that in order for the Surrey City Orchestra to thrive, the City of Surrey in general needs to focus on bringing a more diverse arts scene to the ever-growing city.

The Correlation Between the Surrey City Orchestra and the Surrey Art Scene

For Farrugia, it’s also about the larger picture in Surrey. While the Surrey City Orchestra needs support to get the ball rolling, Farrugia is also hoping that the Orchestra can help kickstart a thriving arts scene in Surrey. That’s not a scene that currently exists in the City, according to Farrugia.

“We’re over half a million people in Surrey, and over a million South of the Fraser now,” she said. “There’s no reason why we have to have all of the big shows come out of Vancouver anymore.”

For the local arts scene to flourish in Surrey, Farrugia notes that it needs to start out at a grassroots level.

“We need to establish music schools In Surrey as well. The closest are out in Vancouver and Ladner. We need to attract high level students to attract high level teachers as well. We want to have music that is created locally.”

Farrugia also notes that for an arts scene to thrive, you need musicians creating music for more than just a hobby.

“Most people have day jobs and then they play in a band. That’s not a thriving music scene, you need musicians creating music full-time. It’s not just like gong to a bar and seeing cover bands. We need to promote original music and Canadian composers.” “I recently met a composer from Surrey working on an Opera. Where is she going to get her opportunity? If nothing changes in Surrey, it won’t be here.”

“If you are going to attract musicians in the city, you need the scene to be there. In the SurreyCares Vital Signs report, question after question from the local youth are saying, ‘we need stuff to do.’ That’s how you keep kids from doing stuff they shouldn’t be doing and that’s how you begin to create a thriving arts scene.”

How Donations Can Benefit the Surrey City Orchestra

While donations will help the local arts organization with a number of initiatives, donations will help the most important aspect of the Orchestra: the show itself. “Being a non-profit we’re not trying to make money, we just want to pay for the concerts,” said Farrugia. “We’re all professional union members that play for the orchestra.

“Building an endowment will help us reach out to youth and do non-ticketed events like going into schools to talk about how music can change your life.

“We want to go to senior homes as well. Non-ticketed events where we can have such an impact in the community. It’s not just targeting one age group.”

Some of the other areas where Farrugia said donations would help with would be storage for the barrage of equipment needed for an orchestra. She also noted that if the Orchestra had extra money, they would be able to hire someone to help promote the orchestra in Surrey.

However, there is one overarching focus heading into the new year.

“The Immediate needs are the ability to get out there and put on more concerts and do some educational work for sure. It also allows us to partner with local groups. High school programs like the one from Semiahmoo Secondary is amazing, but they all end up leaving. KPU [Kwantlen Polytechnic University] has an amazing vocal and piano section, but many students leave back east because the opportunity and culture isn’t here.

“We want to keep that amazing talent from leaving. Nobody is playing for free.” The hopes and dreams for the Surrey City Orchestra fit into the larger picture of arts in Surrey. As the city continues to grow, will the arts scene start to thrive? Farrugia sure hopes so.

“The future is here,” she said. “This is where families are and it’s right in front them. We are getting support from Simon Fraser University and KPU, it’s just connecting with the rest of the public now that’s important for us.”

Donations to the Surrey City Orchestra can be made through SurreyCares here.



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