Entertainment

Homecoming queen: Chilliwack's Bria Skonberg and her trumpet return

Bria Skonberg puts a new twist on a classic style with the Chilliwack Symphony Orchestra this month, combining classical with jazz and pop sensibilities for a musical fusion.  - Thomas Concordia
Bria Skonberg puts a new twist on a classic style with the Chilliwack Symphony Orchestra this month, combining classical with jazz and pop sensibilities for a musical fusion.
— image credit: Thomas Concordia

“Music is a volatile industry. It’s hard to put all your eggs in a basket when you’re not sure where it is you’re going,” says Bria Skonberg.

But it is just a little bit easier when you know where you’re from.

The award-winning trumpet player has called New York home since 2010, but her journey started right here in the Fraser Valley.

It started with band class at Chilliwack Middle School.

It started when she walked into Chilliwack’s Dixieland Jazz Festival for the first time.

It started with a moment in a Capilano College practice room where she decided, once and for all, that music was her life.

“I was just banging my head against the wall for so many hours that I just looked at the trumpet and I said, ‘Alright. You know what? You and me. Let’s do this,’” Skonberg says. “I committed.”

And now Chilliwack’s prodigal daughter is returning home.

In the last month alone, she co-produced the New York Hot Jazz Festival and released her third album, titled Into Your Own.

A hometown concert—with the backing of a symphony orchestra, no less—provides the perfect ending to the month of May. She’ll be at Chilliwack Alliance Church on May 31, performing with the Chilliwack Symphony Orchestra.

“It’s wonderful! There’s no place like home,” she says. “I’ve been able to have a lot of neat experiences all over the world, so it means a lot to be able to come back and share those during the concert.”

Growing up in the Chilliwack jazz scene gave her all the tools she needed to succeed in New York. She credits her middle school band teacher, Bruno Gagnon, with teaching her to be ambitious and think big.

She thanks long-time Chilliwack Secondary School music teacher Gary Raddysh for cultivating her love of jazz.

And Chilliwack Jazz Festival director Rob Hopkins and CSS Leadership teacher Steve Anderson supplied her with all the tools she needed to create a jazz festival from the ground up.

“Moving to New York, I’ve been able to bring those tools forward,” Skonberg says. “They had such a big impact on me, not just in the way they make music but also putting on events.”

And now Chilliwack is offering her another new experience—her first chance to perform as a soloist for an orchestra. They’ll be playing a couple of tunes from her new album, giving the music—and the orchestra—a completely different feel.

“It’s rooted in jazz,” she says, “but also it’s a fusion of a little bit of world music, percussion, and some more kind of pop sensibilities.”

w Skonberg plays with the Chilliwack Symphony Orchestra at the Chilliwack Alliance Church on May 31 at 7:30 p.m. General tickets are $25 and student tickets are $15, available through the Chilliwack Cultural Centre box office at 604-391-7469 or online at www.chilliwackculturalcentre.ca.

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