The Vermeulen family chose Vernon when they emigrated from South Africa because their research showed it was a vibrant music town. Now they have something new to add to the flourishing local music scene.
With the encouragement of one of the students at their studio, The Music Room, François Vermeulen, his wife, Gail, and daughter, Daniella, are setting up a non-profit society to help with the costs of lessons for students who can’t afford them.
“There is a lot of talent and it is sad that talent slips through the cracks because families can’t afford music lessons,” said François, who took classical opera training at Durban University and had a successful career in South Africa. He also worked for years as a producer and teacher, with one of his students now a member of the Vienna Opera. Other former students are working in music around the world. Gail is a piano teacher, producer, director and writes scripts and music.
Daughter Daniella is also following a musical career and will be at UBCO this fall studying music and theatre, as well as assisting at The Music Room.
“I had my solo singing debut at three and have always been around musical theatre,” she said.
The Music Room offers a full course on instruction in piano — formal and informal — singing and musical theatre, with a lot of opportunity to perform, at community events and for local groups.
Students of all ages always set out with an assessment and a review of their goals, which can range from wanting to have more music in their lives for their own pleasure to taking formal examinations, to enhancing singing and writing in an established popular music band.
It all intrigued Nico Human, CEO of Agri-Trans Services Inc., in Armstrong, a trucking company in Canada and the United States, who sees other non-profit organizations help youth with their goals.
“I met the Vermeulens when we moved to Vernon a little over a year ago. I was missing my old choir and regular singing. François agreed to teach me. I’m 56 years old, and singing for the love and enjoyment of it all. I’m enjoying every moment of it,” he said. “We are forming the board with the vision of a joyful community through singing, music and acting and with the mission to teach singing, music and acting to those who are talented, those with the means to pay for lessons and those who need some financial help. I have experience with boards and non-profits and we are very excited to bring this service to Vernon.”
Russel Schartner is with Kiliad Services Ltd. in Vernon. He met the Vermeulens when his two young daughters started piano and singing lessons at The Music Room.
“My wife and I have been very impressed with the Vermeulens’ teaching style and how the girls have progressed over the last year. They were new to music and are playing very well in front of an audience,” he said. “I heard the Vermeulens’ story about their accomplishments in South Africa and the vision they now have to teach music and performance to people in Vernon and I became inspired to get involved. We decided to set up the organization as a non-profit so we could include anyone interested in learning. I believe François is using only a small part of his potential and that given the opportunity, he and The Music Room can make a huge impact on the community.”
The Vermeulens like to perform locally as a family, sometimes with son, Perez, 15, who is currently concentrating on sports.
They look back to their choice to come to Canada, arriving June 14, 2010, to becoming Canadian citizens March 12, 2015, and ahead to the opportunities to share their love of music and their expertise through The Music Room.
“We want students to be able to have the opportunity to develop their talent in music with help for lessons. There’s endless creativity. We all need to express ourselves in some way,” said Gail.
François sees unlimited potential.
“Students will work toward their own goals and they will, if they choose the theatre classes, learn theatre, the lighting, movement, character, costume, makeup, improvisation, marketing, design, posters, writing plays and songs, all of it. They can find where their dreams lie,” he said.
“We will learn the rules and understand the rules then we will see that we can break it all if and when we want to. Music is freedom of expression.”
For more information about lessons (registration is on now for all fall classes, including youth theatre) or to be part of the The Music Room society, call 250-550-4381 or see www.themusicroomvernon.com.