Since it’s inception in 1936, the Victoria Foundation has awarded more than $196 million dollars to support thousands of organizations.

Last year alone, the foundation granted more than $20 million dollars, and one of those grants was awarded to Ensemble Laude, to create the Emerging Artists Program.

“We’re an auditioned community choir, and we’ve been together now for 20 years,” explained Carolyn Howe, the Associate Director of Ensemble Laude.

“It began as a medieval-focused choir, but we’ve expanded into contemporary Canadian choral repertoire, and a lot of international choral repertoire.”

Howe estimated that there were about 14 singers for the first season and now they are at about 45.

Howe co-directs the choir with Elizabeth MacIsaac, and the two women applied to the Victoria Foundation the grant.

“[We applied] to investigate youth programming in the community, and a part of that is our ‘Emerging Artists’ program,” says Howe.

The Emerging Artists Program is an enriching opportunity to teach performance, coaching and leadership skills to advanced vocalists.

One of three women chosen for the program is Christina Banman.

“it’s just so incredible to be studying under two fabulous directors and to sort of be underneath their mentorship, and then, to be able to work this these women is just such an incredible opportunity,” said Banman.

Mandy Wiltshire, who has a music degree from the University of Victoria, agrees.

“I get to work with the two directors as my mentors. I get to learn choral conducting, how to run a choir, kind of the logistics behind it, I get to do a little bit of leading sections, and I get to take some major solo opportunities,” said Wiltshire.

Howe adds that she and  Elizabeth are excited to keep helping young artists flourish.

“Often when you go through music programs as both Elizabeth and I did, as singers, you focus a lot on your voice, vocal/technical development and less on your leadership/choral skills. This was an opportunity to give these young artists a chance to add to their tool kit as professional performers,” said Howe

They give those artists the skills and the confidence to one day lead their own choirs.

Veronica Cooper