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Music Academy Provides Music Exploration for All Ages

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Rob Bonefaas of Niverville has founded Music Academy Manitoba. Joey Villanueva

Music, they say, has the power to unite the world through its ability to transcend all language barriers. For some individuals, like Rob Bonefaas of Music Academy Manitoba, music is both passion and way of life, and his love of the craft is something he hopes to share with as many as possible in this corner of the world.

Located at 10 Cedar Drive in Niverville, Music Academy Manitoba (MAM) offers private lessons in voice, piano, woodwinds, brass, and percussion. Group lessons are available in recorder and band, as well as a special class called Music for Children, geared towards kids ages five to 12. Here, Bonefaas strives to open up the child’s world to the multiplicity of music using speech, song, movement, percussion, and performance.

At the core of Music Academy Manitoba is a simple idea. In January 2020, Bonefaas decided to connect the local youth through music and formed the Niverville Youth Choir. It got off to a successful start with 40 initial members between the ages of seven and 17.

Unfortunately, the months of pandemic that followed brought a temporary halt to the group’s gathering.

By September, though, as pandemic restrictions eased for a bit, Bonefaas had received enough interest in his choral group that he decided to diversify, establishing a kid’s choir (ages five to 11), a youth choir (ages 12 to 17), and the Niverville Community Choir for adults of all ages.

The music academy was born from there as word began to spread. Many people he’d connected with around the area also expressed a desire to see music education, in all its vast and varied forms, be available under one roof.

“The goal of the academy is to provide professional music education by qualified music professionals,” says Bonefaas.

Deeply inspired by the response to his initial youth choir, he adds, “All this shows me that there is much more possible, especially once the COVID restrictions are lifted. I am providing the opportunity for people in the community, of all different ages and levels of ability, to join a group and to let us work on inspiring performers by cultivating craft, creativity, and confidence.”

Bonefaas and his family decided to make Niverville their home nearly two years ago. For the past ten years, he’s been working as a professional educator at the Immanuel Christian School in Winnipeg, teaching music classes to elementary students as well as instructing and conducting the high school band. Bonefaas and the band class have hosted and attended many a competition across western Canada.

He also offers his students the extracurricular option of joining the annual high school musical. His repertoire has included renowned titles such as HMS Pinafore, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and Cinderella.

Hailing from the Netherlands, Bonefaas first came to Canada to pursue work experience as a chef, his then-chosen profession. Until that point, music had been little more than a passionate hobby.

Since the age of eight, he’d been training at Dutch conservatories, building his skills to become an all-round percussionist who played in concert bands. Before and after moving to Canada, Bonefaas stretched his musical repertoire by joining local choirs.

In 2001, Bonefaas decided to make Canada his permanent home, and by 2002 he’d met the love of his life, Diane. Realizing that a family was in his future and supporting them may be difficult in the restaurant business, Bonefaas went back to school.

He enrolled at McMaster University with the goal of entering the ministry and, eventually, becoming a pastor. He immediately joined the university choir, singing as a tenor.

“For the Christmas concert, I received a solo [position], and during the final singing test the conductor said, ‘If you don’t go into music I might have to kill you,’” Bonefaas muses. “I was encouraged to meet with Elise Bedard, a voice teacher at McMaster University who, after I had sung three contrasting pieces, said, ‘If you don’t go into music I might have to kill you.’ I had heard that before, somewhere! So I auditioned and got accepted into the music program and Elise Bedard became my official voice teacher.”

Bonefaas eventually accepted the position of music director at the Immanuel Christian School in Winnipeg. At the same time, he pursued his Bachelor of Education degree at the University of Manitoba.

This is where he also received his certification as a Carl Orff Canada, Music for Children instructor. According to the Carl Orff Canada website, the organization’s approach to music education is “holistic, experiential, and process-oriented.” Their goal is to offer professional musical training to all children, not just the musically gifted, by providing instruction for aural, visual, and kinaesthetic learners alike.

Today, Bonefaas and his wife are proud parents to four children ranging in age from six to 12. All of them are developing their own interest for music, including playing guitar and percussion. They each take piano lessons and plan to sing in one of the choirs of the Niverville Choral Society.

Reflecting on his own musical beginnings, Bonefaas says the first and most impactful music influence in his life was his elementary music teacher, a man who also happened to be his uncle.

“Looking back, I see his brilliance in his ability to create beautiful music with very little,” Bonefaas says. “Sadly, he died when I was only 15. Another person who has greatly influenced me and has supported me in terms of my passion for music and teaching is my wife, Diane. In all my crazy ideas, she has always supported me, provided meaningful feedback, and been by my side for the last 17 years.”

As to why he believes that music is so integral to the human experience, Bonefaas draws from his deep-seated spirituality.

“Personally, I believe that music is a gift from God, a means by which we may express our thankfulness to him. Good music will glorify God’s holy name and will recreate us and give us pleasure.”

For more information

www.musicacademymanitoba.ca

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