With one lonely music class that encompasses the entire music program at Thompson Rivers University, the TRUSU Chamber Chorus club is pushing for a more musical future. Now the group has an upcoming collaborative performance with Emily Millard, a Montreal-based art-folk singer on tour following the release of her album.
Tomas Bijok is the conductor for the TRUSU Chamber Chorus and instructor of TRU’s only music class.
“We’re always looking for new opportunities, and we’re really excited about this one because it’s a premiere tour,” Bijok said.
Bijok is an acclaimed performer in his own regard, having shared his music on an international scale. His experiences touring, travelling and growing as a performer lead him right back to Kamloops.
“I’m trained as an opera singer and I sang internationally based out of Prague for six years. I sang a lot with professional choruses and toured a lot. I did that work while I was in school, and outside of school as well. I wanted to bring that back to Kamloops – that level and caliber of singing,” Bijok said.
TRU only offers one music class, taught by Bijok.
He said the TRUSU Choir Club club got started when a group of students approached him, wanting more music and to keep the momentum going from what they had learned in his class.
“Last year in October, a group of students approached me and asked, can we sing better than we can currently in the courses that are being offered? So, I said ‘well why don’t we form a chamber chorus and form a professional ensemble group?’ I said go do it, and I will conduct you for free,” Bijok said.
Bijok added that the club just started as an outlet for those who wanted to sing and didn’t necessarily know how.
“When we started, we were just people who wanted to sing and didn’t really have any choral singing background,” Bijok said.
However, Bijok said that now the group is taking on bigger aspirations in hopes of creating a respectable and professional group on campus.
“Even what we were able to accomplish in the first year was pretty impressive. What we are doing now is blowing my mind. Some of the sounds that are coming out of the choir in rehearsal, they are not always there, but they are sounds that come out of professional ensembles. That’s the kind of work that I’m trying to do here with the chamber chorus. It’s my dream to eventually have a music program at TRU that can produce professional performers,” Bijok said.
With a lack of a music program to cultivate professional performers, the chamber chorus is taking on the responsibility.
“I think that it’s long overdue, and putting the chamber chorus together was a step [towards] demonstrating what we can do with our existing student body. We have a lot of talent here, and we have a lot of people who really want to grow,” Bijok said.
As for the choir’s future, Bijok sees hope for the upcoming years in helping students go pro before graduation day.
“I would like to see the TRU chamber chorus as a unit continue to grow and develop. To become more selective in its membership, to take on far greater challenges and I’d like to see them go on tour. That is the goal, to have a professional ensemble that is associated with the name of Thompson Rivers University. That is what we are doing here,” Bijok said.
Bijok adds that creating more music classes, and hopefully one day a full-on program, has been his goal for a long time.
“For the past three years I have been working on curriculum development for two new music courses, that would be subsequent courses to our current first year course. The work that I have been doing in developing them is hopefully just about to be approved. It has been years since we’ve been able to develop a single other music course here at this institution,” he said.
Will Primrose, a second-year chemical biology student and one of the group’s original members says it’s unfortunate that TRU doesn’t have more options for musicians.
“Science is what I’m working on as far as my major goes, but music has always been a passion of mine. With the amazing artistic community we have in Kamloops, it’s unfortunate that we don’t have that much of a musical representation on campus,” Primrose said.
Primrose adds that the club has grown quite a bit since the group started a year ago, going from 12 members at the end of last April to 30 members now.
As one of the original members, Primrose says that he wants the club to keep growing and getting bigger after he graduates. However, he still holds out hope to see the club succeed before grad.
“The eventual goal would be to take this group and perform elsewhere in B.C., elsewhere in Canada and elsewhere in the world,” Primrose said.
Emily Miller, a second-year bachelor of arts student, is another one of the group’s original members. She says she joined the club to help her expand her knowledge and become more in tune with her inner musician.
“I wanted to further my vocal capacity, in the sense of growing as a person and an artist,” Miller said.
“Music is also good for the soul. It’s nice, amongst your heavy course load, to have a course where you can sing, and be able to express yourself. It’s nice for students to have a place where they can grow as people, as musicians and build a musical community on campus. I think it’s really important.”
The club is spearheading the lack of music at the university, and is on the way to making more music for future students. Miller says that the chamber chorus is here to stay.
“I hope people get the idea that this is a serious group and pay a little more attention to us,” Miller said.
The TRUSU Chamber Chorus will be performing alongside Emily Millard and Aerialists on Nov. 3 from 7 to 10 p.m. at St. Andrews on the Square. Tickets are $15 each or $10 for students.