Joan Dillon (Brandon University)
Now in it's second year, the Augustfest Homecoming Series showcases the talents of professional musicians who trained at Brandon University. They return this week to their alma mater to share their talents.
One of the alumni is Hamiota native Joan Dillon. She studied with Elman Lowe, Alex Whyte, Francis Chaplin, and Joel Hekster. She is currently assistant concertmaster of the Netherlands Symphony Orchestra, and is involved in various chamber ensembles. Her 1755 instrument was made by Carlo Antonio Testore in Milan. As a member of the Heritage Chamber Players, Joan is involved in interactive and interdisciplinary projects for school classes and educators. SCENE caught up with Joan in between rehearsals.
You have a very precious and very old violin, can you tell us a bit about it?
The violin I'm playing is a Carlo Antonio Testore made in Milan in 1755. It has a beautiful golden colour and warm tone. The back of the scroll is flat which is perhaps plain, but gives it an endearing quality I always think.
I had been trying instruments at violin dealer's shop in Amsterdam and though it was not within my original budget, I was curious what such an instrument would sound like. I was immediately very charmed with it and eventually with the help of generous loans, was able to purchase it. It was terribly exciting as I'd never even dreamed of owning such an instrument.
How did the music program at Brandon University shape you as a musician?
The music program at Brandon University has been a huge influence in my musical career. Dr. Francis Chaplin was a wonderful teacher who not only groomed us as violinists but took a great personal interest as well. Joel Hekster, having just retired as assistant concertmaster from the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, also taught for a year in Brandon. It was this connection that lead to auditions in the Netherlands and my work there.
How is life different there?
The arts have traditionally enjoyed a very privileged position in Dutch society. The orchestras are heavily subsidized by the government, allowing them a lot of artistic freedom. It has been a wonderful climate to work in. However due to economic pressures and a new government, the arts are undergoing drastic cuts which will certainly change the cultural landscape in the near future.
In the Netherlands, you also play with the Valerius Ensemble. What do you think your fellow ensemble members would think of the classical music scene in Manitoba?
Being accustomed to this more privileged climate I described, I think my fellow Valerius members would be impressed at how hard the musicians work to make a living here! A vacation is usually on the Dutch summer agenda but Laura, Greg, and Donna all have very busy schedules.
What have some of the highlights been in coming back to Manitoba to play this homecoming concert?
It has been a treat to work with such dedicated and good musicians. They are all highly professional and efficient and it has been great to share laughs with fellow Manitoban-musicians. I'm hoping our program will be a worthy follow-up to the excellent opening concert by Laura and Lawrence Jones.
What is it about the Brandon University which allows it to produce such a talented pool of classical musicians?
The prime factor is the late founder, Dr. Lorne Watson who had great vision for the potential of the School of Music and a good nose for finding inspiring teachers.
See the video below of the Valerius Ensemble (featuring Joan Dillon on violin, second from the left)