PEI

Old garage gets makeover into swanky rehearsal space for Holland College

A dilapidated old garage on the Holland College campus has been given a dramatic makeover and a new life as a music rehearsal and performance space for students.

'Lots of people get their starts in their parents' garage — but this is a high-tech garage!'

Before and after shots of the new Holland College School of Performing Arts garage on Kent Street in Charlottetown. (Submitted by Holland College/Sara Fraser/CBC)

A dilapidated old garage on the Holland College campus has been given a dramatic makeover and a new life as a music rehearsal and performance space for students.

Holland College's School of Performing Arts, or SoPA, has been growing rapidly, more than doubling its numbers in two years, and students in the music program need more classroom space. 

Ensemble class in new SoPA garage at Holland College 0:51

"It's just the perfect place to play music, practise music, learn about music — great acoustics," said instructor Sean Ferris as he prepared to teach a class on improvisation to an ensemble. 

The school has 13 ensembles this year, up from three when the school launched a few years ago, and only two suitable classrooms for them, Ferris said. The garage will host about 10 classes a week.

Performance space

"It gives us an opportunity to have a smaller venue for performance, too," Ferris said. "There's a garage door — it opens up to the public, and we're going to do some of that this fall."

The new garage is perfect for teaching ensemble classes, the Holland College School of Performing Arts says. (Sara Fraser/CBC)

Islanders will be able to see the new garage and hear students perform at the venue's official opening Wednesday at noon. 

It will also have the doors up Saturday, Oct. 21, World Singing Day, for an event between 1 and 3 p.m. The public is invited to sing along with student ensembles — sheet music will be provided — and the event will be live-streamed. 

'Special space'

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency helped fund the renovation with $29,325. 

Students from the college's Heritage Retrofit Carpentry course got hands-on learning experience working on the building.

The garage comes fully stocked with new equipment including drums, keyboards, guitars, amplifiers and more. 

Instructor Sean Ferris, on keyboards, encourages students in a senior ensemble class to let loose with some improvisation. (Sara Fraser/CBC )

Students must be accompanied by a teacher to use the space — no late-night beer-fuelled jams allowed.

"There's been a lot of time and effort and money gone into creating this special space," Ferris said, noting alumni and instructors raised money for the new equipment with a big concert back in January.

I think it's a really cool idea how they set it up as a garage.- Jacob MacEachern

"I think it's something completely different," vocalist Hailey MacIsaac said. "It's just like this cool new feature ... we're really lucky to have it."

Jacob MacEachern said it's nice to have a space exclusively for the music program.

"I think it's a really cool idea how they set it up as a garage, cause I'm sure lots of people get their starts in their parents' garage — but this is a high-tech garage!" 

Senior students at Holland College's School of Performing Arts love the new garage rehearsal space. (Sara Fraser/CBC)

The garage won't be available to the public to rent — it will be too busy being used by students. 

"It's a professional place for all the students to have class and it's good to be in a professional environment," said Daniel Strzelewicz, a student from Florida.

Ferris credits the popularity of the school — there are now more than 50 students in the music program — with its new affiliation with the world-renowned Berklee School of Music

"These students are coming from all over the world ... for Canada, this is a special and unique school," he said, noting there are students from Russia, Mexico, Sweden, Italy, Africa and more. "The word's out." 

About the Author

Sara Fraser

Web Journalist

Sara is a P.E.I. native who graduated from the University of King's College in Halifax. N.S., with a Bachelor of Journalism (Honours) degree. She's worked with CBC Radio and Television since 1988, moving to the CBC P.E.I. web team in 2015, focusing on weekend features. email sara.fraser@cbc.ca