Young musicians in Victoria, B.C., are honouring veterans in a unique and personal way this Remembrance Day — they’ve composed music inspired by veterans and their stories, and have presented them to veterans, active members of the Canadian Armed Forces and their families.
Piano teacher Emily Armour, who came up with the idea, said this day is for reflecting on what veterans and active service personnel have fought for, but she wanted her students to connect with veterans in a more personal way and show them they’re valued as individuals.
“I was hoping it would give the kids a chance to connect to something really real on Remembrance Day,” she said.
Her students, who range in age from five to 19, wrote piano pieces for 33 veterans who mostly live in B.C., but some are from as far away as Ontario and Nova Scotia.
WATCH | Piano students compose original pieces honouring veterans:
Compositions provide perspective, connection
Kai Stenstrom, 16, wrote a piece entitled Outcry inspired by a story he was writing about a Second World War soldier reliving his time in the trenches.
“I think it’s important for us to understand and learn about the past and what these people have done for our country and other countries.”
He said he tried to envision what people in those situations went through to set the tone for his composition.
“It has this sort of emotional undertone that I like,” Stenstrom said. “I don’t have a huge personal connection to the wars, but I tried my best to understand what other people would feel.”
Sixteen-year-old Lola Koetke’s piece was sent to Ontario, to the wife of a Joint Task Force 2 veteran who died. She said she didn’t want to let it get too dark, and instead tried to show gratitude and express hope through her music.
“It’s really given me a lot more knowledge and a lot more perspective on Remembrance Day.”
Veterans ‘honoured’ and ’emotional’
Troy Latimer, a Cold War-era reservist, was the recipient of a piece written by a five-year-old boy — one of the youngest of Armour’s students.
“It’s actually very humbling that this little fella would take the time to do something like that, and to do it so fearlessly, and to name it The Protector,” Latimer said.
“I am absolutely honoured, and more emotional than I thought I was going to be.”
Ten-year-old composer Ainsley McPherson’s piece, called The Lancaster’s Flight, was inspired by her grandfather and written for former air force captain Graham Hafey.
“I’m known not to be an emotional guy,” Hafey said. “But that really moved me.”
“I’m very, deeply honoured by this, I’ve never had anything like this before.”
Latimer hopes this experience will encourage a wider interest in Canadian military history for the young artists.
Armour is proud of her students for taking on what could have been a heavy and intimidating assignment and putting a lot of thought into the process.
“They were fearless about it,” she said.