Nanaimo-raised pianist Devon Joiner is the recipient of the 2020 Culture and Heritage Award for Excellence in Culture. (Photo courtesy Scott Shaffer)

Nanaimo pianist and future doctor honoured for ‘excellence in culture’

Devon Joiner is among this year’s City of Nanaimo Culture and Heritage Award winners

Today, in lieu of a ceremony, City of Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog hand-delivered the 2020 Culture and Heritage Awards to this year’s winners. The city also released online video profiles of the recipients. This is the first in a four-part series on this year’s award winners.

Devon Joiner said he hopes to heal people through music and medicine.

Joiner, a classical pianist and doctor in training, is the recipient of the City of Nanaimo’s 2020 Culture and Heritage Award for Excellence in Culture. The award honours those who have “achieved regional and/or national recognition in the fields of arts and are recognized as a ‘Nanaimo artist,’ have demonstrated excellence in their field and are a significant inspiration to others.”

Joiner said he’s happy for the recognition and that it’s meaningful to receive such an honour from his hometown.

“That’s the place where I grew up and where I had my start,” he said. “And Nanaimo’s always been such a supportive community for me coming for my concerts and really encouraging me to pursue music.”

Joiner, who grew up in a “very musical” family, started playing piano at the age of four and by the time he was 10 he knew he wanted to be a concert pianist.

“My mom took piano lessons as a kid and she thought it would be a great activity for me and so I started playing and I really loved it,” he said. “And they didn’t even have to force me to practise or anything.”

After high school Joiner pursued his musical education at UBC, followed by the Juilliard School in New York City. A few years after graduating, Joiner began his studies in medicine at New York’s Columbia University and he’s currently in the process of completing his residency.

Joiner said he always had an interest in science, but he had to set it aside while he was devoting himself to studying music. He said he felt that by pursuing medicine he would be able to help people even more than just through music.

“I felt I had more to offer the world,” Joiner said. “I can really help people in a visceral way with their health and then through music I can help people emotionally. And the combination of those was really what I wanted to be able to do in my life.”

Joiner’s field is ophthalmology, the study of the eye. He said it’s an area that suits him because as a pianist he has some transferable skills.

“Doing something surgical was really interesting to me because I felt like I have all these fine motor skills from the piano that would really help me to do that,” he said. “And ophthalmology, it’s very delicate surgeries in the eye and you need to have a lot of precision.”

In the future, Joiner plans to balance medicine and music in order to perform both concerts and surgeries. Right now that’s been a challenge as his residency requires him to work 14 hours a night, but he’s determined to indulge both of his passions.

“It might be a little bit challenging but I know it’s something that I really want to do so I know I’ll be able to make it work,” he said.

SEE RELATED: Passionate pianist: Nanaimo-raised musician Devon Joiner performs with the Vancouver Island Symphony at the Port Theatre

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