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Order of Canada recipient in Nanaimo

Jane Coop performs live at the Port Theatre on Sunday (Feb. 16)

Order of Canada recipient and pianist Jane Coop has performed just about everywhere in Canada. From Tofino to Whitehorse and St. John’s to Niagara Falls, there are few places in Canada she hasn’t played. However, one place stands out to her – Cold Lake, Man.

“I had one wonderful experience in the north of Manitoba in a little tiny mining town,” she said. “One person who was an art and music lover put on a house concert and people drove in from two hours away … to come to this concert. I really enjoyed playing for them. They were super receptive and listened so carefully. It was a wonderful time.”

Coop, who was once a member of the UBC faculty of music for 32 years, will be displaying her talents at the Port Theatre on Sunday (Feb. 16). She said that she is looking forward to playing her program in the Harbour City.

“I am happy to be playing this particular program because it’s the program that I am taking on tour for this time of year,” Coop said. “I am always happy to be playing a repertoire that I’ve lived with for quite a while and to share it with my audiences.

“I’ve got everything from baroque to romantic music. So there should be something in there for everybody’s taste,” she added.

Coop was born in Saint John but grew up in Calgary and became involved in music at a young age.

“My parents loved music and were musical but neither of them were musicians, but they took their children to concerts and exposed them to recordings,” Coop said. “We were just drawn into by natural circumstances rather than being pushed.”

She began learning piano under Alexandra Munn and Gladys Egber. Coop then studied advanced piano under Anton Kuerti in Toronto and Leon Fleisher in Baltimore, Md.

“You learn the finer points and more sophisticated ideas intellectually and you get better physically and better control over the instrument and better technique … you get everything it’s just on higher level,” Coop explained about her advanced studies.

A major turning point in Coop’s career came when she placed first in the CBC’s Young Performers radio competition at the age of 19.

“That was an early point in my career and it was a wonderful happening because I then got tapped into the CBC radio and has CBC has been wonderful to me, until it has gotten completely decimated by the present government,” Coop said. “CBC was a fantastic opportunity for young artists to get known throughout the country and that happened to me for sure.”

Since then Coop has gone on to perform at the Wigmore Hall, Carnegie Recital Hall, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Alice Tully Hall, Roy Thomson Hall, the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, and the Beijing Concert Hall. Coop, who has performed in over 20 countries, recalled her experience performing in Poland.

“I played in Poland in the '80s, before the wall came down. Poland was a country that was very, very poor. There was hardly any amenities for the people, but there was a bookstore on every corner, which I thought was amazing,” she said. “You couldn’t buy a hat but you could buy a book. The people were so full of life and humour and good will and generosity that it really took me back.”

The New Brunswick native explained that playing in bigger cities is more challenging than in small cities and towns.

“It is harder to play in big cities anywhere because people in big cities are used to going to concerts and they have millions of concerts to choose from,” she said. “So audiences to be much more blasé, whereas in smaller places where there is less access to art and music, people are more attentive and that makes it easier for the artist.”

Although Coop has performed throughout North America, Europe and Asia, she has yet to perform in South America.

“I haven’t been to South America,” she said. “I would like to go to places like Rio or Buenos Aires or any of the places that have concert series.”