Pianist determined to follow her dreams

NANAIMO - Summertime Pops by the Sea concert this Saturday (Aug. 17) features performances by Ken Lavigne and Calvin Dyck.

Sarah Wood performs during the free Summertime Pops By The Sea concert Saturday (Aug. 17) at 6 p.m. The event features an original composition by Wood and performances by the Abbotsford Youth Orchestra

Sarah Wood performs during the free Summertime Pops By The Sea concert Saturday (Aug. 17) at 6 p.m. The event features an original composition by Wood and performances by the Abbotsford Youth Orchestra

By Rosemary Phillips

Nanaimo’s Sarah Marie Wood is following her dreams.

She’ll take centre stage at Maffeo Sutton Park for Summertime Pops by the Sea, Saturday (Aug. 17) at 6 p.m. to perform one of her own works – in full view of the audience.

“I’ve been playing the Steinway grand at the Port Theatre these past 11 years for the Vancouver Island University convocation, but nobody sees me; I’m behind the curtain,” said Wood, a pianist and composer.

As she approaches her 50s Sarah is determined more than ever to follow her dreams.

To bring Wood and her talents out in the open, Ken Lavigne, Vancouver Island’s much loved tenor, and Calvin Dyck, concert-master for the Vancouver Island Symphony, invited her to join them for the free concert, which includes the Abbotsford Youth Orchestra, members of the Vancouver Island Symphony and the Skipping Sensations.

“I’m so grateful to Ken and Calvin for this opportunity,” she said.

Wood is a single mother who in spite of adversities and challenges in life continues to follow her dream of a musical career.

“I met Ken in Chemainus where I used to live and where I raised my son. Ken has really encouraged me in my music,” she said.

Unlike many musicians who go through the stream of musical programs at university,Wood, who was classically trained but influenced by everything from Sondheim to Satie, has done it all on her own.

“My family moved to Nanaimo in 1976 and my mother was hired as a music instructor at Malaspina College. I took my first year at Malaspina then went to Vancouver where I played piano at a restaurant on Robson Street and at the Lonsdale Quay Hotel. On Fridays, after work at the Royal Bank Centre I went to play piano at the Hyatt. I moved back to the Island in 1990 where my son was born in 1994. Since then I’ve been parenting and writing music,” she said.

Like many musicians, Wood has had to take all kinds of work to support herself, her son and her talent.

“My son and I have been blessed over the years with support from friends and community, and more recently with assistance from Community Futures to help get my production-publishing company up and running,” said Wood. “This year we will be launching a stage piece entitled Take Off or Take the Fall.”

In 2011, Wood won the Vancouver Island Music Award for best instrumental album for Ocean Tapestry. The album is a compilation of twelve original piano compositions born out of her preoccupation with coastal waters and bearing a hint of Broadway meeting the Pacific-Northwest ocean and rainforest.

“The album was recorded on the Steinway behind the curtain at the Port Theatre during the VIU convocation in 2008. I was handed the recording and took it to Zak Cohen of Woodshop Recording Studios who said it was flawless as one track and easy to splice together as an album,” she said.

Wood showcased her musical productions at the Port Theatre in 2011 to a sold-out audience.

A video was made that evening of Sailing from Schooner Cove, which can be viewed on YouTube. She’ll perform the piece for Summertime Pops by the Sea.

“It is an imaginary musical sailing odyssey that I composed in 2009 after a visit to the waterfront in Nanoose,” said Wood.

Attendees are invited to bring along lawn chairs, blankets and picnics to Maffeo Sutton Park to enjoy the free concert.