In 1991, a bright, enthusiastic Brampton high school student, inspired by his own music teacher, took it upon himself to begin planning a musical ensemble that allowed young musicians to grow and learn as a complement to the established provincial music education program. This was no mere pet project, but a dream to enhance the opportunities for secondary school music students to move beyond what the classroom would teach them, and allow them to challenge themselves both creatively and technically as they pursued their passion for music.
Today, Colin Clarke’s ambition continues to drive and inspire young musicians as he leads the Toronto Youth Wind Orchestra (TYWO), now in its twenty-third successful season, as its Artistic Director.
TYWO counts a number of milestones in its recent history. Among them, two exciting performances at Carnegie Hall, an established executive and board of directors to help lead the organization’s strategy; two sister wind bands aimed at developing the skills of younger performers, and an exceptional list of accomplished alumni who have gone on to successful careers both within music and in other fields.
One of the continuous mandates of TYWO is its role in assisting and promoting music education to parents, educators, and students across the GTA and in the larger Canadian and international music communities. While music programs have felt cuts to arts funding within school boards, their positive impact on students is clearly and demonstrably visible in students who have continued their involvement in music long after their high school days.
For example, TYWO Alumna Renee Willmon, a Wind Orchestra member following graduation in 2003, looked to the organization to continue her involvement with music once starting university in a science program. Today, Willmon is a joint Vanier Scholar between Western University (UWO) and École Pratique des Hautes Études in France. Following completion of her Anthropology bachelor and masters degrees from the University of Toronto, Willmon is pursuing doctoral studies and appears as a cold case investigator on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN)’s “To Catch A Killer” in between her cross-Atlantic research duties.
To further emphasize the power of how music education has influenced her career and future, Willmon sat down with us to remark upon her music journey, learning in the classroom, and the impact of TYWO on her personal development.