Resa’s Pieces first came together in the year 2000. But the creation of what has evolved into a very special group was a dream born out of my own life experiences, and it was many years in the making.
When I was growing up there was nothing else I ever wanted to do but study music. As a little girl I’d watch my eldest brother wave his arms around as if he was a virtuoso conductor. I could feel the music radiate and come alive visually through his passionate motions. The first album he bought me was Tchaikovsky's Peter and the Wolf. Oh, how I loved listening to the different instruments mimicking the sound of animals, Peter, the grandfather and the hunters.
I began to play the piano at a young age. In grade seven I discovered the flute and fell totally in love. I played the flute throughout high school at the same time as taking piano lessons, studying music theory, and spending countless hours practicing. After grade thirteen it was inconceivable that I would study anything else.
I loved every day at the University of Toronto in the Faculty of Music. I learned how to play almost every instrument - well enough to teach beginners anyway. I studied because I loved it, played in the university band, and for one year I actually sang in the university choir! While I looked on, many of my classmates competed for the privilege of playing the first chair in their section, spending hours and hours in the practice rooms, and I hated it. Oh, I practiced, but being the best was not what drove me. I just wanted to enjoy my love for music without the added pressure. I wanted to be the best I could be – FOR ME! As Bela Bartok once said “Competition is for horses, not artists.”
After graduating with my Bachelor of Music (Education) I became an itinerant music teacher for the Scarborough Board of Education. It was the perfect job for me - and I LOVED it! I loved the fun we had in class, and I really loved watching the children’s faces beam with their accomplishments.
In 1972 I married the love of my life, Marshall (he can't play an instrument or sing). Five years later we started a family and I became a stay-at-home mom. After all those years of playing music and being surrounded by music every day, the only music I listened to now was Raffi, and Sharon, Lois and Bram. For the next 23 years my flute never came out of its case!
As much as I treasured those years spending time at home with my children, I so missed music in my life. I missed the camaraderie and the excitement of playing music with other people, and the joy of musical expression. I knew that somehow I had to get music back into my life. So in 1998 I returned to teaching. That same year, after a 23 year hiatus, I finally took my flute out of its case and joined the North York Concert Band. Although quite rusty, I loved putting my daily routine behind me, concentrating on the music, and being surrounded by like-minded people – all of us wanting to create music together. I loved the challenge and the frustration, and the sense of accomplishment as I continued to improve with practice and support from my new music friends.
And then along came...
The Birth of Resa’s Pieces Concert Band
During those years I realized there were many people like me who loved music, but just like me, due to life circumstances, they had abandoned their instruments – often at the end of high school. Having chosen career and life paths that were not music related, there were few options to keep going. I realized there was a real need for a place where adults could come together and return to playing music like I did, and I began to dream. I imagined the fun social atmosphere of a high school concert band – but for adults! I hoped that if I created such an environment it would provide them with the same joy and pleasure I had found. I also wanted it to provide an opportunity for people to learn and grow as musicians, and then to share their accomplishments. My ultimate goal was to have members of this new group learn repertoire, perform to audiences, and share their expression of music within the community.
Then, one “magical” day in late 1998, (I call it magical because it’s the day it actually began) I was talking to the Music Director at the Koffler Centre of the Arts. When I told her my idea she got it immediately, and her words I will never forget. “Resa,” she said, “I don’t like your idea – I LOVE IT!” And right then and there I knew it would happen. “When would you like to start?” she asked. “How about next September?” I said. “That will give me enough time to spread the word and recruit.”
How many people would join? I was hoping for eighteen as it’s a symbolic number for LIFE, and music is so much part of everyone’s life. A few weeks later I was at a party. I took advantage of this great opportunity to announce my idea, and it became the buzz of the evening. Surprisingly, those interested didn’t want to wait until September.
“Can’t we start now?” asked Ruthie Fishman, (who years later became President of Resa’s Pieces, and also the Executive Director).
Shortly afterwards, with the eighteen names gathered, (and long before September), we held our first rehearsal at the Jewish Community Center on Bathurst Street.
We began with a basic review of the names and values of the notes. Then we reviewed all the fundamentals – like how to hold the instrument and making the first sound. Everyone left excited and eager to practice. And they did!
In June 2000 we held our first concert. The band could now play eight notes and seven songs. Seventy-five people sat in the audience, the concert was 25 minutes long and the band got a rousing standing ovation at the end. Here's a picture from that concert:
The finale was that the band members chose our new name, “Resa’s Pieces!”
And that’s how Resa’s Pieces was born!
And then along came...
The Birth of Resa’s Pieces Strings
After one band concert a violinist approached me and asked to join the band. I felt terrible having to say "no" because stringed instruments require a different approach and, other than a double bass, there is simply no place for them in a concert band. As more and more string players approached me and walked away disappointed, I finally realized I needed to start a string group.
And so, Resa's Pieces Strings began in September 2010, coincidentally also with eighteen members. As with the band members, the same joy and appreciation of returning to music permeated the new string ensemble. This year, the accomplished and seasoned Phillip Coonce, a professional violinist, coach and conductor, is leading the Strings' into season eight.
And then along came...
The Birth of Resa’s Pieces Singers
I wondered and thought, so what about all those people who’ve never played an instrument but who love to sing? Is it fair that they should be left out of the FUN? No! I simply knew a vocal group had to come next!
So, after a successful trial run in the Spring of 2013, Resa’s Pieces Singers began. Under the direction of Robert Graham, the ensemble is now in its third season of weekly rehearsals with growing membership and more smiling faces.
Who knows what musical field Resa’s Pieces will explore next? After all it’s a musical world, and I believe with my whole heart that everyone should have the opportunity to have music in their lives. It’s one of my greatest joys every week to share my love of music with all of the dedicated players in the Resa’s Pieces Concert Band knowing that in the rooms down the hall Resa's Pieces Strings and Resa's Pieces Singers are having an equal experience with Phil and Robert. Between the three ensembles, we now have a total of over 150 enthusiastic people – who every week are experiencing the joy of having music back in their lives, doing their best, and having FUN! This is MY dream come true!!