When it came to fundraising for his music trip to Seattle, Jayden Rogers wanted to do something different than selling chocolates.
Strolling around Terrace, he noticed there weren’t any musicians playing live on the street, so he thought he’d challenge himself to play his viola for 21 continuous days to raise money and showcase how music can transform a place.
“I was thinking to myself, what’s a cool way to be able to fundraise? I wanted to give back to the community and since I play music and that’s like a gift, I thought it would be so cool if I played music in the North because that never happens here, I’ve never really seen stuff like that,” says Rogers, a grade 11 student from Centennial Christian School.
“I thought it’d be great if I was able to share Terrace too and people can see each of the special buildings that mean something to me.”
Posting on Youtube under his username ‘The Sound of the North’, Rogers pledged a 21-day musicthon challenge commencing Oct. 1. He played in a different location each day including downtown, Heritage Park Museum, Sherwood Mountain Brewery, Coast Mountain College and even dedicated a tribute to those who lost their lives in forestry at the Usk Church memorial.
For about three hours each day after school, Rogers would set up and film himself playing the viola. Then in the evenings, he would come home to practice a new song to play the next day.
“I had to learn different songs and practised to memorize them, it was hard,” he says. “I think I’ve really grown in particular with my repertoire though… that’s now 21 more songs I can play.”
He reflects that filming his 21-day journey made him more conscious of his work as he would review the videos and critique them to see how he can improve.
“It helped a lot with my growth as a musician because I was making sure to watch each video and really examine myself on what can I be doing better,” says Rogers. “I liked being able to look at the videos because it helped me see like ‘Oh, my bow might not be straight here’ or ‘I didn’t really like that tone that I was trying to go for.’”
Rogers says he began playing the viola alongside his father when he was four-years-old. Despite wanting to quit at times and hang out with his friends instead, he made an agreement with his parents that he wouldn’t stop until he was 12. When he could finally make a decision for himself, he realized he couldn’t imagine his life without playing music.
“In reality, I really did like playing. It was just that when you’re a kid, you’re not necessarily thinking about playing the viola, you’re more thinking about your teacher and the experience of that interaction,” Rogers explains. “For a time, my mom would have to force me to play… but what brought me back was that I just really liked music.”
Surpassing his father in viola, he now has to do his weekly lessons via Skype with an instructor in the Lower Mainland. He is also a University of Victoria music conservatory student, where he does courses online and goes down twice a year to check in on his progress.
“A struggle for me is that I actually can’t take lessons here, there’s nobody that’s at my level that’s qualified to teach me and when you’re not there physically in person, there’s that barrier,” says Rogers. “That’s why a lot of good musicians will go down to big cities because they have opportunities there.”
Rogers says there are a small number of musicians in northern B.C., so he often gets flown out to play with the Prince George Symphony to help the orchestra perform. He also teaches viola lessons to junior musicians in the area, which he’s happy to do as he shares his love for the instrument that sometimes is overshadowed by the violin.
“Viola strings are thicker, and it’s harder. So we like to move our hands back and we call it vibrato, it’s what makes this a beautiful tone,” he explains. “You have the dexterity of a violin but you’re getting more of a deep cello sound, and I really enjoyed that compared to violin because they sound a bit shrill.”
Alongside the viola, Rogers plays the piano, the guitar and has sung in his school musicals. He’s also picked up the clarinet in his school band.
And come next year, that band will travel to Seattle to play and learn about music in a metropolitan area known for its dynamic art scene.
“Seattle is definitely a hub in the United States when it comes to music, it’s more up to par compared to Canada,” Rogers says. “There are orchestras in Seattle that are more qualified, I’m just super excited about being able to go to the United States and play in a different place.”
Already a grade ahead at his age, he’s nervous about graduating in his next academic year because he recognizes that he has to leave home to pursue his dreams. Rogers says although he wants to become a doctor, he would still like to continue playing music professionally.
“I do feel that strain of slight anxiety because I don’t really want to leave here, I really like being in the North… but if I wanted to become a professional musician, I don’t think there’s any way that I could do that by living here.”
So far, he has raised almost $1,500 for his Seattle trip, which he says will also help him fund another school trip to Ottawa. With many changes in the near future to fret about with school, Rogers says he’s focused on music, which helps ground him.
“That’s the good thing about music, it definitely teaches you discipline which is a life asset,” Rogers says. “And when I hear something beautiful, it always gives me goosebumps.”