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The Banff Centre: Canada's monument to the arts

What the internet has given to the arts, it has simultaneously taken away. Exposure is unlimited; unfortunately, piracy is rampant. Almost no form of entertainment has been immune to this fact. Music, film, photography, and other creative arts have been posted and downloaded in various forms without compensation to its creators. All of this leads one to wonder, where will the future of the arts reside? The very answer may be in Academia. The same system which produces future artists might be the key to allowing leaders in these different mediums to continue their own work while offering inspiration to neophytes. Many learning institutions have dabbled in this template but Canada’s Banff Centre has long been a leader in this approach. Founded in 1933 by the University of Alberta, Department of Extension, with a grant from the U.S.-based Carnegie Foundation; the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity began with a single course in drama and has evolved into a hub of many eclectic creative endeavors. This institution welcomes accomplished and vital artists from around the world to rub elbows and inspire via first-hand collaboration with the future of the creative world.

When Ned Corbett established the Banff School of Drama in the early 1900’s he likely had no premonition that it would become the internationally acclaimed entity that it is today. Embracing music, dance, photography, Opera, screenwriting, and other formats, this institution has brought such notable names as Oscar Peterson, Phil Nimmons, Aaron Copland, Agnes de Mille, and a collection of famed artists to share their talents and knowledge in addition to their performances.

The music program and performances of the Banff Centre are of particular note. The annual Banff International String Quartet Competition is acclaimed in the classical music community. Paying equal attention to modern music forms, the Banff Centre possesses renowned recording studios and hosts acclaimed artists to record in the Telus recording studio and the Rolston concert hall. Acclaimed recording engineer/music producer Fei Yu worked with lauded artist Daniel Lanois during his recording session at the Banff Centre. Their work together epitomizes so many benevolent traits of the Banff Centre as these two professionals from different countries and different generations collaborated on the sessions. The ensuing tracks produced exhibit the creativity that is sure to complement the Grammy’s received by other works of Lanois and give evidence to engineer/producers like Fei Yu (specifically selected by founder and director of Banff Centre’s Audio program Theresa Leonard for her consummate skill and talent in the field of recording) who are taking their place as facilitators of these works. Yu is known as a premier sound engineer, recording engineer, and music supervisor in the worlds of film and popular music. Highly talented professionals like Fei who work behind the scenes may not receive the public accolades of recording artists but are essential and vital to achieving the recordings of the name artists like Lanois.

There has always been an evolution to the arts and this also applies to how they are created and presented. Live performance may have given way to recordings but did not cause its extinction. A key factor in the continuation of the arts, no matter what form, has been an institution similar to the Banff Centre; one which inspires while also assimilating. The possible new aspect to these types of centers may be the inclusion of more “established” artists and professionals as a means of ensuring that those just beginning, those progressing, and those who are long celebrated may interact and endeavor to create the works which continue to fascinate the world.

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