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Viola player soars on a crescendo of gratitude

October 27, 2014

Viola player soars on a crescendo of gratitude
“Receiving the award inspires me to work hard and appreciate school, and to give back wherever I can,” says Katie McBean, recipient of the 2013/14 Parents Fund Award in Music.

Katie McBean never plays second fiddle to anyone.

“As a kid, I took violin lessons, but when I wanted to be part of a string quartet I couldn’t find anyone who played the viola, so I switched,” says Katie, a third-year music education student at Western, who now boasts about being a violist.

“I like to impress people with the viola,” she adds, with a smirk, “because it’s often the forgotten part of the string section, but it plays an important role as the middle voice in an orchestra, the voice that fills out the sound.”

Playing within an orchestra is Katie’s favourite part of being a musician. As a teenager, she spent three summers performing and training with the National Youth Orchestra, which at the time was based at Western in the Don Wright Faculty of Music. Back in her hometown, she has played on stage with the Saskatoon Symphony.

“I love to play in as many orchestras and ensembles as possible,” says Katie, who received The Parents’ Fund Award in Music in 2013/2014. “When all the parts of an orchestra come together to make music, it’s an amazing experience.”

Those music-making experiences have been amplified since Katie came to Western in September 2013. She had previously attended university in Saskatchewan for a year, but admittedly her “heart wasn’t in it.” So, with a friend, she travelled to Nepal to volunteer at an orphanage. Playing with and teaching the children confirmed her desire to teach music – and that led her back to Western, this time as a student.

“Being here at Western, I feel like I’m part of a family being surrounded by incredible professors who are sincerely interested in my education, and by amazing and passionate performers,” she says. “They make me want to go to school.”

Katie’s time at Western benefits from another family – the supporters of The Parents’ Fund. Their generosity makes her education feasible. “I know those who give are providing me with the best opportunity and they want me to succeed,” she says. “Receiving the award inspires me to work hard and appreciate school, and to give back wherever I can.”

Her giving back includes teaching for a string instrument program for underprivileged elementary school students in London, and volunteering as a student peer for first-year music students.

“I work hard to accomplish my goals, but I haven’t always been like this,” says Katie. “The generosity from donors and my education at Western have given me this amazing graciousness and confidence – and happiness. My music, teachers, donors and peers, all of these people are making me extraordinary.”

This article appeared in the 2014 edition of Western's Parent Connection
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