In memory of Tanya Prochazka

Guest post by Jennifer West (‘05 BA), artistic director of Müzewest Concerts

Reposted with permission from Müzewest Concerts
Feature image shot by John Ulan at the Stollery Children’s Hospital.

My heart sunk as I learned the news last week, that Tanya Prochazka, cellist and conductor, had passed away. She had taught for many years at the University of Alberta’s Department of Music.  It had been more than a decade since I had seen her and been under her baton as an extremely amateur violinist.  During that decade, she had battled courageously against cancer.

What I learned from watching Tanya conduct concerts for over five years and by playing in orchestra under her for one year changed me as a musician and a person.

Tanya’s energy was contagious and revitalizing. Orchestra rehearsals were from seven to nine in the evening. We would arrive absolutely exhausted from the day of studies and classes. However, as soon as we started tuning up, the energy changed.

Making music under Tanya was magical. She demanded passion and commitment and she let us know when we weren’t giving enough to the score. The finished product of her concerts were always impeccable and brought audiences to their feet.  She inspired countless young musicians to discover orchestral and chamber music at an in depth level.  Most importantly, Tanya gave students a chance to reach their potential as human beings and musicians. (The two are certainly inseparable.)

In this period of mourning, I grieve for the loss of a great musician and teacher. However, I also grieve for those times of inspiration. My heart longs to return to the halls of the Fine Arts Building in Edmonton and chat with my friends before and after rehearsal. I long to attend my friends’ undergraduate recitals in warm halls filled with familiar faces. Believe it or not, I wish for cold winters and walking through campus in the snow to get to concerts.

Tanya Prochazka’s passing has made it all too real for me that the stage of life I spent with friends at the music department at the University of Alberta is truly gone. That wonderful group of people will never be in the same place at the same time again. However, we can all continue to honour the memory of Tanya and the time we spent with her. We can refuse to play a note unless it is with absolute conviction and we can refuse to settle for anything less than any musical score demands of us. Tanya taught us to celebrate music and to respect our colleagues.

Let us go forth and pass on her legacy to our students and to all those with whom we have the honour of working.

Rest in peace, Tanya.

Jennifer West (‘05 BA)

Jennifer West

@Westjet007 on Twitter

Jennifer began studying the piano at the age of nine in Red Deer with Ruth Neufeld. She continued her studies in Edmonton at the Alberta College Conservatory of Music with well-respected teacher Glenda Murphy. Through the University of Alberta and the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto, Jennifer completed all theory examinations (including Harmony, Anaylsis, and Counterpoint), receiving First Class Honours with Distinction in History.

While maintaining a strong interest in music at the University of Alberta, Jennifer graduated in 2005 with a Bachelor of Arts Honours in Political Science and also received a Certificate in Globalization Studies. Her minor was Music History and Piano Literature.

Upon moving to Vancouver, Jennifer began studying piano pedagogy with John Wiebe at the West Point Grey School of Music. She completed her both her Elementary and Intermediate Piano Pedagogy Certificates, receiving First Class Honours in 2009 and 2014, respectively.  Since then, she has maintained a busy schedule teaching Elementary French Immersion full time in BC public schools and teaching piano privately.

Currently, Jennifer is continuing her piano studies with Bernard Duerksen at the VSO School of Music.  She has also been mentored by Professor Mark Anderson at the University of British Columbia.  She is the artistic director of a new chamber music series in Vancouver — Müzewest Concerts. Follow Müzewest Concerts on Facebook and @Muzewest on Twitter.