Local talent shines at Festival of the Arts

Greg Vandermeulen


Piano remains a popular part of the Winkler Festival of the Arts which is set to get underway April 11.
The annual event which allows musicians and singers to share their talents and be adjudicated will have 354 piano entries.
President Dorothy Plett said this year the Vocal/Choral portion will be held April 11-12.  The Vocal/Choral Celebration Concert will take place Thursday April 12 at 7 p.m. and like all the events will take place at the P.W. Enns Centennial Concert Hall. The concert will feature the NPC Senior Choir, award winners from this year’s festival, Orlando & Grace Sukkau and more.
The piano portion of the festival takes place Friday April 13 and April 16-20 thanks to the high number of entries.
This year’s piano event will feature a primarily sacred evening on Monday, April 16 beginning at 6:30 p.m.
The following night’s sessions will include advanced pianists, including a Chopin Concerto (two grand pianos on stage). “We’re excited about that,” Plett said.
Thursday, April 19 beginning at 6:30 p.m. will be a duet evening. Twenty-four duet entries will range from beginner to adult.
The festival will conclude with a concert style awards night on April 20, giving people a chance to hear the highlights. Two awards portions will be held, one beginning at 6 p.m. and the other at 7:45 p.m.
There is no admission to attend, but donations are accepted at the door. The program can be found at winklerfestivalofthearts.com or can be purchased for $4 at J.B. Music or at the door.
Vocal/Choral - Rick Heppner-Mueller
Rick Heppner Mueller has taught music at Mennonite Collegiate Institute in Gretna for the past 20 years.  He conducts their Chamber Choir and Concert Choir as well as the vocal jazz groups Resonate and Illuminate.  MCI puts on a major musical production every March and under his direction in 2012, the production of Pirates of Penzance received the prestigious Rainbow Stage award for outstanding high school production and then again in 2014 for Beauty and the Beast.
 Outside of school he is active as a guest conductor and choral clinician throughout Manitoba having directed the Intermediate, Senior, and Women’s Provincial Honor Choirs, Westman Youth Choir, Central Manitoba Youth Choir and Eastman Youth Choir. Rick was also the choral adjudicator for the Steinbach festival this past spring.  Rick is still a singer at heart and has appeared as a tenor soloist with the University of Manitoba Singers, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Mennonite Oratorio Choir, the Winnipeg Singers, and Prairie Performances.
We are pleased to be able to have two adjudicators join us for the piano sessions this year. Loren will be the adjudicator on April 13th while Tracey will adjudicate the following week’s sessions.
Piano - Loren Hiebert
Loren Hiebert grew up in rural Saskatchewan, Kansas, and Manitoba. His early musical influences were hymn-singing and southern gospel music. His piano teachers have included Glenn Loewen, Donald Henry, Jenny Regehr, and Joan Passey. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in music, and A.R.C.T. diplomas in Piano Performance and Piano Teaching.
Since 1980, Loren has been a music teacher in the Altona/Morden/Winkler area, with a large and active studio. His students have excelled at local festivals, and have been awarded numerous scholarships at the provincial level. Loren has adjudicated in music festivals across Manitoba and western Ontario. He is also a member of the International Music Camp piano faculty.
Loren has been the accompanist for numerous individuals and groups, including the Faith and Life Male Choir and Canzona. In addition, he is active as a chamber musician in various other classical and jazz combinations.
Loren has made four recordings with violinist Rosemary Siemens. In November of 2009, Loren and Rosemary performed in several concerts to release their most recent CD “Gospel” which raised over $33,000 for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. October of 2011 saw the release of a third CD of German Hymns sung by the acclaimed choral ensemble “Canzona” with Loren at the piano.
Loren and his wife Lori live in Altona.
Piano - Tracey Regier Sawatzky
Tracey has been an avid piano instructor over the last twenty years, maintaining large teaching studios in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Illinois, Ohio, and Paraguay.  She has also developed a career accompanying a variety of soloists and choirs.  After winning the Saskatchewan Valley Rose Bowl as a young pianist, Tracey moved to Winnipeg to continue her piano studies.  Tracey received her Bachelor of Church Music degree in piano performance from Canadian Mennonite Bible College, and then transferred to Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo where she earned an Honours BMus degree with high distinction.  She studied vocal and instrumental accompanying with Beth Ann de Sousa and Leslie De’Ath, and Piano Pedagogy with Terry Kroetsch at the Beckett School of Music.  Former piano teachers include, Kathleen Bender, Jean Broadfoot, Marjorie Beckett, and Jamie Parker.
Tracey currently is a faculty member in the music department of Providence University College in Otterburne, MB where she teaches piano and keyboard skills, coaches instrumental ensembles and is the Administrator for the Providence Performing Arts School.  She also teaches piano through the Community School of Music at Canadian Mennonite University and maintains an active private piano and theory teaching studio.  Tracey is an active member of the Manitoba Registered Music Teachers Association as well as the Canadian Music Teacher’s Association.  She is an active church pianist and loves to accompany various choirs.  Tracey’s students have gone on to do exceptionally well in music festivals, achieved top honours with the Royal Conservatory of Music in piano and theory examinations, and have won at the Piano Concerto Competition held annually by the University of Manitoba Preparatory Studies.   Tracey enjoys giving masterclasses and teaching students of all ages and levels.  It is a joy for her to see the musical growth in each student.
When Tracey is not teaching or accompanying, she spends her time travelling, gardening, and being with her husband, David, and daughter Mikayla.
Biographies courtesy of the Winkler Festival of the Arts