My, how 25 years can pass

Tim Tamashiro has performed for Queen Elizabeth II, three Canadian prime ministers and former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani, but in the fall of 1986 he had yet to discover his singing voice.

The RDC Arts Centre has hosted a wide list of productions

Tim Tamashiro has performed for Queen Elizabeth II, three Canadian prime ministers and former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani, but in the fall of 1986 he had yet to discover his singing voice.

That changed shortly after the then-22-year-old walked through the doors at Red Deer College as part of the first class of students to train at the Arts Centre when it opened 25 years ago.

The notable baritone enrolled as a piano major but said he developed a passion for jazz during his two years at the college — especially in Ken Mallet’s music appreciation and show choir classes. So he switched to be a voice major.

“That was the jacket that I put on that really seemed like it fit,” said Tamashiro, who now lives in Calgary and hosts CBC Radio 2’s jazz program Tonic. “I found my voice through my voice, and it really enhanced my career greatly.”

The Blackfalds native remembers how “pristine” everything was in the new facility, particularly the array of musical instruments that students had full access to.

Tamashiro credited his hands-on education — which included producing an entire show, from song selection and lighting — with advancing his professional singing career.

“The education was greatly enhanced by the amount of hands-on stuff that you did.

“You never know where extraordinary careers are going to come from . . . I was just very proactive when it came to my career. That’s the one thing that I learned in college, what you put in you get back out,” said Tamashiro, who has released four albums, one book and is also included on an Alberta compilation CD for the Smithsonian Institute.

“If there’s one thing I can say about Red Deer College, it is that the program is there to nurture talent. So go ahead, nurture your talent.”

Tamashiro said his fondest college memories, however, are the friendships he developed and continues to have today.

Another alumni who was part of the Arts Centre’s first class shared that sentiment.

Kimmy Beach said meeting her husband, Stuart Beach, was the best thing to happen while she attended RDC in the mid 1980s.

The Red Deer poet enrolled in the theatre program at the age of 19 and trained as a stage manager. It was in that role that she got to know Stuart, who was an actor.

Blossoming as a writer, however, was another perk that came from her studies.

Beach was hired as a stage manager at RDC once she completed her program but she eventually grew tired of that work.

So she decided to pursue a writing career in 1993.

Beach used her backstage experiences as inspiration to write a collection of narrative poems about theatre life in her second book, Alarum Within.

That book was adapted by Red Deer College students for a stage production in 2005.

“It was extremely surreal,” she said. “It was a great honour.”

Even though Beach said her theatre days are long behind her, she still has many great memories from her early years at the Arts Centre — one being the first play she managed, The Music Man.

“I think it was a roaring success, as I recall,” Beach said. “I seem to recall it being packed to the rafters every night.”

The Arts Centre’s first season was definitely a successful one.

Eleven of the 16 paid ticket performances during the grand opening arts festival either sold out or nearly sold out. Three sold out on the first day of sales.

More than 36,000 tickets were sold during the first season, at a time when Red Deer had a population of just 54,000.

“The Arts Centre has always, in my view, been a monument to the art drive in this community of Central Alberta,” said Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling.

Flewwelling was a first-term city councillor for part of the seven years he chaired the Red Deer College Arts Centre Planning and Building Committee in the 1970s.

He said the local post-secondary institution had a strong performing art division but it needed a facility to truly thrive. And such an arts complex was expected to be a boon for the community, Flewwelling added.

A provincial grant worth $10 million made it possible to build the centre that includes a theatre, rehearsal hall and school of music. The city contributed upwards of $500,000.

The committee’s proposal to also include an art gallery and a 1,200-seat concert hall didn’t make the budget cut. The 1980s recession also resulted in a delay of construction as the company hired to build the facility suffered financially.

Still, Flewwelling said is proud that he was part of the committee that pushed for the creation of the Arts Centre.

“I look back on it as a very significant accomplishment.”

The Arts Centre houses Red Deer College’s theatre, music and motion arts programs, as well as the Conservatory of Music and Dance. More than 40,000 actors, technicians, musicians, filmmakers and dancers have trained at the facility since it officially opened on Oct. 17, 1986.

In addition to being a classroom for aspiring artists, the facility has hosted more than 5,000 local and international performances over the years. This includes plays, musicals, concerts, dance, opera, ballet, forums, recording sessions and television productions.

The Arts Centre is also the base for the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this season.

And iconic country group Nitty Gritty Dirt Band recorded its Live Two Five album during three consecutive performances at the Arts Centre in March 1991.

The Arts Centre 25th anniversary celebrations will coincide with Alberta Arts Days. Weekend activities and showcases start on Friday and will highlight alumni and local artists.

Come out and celebrate!

Red Deer College will kick off a year-long celebration to mark the Arts Centre’s 25th anniversary with a weekend of music, stage productions and activities from Friday to Sunday.

• Alumni at the Mainstage will feature a CD release by the Heartbroke Heroes and special guests starting at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.

• Community at the Mainstage will feature dancing, music, live theatre and art from the winners of the Performing Arts Open Call Competition starting at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. Alumni Tim Tamashiro will act as the master of ceremony at this event.

• Families at the Mainstage will feature an interactive family concert and activities, including a musical petting zoo starting at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

• Canola Project Experiment 4: Harvesting will be held in downtown on Sunday. The project features the interdisciplinary happenings between Red Deer College faculty, alumni and special guests from rural and urban Alberta. This event will be held at 6 p.m. and people are asked to meet Veterans Park on the corner of Ross Street and 49 Avenue.

Admission into the Mainstage showcases are free with a donation to the Red Deer Food Bank.

A variety of other events are planned to carry the celebration onwards to August 2012.

— copyright Red Deer Advocate

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