It’s like music to their ears in Brentwood Bay

Brentwood School of Music in tune for more than 40 years.

Levi Viinikka

Music has helped Jennifer Viinikka’s children develop great study habits at home.

For that, and for many other reasons, her three kids take lessons at Brentwood School of Music.

“Our home is like a family recital,” she says. “Even the international student we’re hosting plays the drums.”

Mom waits in the small lobby of the Brentwood School of Music in Brentwood Bay, which has been in operation for more than 40 years. Much of the building is portioned off into smaller studios for piano, guitar, voice and more. Faint sounds of those instruments and the instructors filter throughout the place. Viinikka enjoys a paperback novel while her kids scurry to and from their lessons.

“The school has been so wonderful,” she says, adding she enjoys sitting there.

Her son Levi started in the school’s Orff Program, which is designed to introduce musical instruments to young children. At 10,  five years after starting on the piano, Levi is now learning to play the electric guitar with instructor Mike Preston.

Levi’s sister Anya soon joined in, taking piano lessons and bringing with her a friend, Alexa.

Viinikka’s third child, daughter Kasi, is now also learning to play the piano.

“Our whole family is very musical.”

Brentwood School of Music owner Carrie Dujela started teaching music with her parents, who worked for Lann Copeland’s school on Oldfield Road. She took her own lessons as well, becoming an accomplished musician.

Copeland would eventually open a downtown Victoria music school and sold the Central Saanich school to Dujela’s family, who moved it to Brentwood Bay.

“We started in two small houses (next to their current location),” she says. “We would eventually have to build a new building. That was taking a big risk.”

That was in around 1988, she says. Since then, they’ve grown considerably to today’s estimated 400-plus students and 14 instructors.

Dujela has also seen a lot of change over those years. At one time, they leased out space in the music school building — but that’s almost unnecessary now. The school has expanded within its walls a few times — and Dujela says there are plans to make further changes in the near future.

One of the biggest impacts came when they introduced their Rock Band programs, she says. More space for larger groups was needed, so more walls came down.

What has kept them going all these years, Dujela continues, are the people.

“That has been our emphasis over the years. The kids are coming here to have fun and if they’re not, we lose them.”

Yet, she says they are more successful than not in introducing music in a positive way into people’s lives.

“We have had some students that have become teachers here,” she says, adding other students have grown up and are now bringing their kids to the school.

“We always try to instill a love of music in their lives. When we see it come through when new generations come here, well that’s why we keep going.”

Niah Davis and Zoé Johnston are two young students at Brentwood School of Music. They both love singing and wanted to improve their voices and their confidence.

“I started singing in Grade 4 in talent shows,” Davis says. “I wanted to learn how to master my voice.”

Johnston started in piano lessons and soon found she enjoyed singing along. So, after eight years on the ivories, she is taking a break and using her voice. Both girls say they have learned new things about themselves and how to reach the highs and lows of singing the type of music they like (folk/pop for Davis and musicals for Johnston). They say they’re not sure if they’ll turn singing into careers, but expect music to be in their lives for a long time.

Rebecca Battilana, a Grade 12 student at Stelly’s Secondary School, has been at the music school for 14 years. Recently, Battilana  appeared in Stelly’s presentation of Band Geeks, a musical.

“I don’t ever want to lose what I’ve gotten from music,” she says, adding it’s always helped relieve the day’s stresses. “It’s been a good part of my life.”

Up-and-coming singer Lara Beattie, 8, is learning God Help the Outcasts for the upcoming Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival in April. She says she’s working through her nervousness to be able to perform in front of a lot of people. Her instructor, Olivia Selig, is a soprano and has been on stage many times. She is sure to be able to help Beattie overcome any stage fright she might have.

Beattie, too, worked her way into voice lessons after learning on the piano for a few years. That represents how being exposed to many instruments and music styles can encourage people to take on new challenges.

Dujela notes the school isn’t just for children. There are many adults that come to hone their skills — or even learn an instrument for the first time.

And when they do gain new and better skills, the students are invited to put them to the test. Each year, Dujela says the Brentwood School of Music holds a series of concerts. A dozen of those are for the different Rock Band program classes and they start in June.

“The students and instructors have a blast at these concerts,” Dujela says. “The kids are always planning big things for their friends and the teachers encourage that.”

Again, it’s all about having fun and that means it’s all about the music.

To learn more about the Brentwood School of music, visit brentwoodschoolofmusic.com.