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Perfect fit for 'music geek girl'

Kreviazuk grateful for opportunity at U of W's Collegiate

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Collegiate alumna Chantal Kreviazuk received an honorary doctorate from the U of W on Wednesday.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Collegiate alumna Chantal Kreviazuk received an honorary doctorate from the U of W on Wednesday. Photo Store

You take a Grade 12 student named Chantal Kreviazuk, a University of Winnipeg Collegiate English language arts class, and an idea dreamed up by a self-described "weirdo music geek girl."

Out of that comes the inspiration to pursue a Juno Award-winning music career and a natural choice to introduce what Lloyd Axworthy gushingly dubbed "a very major new dimension to the University of Winnipeg Collegiate."

Staff and students filled Convocation Hall at the U of W on Wednesday to hear the official announcement that the collegiate will expand into a renovated Bryce Hall with a wide-ranging performing arts program of credit courses in band, choral music and dance.

The Manitoba Conservatory of Music will move onto the campus and be part of the mix, expected to attract at least 50 new students in September.

Kreviazuk, a 1990 collegiate grad, was guest of honour, and later received an honorary doctorate degree.

Said president Axworthy: "She's probably the only singing doctor we have in the province."

Back up a few decades, to when Kreviazuk left Balmoral Hall School after Grade 11, feeling academically fatigued and thinking maybe she wouldn't mind classroom exposure to the opposite sex.

"When I came to the collegiate, I was just done with education," she reminisced. "I was a little bit overwhelmed. I'm grateful to the collegiate -- the collegiate didn't yell at me. It allowed me to fail and do terribly and get things wrong" and gave her the opportunity to get things right, said Kreviazuk.

Then came English language arts class, and Kreviazuk had an idea for her project: to bring her keyboard to class and perform Pink Floyd songs.

Her teacher said yes.

"I will never forget that opportunity," she said. With the new performing arts programs. "Now people can come with that opportunity every day."

The collegiate allows students to be themselves, Kreviazuk said.

While recently restored Convocation Hall was mothballed in her day, the collegiate otherwise looks just the same, Kreviazuk said in an interview.

"It really does feel just like home," she said. "It's got great energy."

As the collegiate is a private school that does not receive capital funding from the province, its foundation is covering the cost of renovating Bryce Hall. Axworthy noted if anyone wants to contribute to fundraising, he'd be glad to accept their money.

"It will have a major influence on the entire institution," he said. "It will provide a new definition to this institution for many years to come."

Collegiate dean Robert Bend said next fall there will be a junior and senior jazz band, junior and senior choir, and jazz dance as a first phase.

The collegiate will expand those programs, Bend said, by meeting with arts groups throughout the downtown to identify common goals.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 27, 2014 A2

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