April 18th, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 16
Kirk Muspratt awarded Conductor of the Year
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Submitted photo
Rev. Nicky Keyworth (front row, fourth from left) was ordained into the priesthood in the Anglican church on April 8 at the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer in downtown Calgary. Rev. Keyworth is now serving in a joint ministry at the Grace Anglican United Church in Blairmore.
Pass Herald Reporter
Although he was only 16 years old when he left Crowsnest Pass to pursue his studies, Kirk Muspratt has fond childhood memories of music in the mountains, an element that he credits as a critical factor in exposing him to music that led to a very successful and applauded professional career in orchestra.

Along with his expert musical prowess and sincere effort to outreach with audiences both young and old, it’s plain to see why music director and conductor Kirk Muspratt was selected to receive the Conductor of the Year in the professional orchestra category by the Illinois Council of Orchestras.

“It was a complete surprise. You have to be nominated by several people and I had no idea that I was even nominated,” says Muspratt. “It's an honour and a privilege to be recognized by your colleagues and I hope that it helps raise the profile of the orchestra and more people come to the orchestra.”

Since 2004, Muspratt has been the music director with the New Philharmonic Orchestra and the Dupage Opera Theatre, the former of which was the recipient of the 2017 Illinois Council of Orchestras’ Professional Orchestra of the Year Award.

For almost 20 years, he has also been the music director with the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra and through that collective, he has brought music to outdoor concert venues across Northwest Indiana as the lead of the widely popular South Shore Summer Music Festival.

In 2007, the maestro was named Chicagoan of the Year in the arts and entertainment category by Chicago Tribune classical music critic John von Rhein.
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But even among international critical acclaim, the maestro has never forgotten his roots.

“People say to me all the time, ‘Your dad was a coal miner. He didn’t finish high school. And your mom was an English teacher," he says. "How come you're an orchestra conductor in Chicago, coming from this really out-of-the-way place?’”

But this little “out-of-the-way” place had a profound impact on Muspratt’s life.

“It's in my blood every single day. It’s such a magical place because of the people, the beauty of the nature and the history that is so powerful there,” he says. “If you come to Chicago and you come for a concert and I say, ‘This is a person from the Crowsnest Pass’, everybody in the audience will start rolling their eyes going, ‘Oh no, are we getting another lecture about the Crowsnest Pass and how amazing it is?’”

The memories that Muspratt has of Crowsnest Pass are of music all around. He has stories of performing at elementary school in his Sunday shoes and plastic bowtie, or of Nettie Kinnear's piano performance while she was babysitting that left him mesmerized enough to sit still for longer than a minute.

“I tell people that God absolutely put me down in the perfect place, in a heaven of a place, at the right time,” says Muspratt. “There was music all around me and every kid had piano lessons. Then we have the festivals. No one went to school for a week! I didn't ever want to be a conductor but I certainly had all the tools to go on to music school and it was sort of destined. I was there, in an unlikely place that was packed with music.”

His own experience and exposure to sound at such a young age is part of what inspires his work with youth and schools.

There’s the “Side-by-Side” program he started where youth orchestras are paired with the Northwest Indiana Symphony and receive guidance from a member of the orchestra or Muspratt himself. This is a unique opportunity for students to ask questions, learn from professionals and, ultimately, perform a piece of music in tandem with a professional orchestra.
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He calls it “utter mayhem” from the production side, setting up and moving chairs, installing risers and placing lighting in just the right spot, but in his eyes, each effort is worth the potential to plant a seed of inspiration in a young person.

"If you give a young person the right garden to grow in, if there is something there, they will grow. But if there's no garden, there's no way. It creates opportunity, joy, beauty and fun,” he says. “Those kids are doing something together, something beautiful, something fun and it's not just learning their ABCs, which is very important, but this is something that is amazing, uplifting, generous and kind. They are getting in touch with themselves.”

And it’s not just youth that Muspratt wants to forge a musical connection with. He’s made it a mis sion to connect with his audience by making orchestral music more accessible and down-to-earth. That’s the purpose of his popular "Just Ask Kirk" and "Cookies With Kirk" post-reception social events where audience members have a chance to meet, interact with and pick the brains of Muspratt and the orchestra in a relaxed environment over treats and beverages.

Muspratt presented an appealing aspiration of his to present a concert with the Calgary Philharmonic at the Coleman Sportsplex.

“We could do it on a weekend when nothing else is going on in the Pass, pack the place, attract people from out of town…” ponders Muspratt.

But the idea goes further than just a musical event. Muspratt envisions doing master classes with the kids, raising money for scholarships for musical scholarships for kids or community institutions like the Frank Interpretive Centre.

He envisions it being an annual event that bolsters the Crowsnest Pass economy, packs local restaurants and, ultimately, is a win-win for both the community, which benefits economically and musically, and for the Calgary Philharmonic, which gets to share their art and conduct outreach.

It may have been some 30 years since Muspratt left the Pass, but if the week-long Crowsnest Pass Music Festival that took place not long ago proves anything, it's that Crowsnest Pass still has that same talent, appreciation and passion for music than it did when the maestro was a little boy.
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April 18th, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 16
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