Retired Etobicoke educators Don Banks and his wife Barbara Hruska continue to nurture children’s dreams.
The central Etobicoke couple continue to financially contribute significantly to the Don Banks Music Award for Young Musicians run by Islington United Church, where the couple is members of the congregation.
This year’s third annual awards competition is open to instrumentalists and singers who are 10 years old as of Jan. 1, 2013 through to age 18 and still attending high school and are active in a school music program or who study privately.
Youth must live in Etobicoke or in Mississauga east of Hwy. 10 or have an Islington United Church affiliation, and not have won the competition previously.
Young musicians and singers compete in the categories of: vocal, piano, strings and winds/percussion.
“A lot of people made donations to the church in mine and my wife’s names,” Banks explained. “We recommended the money be set into a fund to allow children to compete in a music competition. My wife and I substantially added to it to sustain it for a bit. We’re both retired school teachers with the (former) Etobicoke Board of Education. We still care about kids.”
The fund finances as many as eight $200 awards for winning finalists each year, and pays for the services of competition adjudicators.
Live auditions take place the night of Friday, Feb. 8 and Saturday, Feb. 9 during the day at the church at 25 Burnhamthorpe Rd. just north of Dundas Street West.
Banks recalled the audition of Malindi Ayienga, an Etobicoke School of the Arts’ musical theatre student who went on last year to become a top 20 finalist following a Canada-wide audition tour for the role of Dorothy in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Canadian production of The Wizard of Oz.
“That young lady was very hesitant about participating (in the competition),” Banks recalled. “Her grandparents sit in front of us in church. She was one of one the top 20 Wizard of Oz finalists. It was so gratifying to see that happen. Even though she didn’t become Dorothy, her response was very upbeat, very positive.”
A short list of successful candidates will be posted on the church website on March 6.
Short-listed candidates will be invited to perform in a competition at Islington United Church on April 6.
On Sunday, April 7, selected winners will be invited to perform one of their two audition pieces for the Islington United Church congregation at either its 9:30 or 11:15 a.m. service.
“We’ve gotten some good responses to the program,” said John Wevers, who sits on the awards’ committee. “There are really talented kids coming out to compete. We can give the kids a chance to perform in public before an audience, which normally they wouldn’t have the opportunity to do. It’s good training if they go on to become musicians.”