Music is everything to Jana Weir, which isn’t surprising considering she has been playing since she was only six months old, after her parents put a little toy saxophone in her crib.
“I started playing before I could walk or talk,” Weir says, and she doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. In addition to the toy saxophone, she began piano lessons at age three, and proceeded to learn the clarinet, bass clarinet, guitar, flute, trumpet, and real saxophone throughout her school band career.
“I like being able to say I play anything, and if you need any of these, I’ll play it,” she says. It was difficult for her to pinpoint her favourite, but she finally decided on the bass clarinet.
“I just like the sound,” she says. “There’s just these moments when you’re playing that you get lost in the music and you wake up three minutes later and you’re still playing, and it’s just the coolest feeling, [as if ] you get lost in a trance.”
Weir, who grew up in Prince Rupert, has come to VIU to study and play both her clarinet and bass clarinet in the Classical Music program. Though she is a long way from home, she says she doesn’t feel homesick or out of place.
“I find that VIU’s music community [is] a family,” she says. “Which is what I needed the first time living away from home. It’s not hard because I have a family here.”
Weir says that throughout high school she had planned on going into sciences and studying to be a vet. However, she realized music was something that made her truly happy and that she could do it for more than 20 hours a day and still love it. After some deep thought she decided to commit full-time to music in university, and she says she is extremely satisfied with her choice of schools.
Her favourite thing about being part of the VIU music community is jamming with other students. She says it’s phenomenal that she has the opportunity to see “other people loving what I love” on a daily basis, and that she enjoys meeting a wide variety of students in the department who come from a vast span of backgrounds, yet all share a common passion. She says she learns as much from her fellow students as she does from her professors, and she seems to teach as much as she learns.
“I wake up thinking, ‘Hey, I’m excited to go to school today!’” she says, which is impressive considering her massive course load. She is taking 10 courses, including English, Anthropology, and Psychology as well as designated courses in the Music program. She also practices her instruments for at least two and a half hours a day, aiming for 21 hours per week. For anyone else, this might be a lot to handle, but Jana says she is used to the work. She says that in her last year of high school she took 14 courses in total, and was actively involved in a number of bands, including high school concert and jazz bands, and community and pit bands, where she played several musicals, such as Footloose and Hairspray.
Weir says that after the two year program at VIU she is planning to transfer to UVic where she can continue pursuing her Bachelor of Arts in Music. After that, she says she wants to teach high school band or else continue her education overseas, possibly in Norway, and go for her PhD in Classical Theory. She also hopes to one day perform in ensembles such as the Vancouver Island Wind Ensemble or the Vancouver Island Symphony and says her dream concert would be to play both her clarinet and bass clarinet at the Disney Theatre in L.A.
“I want to perform for everybody, reach out to as many people as I possibly can: not just to get my name out there, I enjoy influencing people through music,” Weir says. She remembers a recent time where she was at Long & McQuade trying out a new mouthpiece on one of the store’s clarinets. She was improvising, “ripping up and down the clarinet,” and the customers in the store gravitated towards her to listen. “I stopped, and they were like, ‘No! Keep playing!’” she says. It is this feeling of belonging that makes it evident that music is the right path for her to follow, and she says that being a part of the VIU music community helps her to achieve that feeling.
Though her home town is over 1100 kilometres away, leaving was not a difficult decision for Weir. She says she had come to a point in her life where she was ready to take off and “spread my wings and fly,” and it seems like the VIU Music department was the perfect place for her to land.