When Faye Bontje and John Bogardus co-founded the King's College Orchestra in 2010, they had no idea how rapidly it would grow or the direction it would take.
They just knew they wanted to start an orchestra.
In less than two years, the orchestra has evolved into the non-profit Halifax Music Co-op. From its humble beginnings as a student orchestra of 30 people, the co-op now employs three full time and eight part time staff.
The co-op has also grown from its initial 30 players to more than 120 musicians who participate in three ensembles.
"When people came to audition, we noticed that some people, if they could get a little bit of help or training, they could go so far," Bontje said. "Many couldn't afford lessons growing up, or took lessons as a kid and 20 years went by, or got through high school and no longer had anywhere to play. It became a music program for all ages."
The organization is dedicated to providing ensemble music education for people of all ages and skill levels. It operates under the belief that music is a human right, and co-op members want to ensure everyone in HRM has the chance to learn and play.
"We are based on need. If 100 show up, we're starting two new ensembles," Bontje said. "We are an open door. There are fabulous music programs in Halifax but they have (limits) like age, skill level or another qualifier. We don't. We're the catch all."
The Halifax Music Co-op received non-profit status in July and is preparing to launch a season filled with music. This fall, the co-op will include an orchestra, wind ensemble, chamber orchestra, small-ensemble chamber music program and a $10 per hour subsidized lesson program.
The program is intergenerational, with participants ranging in age from 12 to two ‘grey heads.' Musicians come from across HRM and open auditions are being held Sept. 7 and 8 at the Anglican Church of the Apostles on Bayers Road.
"We hold open auditions but they aren't scary auditions. Their purpose is to make sure you'll have a good time and that we can provide for you," Bontje said. "Our motto is exceptions always apply..The auditions are for placement, getting to know you and figuring out where you are as a player."
Musicians need to have their own instruments, an idea how to play them, and a general knowledge of how to read music, although Bontje said "even that is flexible."
"Fun is a huge priority..Passion is highly important to us. If people come to rehearsal and give their all and play with everything they've got, that's passion," she said.
The co-op has 19 public concerts planned for this year, including Inventions 2012 scheduled for Oct. 15.