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VIDEO: Emotional ‘Standing Tall’ award moment for Surrey student musician

Prior to death, Evan MacNamara’s father wrote Coast Capital Savings with a request to help his son
Surrey resident Evan MacNamara, 20, received a Standing Tall Award from Coast Capital Savings last year. (YouTube photo)

It’s Youth Week in B.C. from May 1-7, a fine time to celebrate the accomplishments of young adults like Surrey’s Evan MacNamara.

The 20-year-old is pursuing a career in music at Douglas College with the help of a $5,000 Standing Tall education award he earned from Coast Capitals Savings last fall.

A percussionist since Grade 7, MacNamara wants to eventually become a music teacher, “but I’m not sure how that looks just yet,” he admitted.

In giving him the education award, Coast Capital calls the Sullivan-area resident an extraordinary young man who has overcome so much throughout his life. He is the epitome of why the awards were launched, to help youth who have been through monumental challenges pursue their dreams.

MacNamara was born with arthrogryposis, which prevents muscles and tendons from keeping up with the rate bones are growing.

The condition hasn’t stopped him from playing jazz music or basketball, two of MacNamara’s passions.

MacNamara’s story is told in a five-minute video posted to PixelMotionFilm’s YouTube channel. In the clip, Maureen Young, Coast Capital’s director of community leadership, reads him a letter written to her in 2011 by MacNamara’s father, Kelly, who died later that year.

MacNamara’s father appealed to the institution to consider him for an education award, which materialized nine years later.

“I’ve never forgotten that letter,” Young says in the video, which captures an emotional moment for both her and award recipient.

“It was really cool to have people be so supportive in every way,” MacNamara said of the award, “and just the way it was presented, with the letter my dad wrote.”

In his first year at Douglas, MacNamara’s music classes are a mix of online and in-person studies.

“We livestream concerts on Zoom, and we have a theatre at Douglas where we can be on stage and spread out there, safely,” he explained.

“This is my first year in the program, which is two years and then we can transfer to different school, for our bachelors (degree),” he added. “I’m not sure what school I want to go to yet, maybe UVic. This is just a start.”

In 2018, while MacNamara was at Sullivan Heights Secondary, he was among 20 student musicians given the inaugural Werner and Helga Höing Award during a Vancouver Symphony Orchestra concert at Bell Performing Arts Centre.

One student from each secondary school in the city was nominated by their music teacher for excellence in music, leadership and community involvement, according to a VSO news release at the time.

For details about B.C.’s Youth Week, visit

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Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news stories for the Surrey Now-Leader, where I've worked for more than half of my 30-plus years in the newspaper business.
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