MELANIE MINTY: Surrey’s piano man makes music ring at 46-year Newton landmark

Estimated 30,000 students have started their musical experience at Carillon

Roy Hepworth at Carillon Music: “Newton has been good to us and for this

SURREY — Newton is looking to become the cultural and entertainment hub for Surrey. Philip Aguirre, president of Newton Business Improvement Association and owner of the Old Surrey Restaurant, is quite focused on this project. Although he also envisions a minor-league hockey team and a vibrant community, Aguirre says, “We need a hub, a base. We want Newton to be that hub.”

The mandate for the Newton BIA has four pillars: safety, area enhancement, government relations, and events and marketing. Of course, the businesses will benefit, and there are already several arts-based businesses in the area.

Carillon Music opened in Newton in 1970 and, three moves later, its piano-shaped building has been a landmark on King George Boulevard since 1987.

“We have always dedicated ourselves to excellence in teaching music,” said founder and owner Roy Hepworth.

Many years ago, my son started learning music in the preschool program there. The program tapped into a natural talent that I did not know my son possessed.

They had 49 students the year it was introduced and 117 by the second year, some coming from Abbotsford and others from Bellingham. It’s estimated Carillon has had more than 30,000 students start their musical experience there, impacting many lives and creating a solid space for the arts in Newton.

Hepworth is passionate about bringing music into the lives of children. He remembers so many students with stories to tell. He recalls one young lad who kept up his organ lessons, even though he was clearly near the bottom of his class. His dad kept encouraging him and said, “You’ll get better”  – and he did. After six or so years of staying faithful to his lessons, he won the music competition that year. Maybe it is true, then, that practice makes perfect.

Then there is the story of young Frankie, who was put into piano lessons at age five. “He cried through all his lessons,” Hepworth recalled. But his single-parent foster mom kept bringing him to classes. Now in his early 20s, Frankie is studying music at an American university and is a concert pianist.

Hepworth did not originally have a music business in mind for his future; he had been a helicopter pilot, and flying was a passion of his. He had hoped to open a helicopter business, but praises be, that wasn’t a viable option, so he began Carillon Music. Glad he did.

There have been challenges over the years, for sure. Just because you have a passion for music and know it is a good thing for the community doesn’t mean it is always going to be an easy path to follow. Today, the challenge in Newton is its large South Asian population, for which learning to play the piano is not typically a traditional activity.

“We are turning them into piano people,” says the ever-enthusiastic Hepworth. “The families love to see their children performing, and we can offer that opportunity.”

Music builds good communities and also good people. The language is universal.

“Newton has been good to us and for this, I am also very thankful,” Hepworth added. “We look forward to when criminal activity is minimized and the area is lifted to a safer and more prosperous neighborhood. We have lived and worked in the Newton area since 1963 – we believe in the area’s possibilities and are thrilled to be part of its exciting future.”

And this future will have music.

A final word about the building: Yes, it is shaped like a piano, and that was a deliberate design. I took lessons myself inside that building, and see it almost every day, as my own arts-related business (DanceCraft) is located just north of Carillon. And I never noticed it was shaped like a piano!

“There was supposed to be a keyboard on the south end of the building that would act as a canopy over the parking lot,” Hepworth explained.

That structure never happened, for various reasons. It never affected the quality of the music inside, of course. It’s just another interesting part of the history. And sorry, Roy, I never got very competent at the piano either, but I tried. And my son does play, and so do his kids. It’s a legacy. It started with Carillon Music. Thanks.

melminty@telus.net

 

 

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