PORT McNEILL—Georgia Murray has found success in her musical career. Now she's giving back to a hometown that has not had a children's music program for years.
Murray, now based in Victoria, has launched Wild Heart Music, an after-school music program that will feature choir and, eventually, instrumental instruction to local youth who have been without a school program for years.
"After playing a concert in my hometown of Port McNeill I had about a dozen kids come up to me expressing a desire to be in choir and learn an instrument but had no opportunity to do so," said Murray, who played with several fellow Vancouver Island musicians at Gatehouse Community Theatre in April in a fundraiser for St. John Gualbert Church. "I was inspired to do something to help these kids and that is why we are developing the Wild Heart Music Program."
To aid the cause, Murray is holding an online auction at her website, georgiamurray.net, in an effort to raise $5,000 in seed money to start a program that is expected to cost $30,000 to run in its first year. In the first five days of the auction and donation campaign, which ends Wednesday, Oct. 24, more than $16,000 was taken in.
"We've gotten more than three times what our goal was," said Murray. "The response has been incredible with everyone I've reached out to."
The auction features several B.C. companies and destination resorts, including the Fairmont Express, Mission Hill Estate Winery, Oak Bay Beach Hotel, The Wickaninnish Inn, Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort, Pacific Coastal Airlines, Mackay Whale Watching and concert tickets to the Canadian Tenors, which includes her brother, singer Clifton Murray.
Murray has also included a private house concert and merchandise package in the auction.
She has teamed with a local committee that includes her parents, Craig and Deborah Murray, and pastor Wade Allen of St. John Gualbert Church, where the music program will be held.
"We seem to have hit a nerve," Allen said of the initial response to the auction. "(Georgia) knows what's going on in the community and knows what the needs are."
The music program at Sunset Elementary School was cut in the past decade. Several attempts to fill the void have been undertaken since, but none of them has been able to stick.
For several years, Sunset teacher Shawn Gough conducted weekly evening rehearsals of the Pacific Winds, a youth band made up of former student musicians. The group made multiple appearances in the Vancouver Island Music Festival and in 2007 played at Music Fest Canada, when it was held in Richmond. That group was discontinued when its members eventually graduated, but several Pacific Winds alum continue to perform with Gough in the North Island Community Band.
The following year volunteer instructor Robin Baird held an after-school choir program that culminated in a recital at North Island Secondary School.
In 2008-09 an extracurricular, noon-hour band program was run at Sunset by teacher and musician Ron Mollinga. But it proved to be a one-year project.
To participate in Murray's online auction or to donate at the site, visit georgiamurray.net, click on the "Bid Now" link below the Wild Heart Music logo. The auction ends Wednesday.