FACES N oel Wentworth is in an enviable win-win-win position. Born and raised in the city of Kelowna, BC, Wentworth was destined for a life filled with music from the begin- ning. The fact that music would one day become his livelihood, however, wasn’t always clear. “As far as my upbringing here, I was raised in a very musical family,” he shares. “My father, mother, grandmother, grandfa- ther – they had Wentworth Music and that was the family life I was brought up into.” Wentworth Music – now a chain of three stores serving Kelowna, Vernon, and Penticton, BC – was first established as a single shop in 1966. While Noel now works for the company alongside his siblings, Neil and Nori, he admits that, surprisingly, joining the family business wasn’t always in his sights. Before becoming part of the music industry, Wentworth was a hairdresser and trained at the prestigious Vidal Sassoon Academy in Santa Monica, CA. Being vot- ed in as the top junior hairdresser of the year, it was scarcely two weeks after being presented with the award that Wentworth decided it was time for a change. “I went off to music school, and that’s where I met my wife, Lora,” he says of the choice that changed both his career trajectory and personal life for the better. “I came back and started performing and teaching music and eventually started the Wentworth Music Education Centre.” Starting with a mere 88 students upon first opening its doors 13 years ago, in the years since, the education centre has merged with Wentworth Music’s Kelowna retail store and grown substantially. Now, the Wentworth Music Education Centre has over 900 students and counting – a feat so impressive that NAMM has invited Wentworth to share his approach as part of its NAMM University program. Wentworth is currently preparing for the centre’s next student concert – the 20 CANADIAN MUSIC TRADE Noel Wentworth By Megan Beam “flagship event” hosted by Wentworth Music and its Education Centre. So what makes the concert so special? Well, it definitely isn’t your typical student recital. Featuring performances by anywhere from 160 to over 200 students who attend the education centre, it’s the dream rock concert. It’s got a high-end light show, big concert sound, and a roar- ing crowd of nearly 900 voices cheering for the artists as they take centre stage. All of the proceeds raised by the semi-annual events are donated back to the community to benefit children in need, whether it’s through the pediatrics programs at hospitals in Kelowna or Ver- non or other not-for-profit organizations. “To date we have raised over $167,000 to help children,” says a proud Wentworth, and that number is growing regularly. The school and stores are very community-minded in their other en- deavours as well, often presenting events like musical petting zoos to engage more people in music making. Working closely with families in his community keeps Wentworth inspired about what he does. He says it’s about the unique stories surrounding each individ- ual; it’s about the collaboration and just giving people a positive creative outlet. “It’s getting involved and feeling like we’re making a difference,” he says. “It’s been my goal since we started doing all this that I wanted people, anytime they thought about music in our community, I wanted them to think about our business and that keeps me inspired.” He adds that there is really no line between work and life outside of it since he’s so fond of what he does. “I love going out and reaching people I’ve never met before and showing them what we’re about and what we do... I love going out into the community and showing kids that they can play music. That gets me fired up.” One of the activities that occupies his time away from work is his family’s collective storybook – something like a scrapbook with hundreds of pages filled with photos, press clippings, and special moments for him and his family. “I want my kids to be able to pick up the book eventually when they’re grown up and go, ‘Yeah, that was my childhood all right,’” says Wentworth with a chuckle. Both of his children have demon- strated a passion for the family business and are often just as enthusiastic as he is when it comes to meeting new people and sharing the joys of music. Since being accredited by the Min- istry of Education in British Columbia, the Wentworth Music Education Centre has been rolling out its Rockschool graded music exams. This means Wentworth Music students will be able to earn credits for studies on various instruments and in various styles going beyond the typical classical curriculum. One of the things Wentworth says he’s looking forward to in the coming year is working with a group of music students travelling from Rwanda to Kelowna and having them collaborate with students at the Education Centre. It’s all about generating opportuni- ties, making a difference, and helping to create the next generation of musicians – all things that Wentworth has made his life’s work. Megan Beam is a freelance writer and former editorial assistant with Canadian Music Trade.