When she was a student at Mount Sentinel High School in the Slocan Valley, Keiko Devaux played piano in the school’s concert band and jazz band.
His teacher, Rick Lingard, would lend Devaux his vinyl editions of classic jazz albums. She is surprised that he trusts a teenager with such treasures, but his generosity feeds his intense curiosity for music.
Fast forward 22 years and Devaux, who now lives in Montreal, received a Juno Award for Best Classical Composition on May 15. His winning music at the 2022 awards is Arras, a piece for 14 musicians.
An arras is a woven wall hanging or tapestry. Devaux says his Juno-winning piece is a weave, not of threads but of sounds derived from generations of his European and Japanese ancestors, a “sound story.”
The metaphor of weaving is introduced at the start of the piece, where percussion instruments mimic the sounds of a loom.
She wanted to “capture the idea of family history and family identity through sound. And so the shape of the piece introduces these two parts of my family, and then swaps them out and makes them bleed into each other and move into each other and synthesize.
After graduating from Mount Sentinel, Devaux entered the music program at Selkirk College and took composition lessons from Don Macdonald.
An acclaimed composer himself, Macdonald remembers Devaux possessing three essential characteristics of a successful musician as a student.
“First of all, she’s extremely musical. Second, she is very friendly and makes everyone around her better simply by being a force of positive energy. And she is a tireless worker.
Macdonald calls Arras “an incredible composition of the 21st century – adventurous and beautiful and richly textured, and very forward looking. He’s not someone who plays it safe. She obviously knows her job. She knows how to write for orchestra.
While at Selkirk College, Devaux and two classmates started a band called People for Audio, which played music she describes as “nerdy” and “post-rock.” They all moved to Montreal and continued the band there, playing and recording while Devaux continued his musical studies.
She turned more and more towards composition and obtained a master’s degree in instrumental composition from the University of Montreal. She is currently working on a Ph.D.
In the meantime, Devaux’s works have been performed in many countries by a variety of respected ensembles, and she has won numerous prizes and awards.
Devaux says she is proud of Arras and is happy that it is the piece for which she has been recognized.
“I feel really touched. I mean, I just work all the time. I’m obviously very immersed in my work, so I don’t stop very often to think about the impact it has.