How Canada Came To Be

I love having the opportunity to brag about some of our amazing creatives in our community through this column. Kelowna needs to be fully aware of Rhonda Draper and the gift she brings to our fine city. She’s a teacher at Glenmore Elementary School, a recent TEDx presenter and she creates amazing performances and productions.


In a few short days she will be performing her show, How Canada Came To Be, with not only 2,000 school children from around the Okanagan but also the full cast of the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra.

The concert is at 7:00pm April 22nd at Trinity Baptist Church in Kelowna. Tickets for the evening show are only $10 per person and can be purchased at the OSO office, Glenmore Elementary School, Kelowna Actors Studio and online at the Okanagan Symphony

Here is a short video of OSO artistic director, Rosemary Thompson, telling us the story of how this amazing collaboration came to be:

“This is a world-class show that we are pleased to be doing once again. We will perform for nearly 2,000 school children in Kelowna, Vernon and Penticton during their school day, as well as an evening public performance” says Rosemary Thomson, artistic director, Okanagan Symphony Orchestra, “one that orchestras across the country will present as part of their education series for years to come.”

The OSO commissioned Claude LaPalme, widely recognized as one of Canada’s foremost orchestrators and Governor General Award Winner, Rhonda Draper’s folk song arrangements and video presentation to create full orchestrations for the show.

I connected with Rhonda this week to get more perspective on the story behind this collaboration:

Ryan Donn: How did the show come to be?

The show initially was just an idea – a way of teaching stories about Canada to my own children and my students. My first degree was in history and so stories of the past interested me and seemed important. My education degree had a music focus – how to teach music to children. I had heard that folk music was a good place to start. The ‘How Canada Came to Be’ show was a marriage of the two – the stories of Canada and our folk music. Our folk songs are rich in language and stories that help students to connect with those who have gone before us.

Ryan Donn: How did the connection with the Symphony happen?

The connection with the symphony was serendipitous. As she tells it, Rosemary Thomson was listening to CBC radio while driving into Kelowna to set up life in the Okanagan and start her new position as the artistic director of the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra. As it happened, I was being interviewed about the show as she was driving into town. She says she pulled over and phoned her CEO and said, “We have to get this orchestrated for our 50th Anniversary celebrations”. She then kept driving and passed by Glenmore Elementary School and it said “Register Now” outside on the marquee. She had heard on the interview that I was teaching there. She drove in to register her children then and there. We then worked on the project together and that is how “How Canada Came to Be” came to be! (We owe a lot to CBC radio!)

Ryan Donn: Are many of your students part of the show?

Over 250 students are a part of the show. They sing, they narrate, they paddle canoes in the aisles and have choreographed dances. They are stunning and I am honoured to walk alongside them on this musical journey.

Ryan Donn: You recently did a TEDx talk in Kelowna. How was that? Will we be seeing more speaking events by Rhonda Draper in the future?

I love speaking. I first sang on a stage at the age of three so I feel very comfortable up there communicating in conferences, at workshops and for events. The TEDx event was a beautiful experience, hearing from and meeting many local and global social entrepreneurs. I speak on many topics – ranging from bringing out the best in children/youth to wellness in the workplace. I sometimes combine my love of music with my love of speaking and the audience gets a blend of the two.

Ryan Donn: What’s on the horizon?

The horizon? I will continue to work with Canada’s most precious natural resource – children! I will also continue to develop my speaking business ( and I am taking my master’s at UBCO right now and learning more about the power of the arts in education…which is another topic I have recently been getting opportunities to speak about. This brings us back full circle. Come out to the show to witness the power of the arts in education on April 22 at 7:00pm at Trinity Baptist Auditorium.

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