Janna Sailor understands both the power and the importance of music in her life. This Saskatchewan born violinist and conductor attributes music as the tool for expressing what she could not say with words, and her way out of a difficult childhood. Janna grew up in a troubled household including poverty, abuse, and struggle. Her decision to drop out of school when she was just thirteen years old left her options limited, and to the outsider suggested a difficult future. Janna chose music as her guide and hasn’t looked back since.
A shy teenager, Janna received many opportunities through music that she wouldn’t have otherwise had, including her involvement with the Saskatchewan Youth Orchestra. In collaboration with other youth who were passionate about music and the ability to express herself by playing the violin, she found her self-esteem and worth begin to develop. Janna kept practicing and working to pay for lessons when she caught the attention of a professor at Brandon University, who insisted she join his music class. This encouragement led to Janna eventually attending Brandon University as a student where she received her undergraduate degree in violin. Janna would go on to receive a Master of Music degree at the University of British Columbia as well as an artist diploma studying with Nancy DiNovo.
It was through her connection with the National Academy Orchestra (NAO) and conductor Boris Brott that she found her voice as a conductor. She attended the NAO three times, twice as a violinist and once as a conductor, which empowered her and other top notch musicians in a professional setting. This was a game changer for Janna – “a life changing experience”. She was able to connect with people who were deeply passionate about music in a program where she felt nurtured, a high level of professional playing, and the ability to expand her own creative voice.
“I am a tremendously privileged person to be a woman living and working in Canada”, says Janna when she thinks of women in the world who are not able to freely express their own voices. She feels a personal responsibility to women without equal opportunity and believes that “music is a powerful medium for how to support women and give back to those who supported me”. Janna wishes to give back to people who helped her self-growth through music and provided her the opportunity to move beyond the struggles she faced growing up.
Recently, this vision has shaped Janna’s projects, “it’s not just another gig, it’s something that gives a lasting impression whereby we impact one another.” In June of this year the Allegra Chamber Orchestra, based in Vancouver, held its inaugural concert, of which Janna is the conductor. This all female chamber group is “empowering women through music”, often performing female works and supporting causes such as Music Heals. Although the orchestra has received some resistance, Janna firmly believes that “women are impactful and so is music – both can change the world.”
Allegra is working to build a mentorship program in the near future to support young female musicians. Janna believes that change begins with youth, as they are the generation which will carry us forward. “Music is all about bringing people together where the things that make us different disappear – we need those things that bring us together, now more than ever.”