“Grey skies are looming and the world outside is looking plain,
But I’ve got good friends, it’s tough to complain.
My wallet’s empty but I’m feeling wealthy just the same…”
My fingertips are feeling sore, we jammed the night away
but hell, that’s what the night is for
We’re only young and life is just a dream
When you’ve got friends, life is not half as bad as it seems.”
From Tuesday Morning
Lyrics by Luke Rachwalski, 2011
Luke Rachwalski lived to play music.
Through music, he found his voice to express what mattered most to him – love and friendship. A self-taught musician, Luke and his friends gathered often to play at friends’ houses, in garages, and anywhere else they could find. A guitar player, Luke was also a poet at heart and often turned his hand to writing songs.
Throughout his teens, Luke played in several bands, at first a contemporary music band called Crisscross and the River Band. As he developed musically, he found a new vibe expressed through a Jazz-Rock fusion band with Jimi James Fraser, Peter Keys Ransford, and Devon Venoit. Luke shunned musical categorization and chose to name this band Canvas to represent what music meant to him - a blank canvas with the possibility of making it whatever you wanted it to be.
Later, Luke would collaborate with other musicians, including those with formal musical training. After that, he began to explore music theory and how it might inform his own music. Frustrated by the lack of venues and opportunities in Victoria for emerging alternative jazz and progressive rock musicians, Luke and his Canvas band mates set out in the fall of 2013 to find their place in the larger Jazz/Rock music scene.
They left Victoria in a converted school bus and headed across Canada, gigging along the way - Le Garage and the Royal George in Winnipeg, and the Horseshoe in Toronto. Their dream was to make it in the Montreal music scene. In early 2014, they’d settled in, were working day jobs to make ends meet, and were gigging at the Barfly at night and one memorable performance with Serena Ryder. Things were coming together for Canvas and they were feeling buoyant about their future. Then, on January 10, 2014, a house fire tragically claimed the life of Luke Rachwalski. He was 22 years old.
To honour his spirit and passion for music, Luke’s family established the Luke Rachwalski Memorial Fund to support local young musicians through the Victoria Foundation.
In 2015, Luke Rachwalski’s family started working with the Chwyl Family School of Contemporary Music at the Victoria Conservatory of Music to raise money for scholarships – Luke’s Gift - and songwriting workshops - Luke’s Legacy. The memorial funds raised via the Victoria Foundation will underwrite the first scholarships and a fundraising concert for the school called LukeFest and continue to support young musicians.
LukeFest will give local talent an opportunity to play on a large stage at the Alix Goolden Hall and collaborate with professionals. The funds raised will give young songwriters an opportunity to explore and further their musicianship with songwriting workshops facilitated by experienced professionalss by offering practical advice and ideas on the basics of songwriting, harmony, melody, and accompaniment – techniques that help shape the poem.
Part of this vision includes creating opportunity for young people to be listened to, understood and guided with sensitivity by experienced facilitators and mentors. The Victoria Conservatory of Music is breaking new ground as the first classical music school of its type to open a School of Contemporary Music and embracing the marriage of classical disciplines with the innate improvisation and passion from other musical genres like rock, folk, hip hop and jazz. Their vision is a perfect fit for the Luke Rachwalski Memorial Fund.