No risk . . . no reward

Anh Phung (second from left) and her Montreal-based band The Bombadils play in Chilliwack at Bozzini’s on March 1.  - Stroy Photo
Anh Phung (second from left) and her Montreal-based band The Bombadils play in Chilliwack at Bozzini’s on March 1.
— image credit: Stroy Photo

Making a career out of music isn't easy.

Even the best young musicians are often eventually forced to face the reality of finding a day job to support their passion.

So it's impressive to see Chilliwack prodigy Anh Phung making a living with her flute.

"For me it's always kind of a risk," Phung said over the phone from Qualicum Beach, a stop on her band's current tour.

"I just think people get nervous money won't work out, but if you just push through that, I think it always works out."

The Sardis secondary graduate is one quarter of Montreal-based "progressive Celtic/bluegrass" band The Bombadils. The group's music blends their musical conviction, drawing from Québecois, Irish and bluegrass folk styles.

Since their graduation, The Bombadils have released their debut CD "Fill Your Boots!" They kicked off a tour at The Banff Centre on Jan. 6 where the band spent two weeks as artists in residence. The tour continued through Alberta, B.C., and California. This weekend The Bombadils make a detour to Kansas City, Missouri, to play an official showcase at Folk Alliance International.

The tour then heads to Oregon, Washington and wraps up with three shows in the Lower Mainland, including March 1 in Chilliwack at Bozzini's. Phung first graced the pages of the Chilliwack Times in January 2004 when, as a Grade 10 student, she and Grade 12 student Danielle Janzen were invited to participate in a concert series sponsored by the B.C. Music Educators Association. Phung performed first flute in the provincial orchestra.

Back then, she said she hoped to have a career as a soloist, a member of an orchestra or as a music teacher. Forming a touring folk band hadn't entered her realm of possibilities yet.

Soon after, she was winning more plaudits and awards, and bringing the flute to new genres became a reality. Using Ian Anderson's template with Jethro Tull, Phung added her improvised flute playing to The Brink, which later morphed into Pardon My Striptease.

"Besides Jethro Tull, I've never heard of a rock flute and that is why I want to try it," she said in a June 2005 story in the Times. "It's really hard to make it in music and I figured if I tried something new-not something everyone does."

While she is young, she's been paying the flute since the age of four when she started under the Suzuki program- where children under the age of six are taught music through listening rather than note reading.

After Sardis secondary, Phung went to McGill University in Montreal. There she met the other three quarters of what would become The Bombadils: Luke Fraser (guitar, mandolin, lead vocals), Sarah Frank (fiddle, vocals) and Evan Stewart (upright bass).

Phung is indeed making it in music, forging a career as a musician in Montreal, freelancing in different bands, with her main focus on The Bombadils.

She's pursuing her interest and her talent, and she's having fun.

"This is basically what I love to do," she says. "I can't speak for myself in the future but for now, I can't really ask for anything else. I get to travel and do what I love. It's literally the best thing ever for me."

What advice does she have for a 17-year-old high school student, who might be winning music awards and having some success? "If they really have a passion for it and if they really want to do it, it takes a lot of work, but it's definitely possible to do."

. The Bombadils play March 1 at 9:30 p.m. at Bozzini's, 4-45739 Hocking Ave. Tickets are $15 and available now at Bozzini's or call 604-792-0744 to reserve over.

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