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Potential for Music Growth Every April

Local Annual Music Festivals

by Rhiannon Nachbaur of Award-Winning Fiddleheads Violin Studio

Salmon Arm’s music scene has grown tremendously since I made the Shuswap my home only four and a half years ago. Each year locals are treated by the world renowned Roots & Blues Festival in August, the Grebe Festival in May, and the Okanagan Symphony from Fall to early Spring, and many other exceptional performers throughout the year!

Interestingly, a couple of events on our recent music menu cater to the developing musicians of our town, the music students and hobby players. Both are held every April, both feature music adjudicators, and both started only three 3 years ago, but each has something different to offer our community.

The Shuswap Registered Music Teachers Association and Salmon Arm Rotary Club first hosted the Shuswap Music Festival in April 2001. What started out as a fledgling festival has grown tremendously, nearly doubling its participation from 424 entries in 2002 to 714 in 2003.

Most participants are young students of classical music from around BC who are competing for levels of distinction, with hopes to continue on to other prestigious festivals. The highlight of this weeklong festival is the “Evening of the Stars” concert, where outstanding young musicians perform and some receive festival scholarships before a sold-out audience.

An event I’m involved with directly as coordinator, Strings Alive, is a “day of playing and learning for violinists and fiddlers of all ages,” and was also created in 2001. Strings Alive started by featuring non-competitive evaluations and fiddle/traditional music workshops for local violinists and fiddlers.

This year it’s grown to feature a fiddle contest with prizes sponsored by individuals and businesses and is attracting players from around the Shuswap, Okanagan and Kootenays. We hope to expand it into a 2-day event by next year and to offer double the workshops and two evening concerts.

It’s truly heartwarming to know that my town can support two music festivals, and even more impressive that it supports such diverse music genres. I can’t imagine many other comparatively sized towns play host to classical and fiddle festivals during the same month!

Most exciting to me is that both festivals cater to my instrument of choice and offer ample opportunities for my students to learn and perform. A Salmon Arm violinist can choose to play a Bluegrass breakdown at Strings Alive, then a Mozart concerto in the Shuswap Festival two weeks later.

What is created from this freedom of choice is a musician who finds true love in the music they are playing. I’m moved when I observe a classical player learn a jig for the first time, or a fiddler who finds the beauty in a Bach partida. Watching people’s interests expand is truly amazing because it’s like watching someone grow wings and soar, meeting their hidden potential.

I would love to see similar opportunities open up for instrumentalists and vocalists of all genres in our community. Imagine a month of festivals, back to back, exploring the many diverse music genres and introducing musicians to endless opportunities in styles such as jazz, country, choral music, pop and rock, and world music. Diversity has become the theme for this new century, so what better way for our community to accept and promote diversity than to host other diverse festivals. Imagine the potential we all have to offer diversity to our musicians and our countless musicians to come.

I think the best next step would be to further promote jazz education in the form of a festival. Our town’s many musicians in our school and community bands would certainly benefit from a series of jazz workshops and concerts. Continuing on the fantastic work the school district and individual band teachers have done hosting clinics, the new jazz festival will make workshops and concerts available to participants from all around the interior. In conjunction with the existing festivals in April, any such new music education events will thrive. It already has my full support!

Salmon Arm residents often brag, with good reason, how lucky we are that we host world-class events. We consider ourselves lucky to have the opportunity to sit mere feet away from some of the world’s most skilled and recognized musicians! Folks, it’s even better than that. Each time we sit in on a music recital, we are watching extraordinary potential become reality: we are watching musicians learn to soar. Support the education of our musicians and you’re reserving yourself and the entire community the best seat in the concert hall.

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