The Shuswap Music Festival – A Short History

The first Shuswap Music Festival was held in April 2001 in Salmon Arm, BC. It was the culmination of efforts of the BC Registered Music Teachers Association (Shuswap Branch) and the Rotary Club of Salmon Arm. In 2000, with dreams of establishing an annual festival in the Shuswap, members of the region’s Registered Music Teachers Association approached the Rotary Club of Salmon Arm for funding. Greg Bohaker, coming from ten years experience volunteering with the Kiwanis Music Festival in Oshawa, Ontario, knew his Rotary Club could contribute more than just funds.

Under Greg Bohaker’s stewardship, a volunteer board of directors was established giving birth to the Shuswap Music Festival Society—a not-for-profit, registered charitable organization. The first board, comprised of Rotarians and music teachers, consisted of Greg Bohaker, Jeff den Biesen, Ken Black, Derrick Braby, Joan Hokanson, Sue McCrae, Wendy Collins, Carol Schlosar and Jean Ethridge. By March 2001, there were approximately 125 registrations for the First Annual Shuswap Music Festival.

Financial support from Salmon Arm’s three Rotary Clubs, registration fees and the generosity of community businesses and local patrons guarantees sufficient funds each year for the Society to provide the very best adjudicated music festival for our young artists. Renowned musicians from Western Canada are brought to the festival to adjudicate performances in piano, strings, instrumentals, band, voice and choir. Their supportive and constructive critiques help to hone excellence among these young musicians.

People with music and business skills are only part of the solution for a successful music festival. Volunteers make it happen. Bill Van Bergeyk, from the Shuswap Rotary Club, with his wife Zina coordinated efforts for many years to staff the festival with thirty to forty community volunteers. Past President Jeff den Biesen and Vice-President Marjory Duncan, now retired from the Board, dedicated countless hours over the years to ensure the success of the festival. Today, Board Directors continue this work and gratefully acknowledge the positive response from the many volunteers within the Salmon Arm community. Volunteers provide the foundation for the festival’s success!

The Shuswap Music Festival grew quickly from its inaugural festival hosting 125 registered performances in 2001 to 777 registrations in 2005. Subsequent years have maintained this higher level of participation.  Amateur and young musicians residing in Salmon Arm, the Shuswap and Southern Interior of BC region are eligible to participate and compete in the Shuswap Music Festival that is part of an adjudicated provincial and national festival programme. Adjudicators determine those students eligible for advancement to the Performing Arts BC Provincial Music Festival Competition.

The Shuswap Music Festival is held annually during the last two weeks of April and concludes with the “Night of Stars”, a gala concert on the last evening. During this concert, the Society awards scholarships to deserving students as encouragement to continue with their music. This finale not only celebrates the musical talent of our youth, but also gratifies those who have participated in their musical journey—the teachers, the parents, the mentors, the patrons and the volunteers. It is a rewarding festival and concert for all.

The Society takes particular pride in having participated over the years in the career development and music experience of a number of promising young performing artists from the Shuswap. Their success is a testament to our success as a community-based organization.

The Shuswap Music Festival Society, December 2012

Adapted from an article written by Greg Bohaker on the “Shuswap Music Festival” that was published in the Feats & Treats 2005– A Centennial Celebration for Salmon Arm, Shuswap Lake Health-Care Auxiliary