Upper Island Music Festival president Andrea Bertram said donations are still welcome to help fund this year’s 90th anniversary Honours Concert at the Port Theatre. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)

Donations still sought as Nanaimo’s Upper Island Musical Festival marks 90th anniversary

Festival will hold its Honours Concert at the Port Theatre for the first time

For nearly a century Nanaimo’s Upper Island Musical Festival has been providing young performers from Ladysmith to Bowser a venue to showcase their talents before an audience with the chance of winning a bursary and representing their region at the provincial level.

But festival president and music instructor Andrea Bertram said the event is not just about who wins and who loses. She said the experience of performing live is more important to her as a teacher than who takes home the prize money.

“What happens in the studio doesn’t always translate onto the stage, but then when I see them performing on stage then I know what we need to work on in the studio and … that gives you a better picture of where they actually are in their development,” she said.

“The competitive aspect is not the most important thing to me as a teacher and people shouldn’t do festival, to my mind, because they’re trying to win something. Because it’s art, right? So it’s always in the eye of the beholder.”

The Upper Island Musical Festival is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year and in recognition of that milestone the culminating Honours Concert is being held for the first time at the Port Theatre on April 14, 2018.

All singers and musicians performing that night will have been selected by an adjudicator to represent Nanaimo at the provincial festival, which will take place in Victoria in the spring.

Bertram expects the concert will feature around 32 performances by singers, dancers, choirs, pianists, string and brass players and dramatic performers.

“This will be the first time we’ve put our honours performance on at the Port Theatre,” she said, adding that the event, which typically draws a crowd of 400, has always been held at St. Andrew’s United Church.

“We thought for our 90th we should do something special. For our 75th we brought back a number of our performance artists but we thought, ‘Well, let’s not go that direction. Let’s see if we can do an honours performance at the Port Theatre.’”

Because of the added expense, organizers are hard at work raising funds to cover the evening’s festivities. Bertram said she’s sent out 37 letters to prospective sponsors by the first week of December. She will need all donors to confirm their participation by Dec. 31 in order to be featured in the festival program, but added that donations made after that date will still be welcome.

“The more fundraising we get over and above our target will go directly into bursaries, were hoping to send besides our representatives, were hoping to send a large slate of just delegates down to provincials, too,” Bertram said.

Delegates are additional musicians similarly recommended to attend by adjudicators. She said they will have the opportunity to take part in a concert and two workshops.

Bertram said each year the Upper Island Musical Festival Association doles out between $17,000 and $20,000 in donated and memorial bursaries on the advisement of adjudicators. The funds are awarded to those who show promise in their disciple and those selected to be representatives at the provincial level. She said most representatives use the funds to finance their attendance at provincials.

Those interested in donating to the Upper Island Musical Festival can contact Andrea Bertram at andrea@andreabertramstudio.com.


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