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Nanaimo International Jazz Festival will celebrate community and mentors

Event expanded to three days and six venues in downtown core
Joëlle Rabu, jazz festival co-ordinator, and Dirk Heydemann, a founding member of the Nanaimo International Jazz Festival Association, were spotted promoting the upcoming three-day celebration at Vancouver Island University on Aug. 31. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)

This year, the Nanaimo International Jazz Festival is about celebrating community, and will do so for three days in mid-September.

Although, Joëlle Rabu, one of the festival’s co-ordinators, said it’s always been about coming together and celebrating great talent from across Vancouver Island.

“You can see by a lot of the performers, a lot of the artists are from Victoria, all the way up to Comox and Campbell River even,” she said. “And there’s something in the water in Nanaimo. There really is … I’ve been here for almost 30 years … and the talent, the skills, that have come out of this town. It’s formidable … And I really believe it has a lot to do with the mentors.”

For decades, Nanaimo has fostered a bounty of home-grown musical talents, some of whom have risen to international acclaim while others cultivated their passion and nurtured future generations.

From Sept. 15-17, more than 127 musicians will celebrate with performances throughout six downtown Nanaimo venues, including the Port Theatre, the Old City Quarter, the, the Vault Café, Modern Café, the Nanaimo Bar and the Courtyard by Marriott.

This year’s festivities kick off with a noon performance by the Shineolas on Wesley Street as the Old City Quarter’s Sounds of Summer outdoor concert series closes and the Nanaimo International Jazz Festival begins.

The Wesley Street stage concerts will continue on Sept. 15 with hourly performances by the Teighan Couch Quartet, Doc Fingers, Duncan Symonds, Super Fly Weight and more.

In keeping with tradition, the jazz festival invites all music lovers to participate in the New Orleans-style musical walk on Sept. 16 at 11:45 a.m., starting at Maffeo-Sutton Park, during which people can walk, dance, prance, skip and cartwheel along the waterfront with an eight-piece band.

The evening of Sept. 16 will include an all-star concert with more than 40 musicians at the Port Theatre as they celebrate and pay homage to one of Nanaimo’s most beloved music mentors, Bryan Stovell. The award-winning Wellington Jazz Band will provide pre-show music in the lobby.

Stovell will be “put to work” for the finale as he conducts the Nanaimo Musicians’ Association Big Band, now celebrating its 56th year, featuring a repertoire of classic jazz, swing, Latin, fusion, New Orleans sounds.

“Bryan has such a history, not just as a teacher, but as a musician back in the day. He’s got such incredible stories,” Rabu said. “He’s one of those special teachers who has devoted himself to teaching, in essence. He’s a wonderful musician who’s devoted himself to giving back … There’s a lot of musicians out there, not all of them can teach. And the ones who can, are the greatest gift because it means there’s continuity.”

Full event details and schedules for the Nanaimo International Jazz Festival can be found online at

READ MORE: Nanaimo International Jazz Festival wins provincial ‘Festival of the Year’ award

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Teighan Couch will perform at this year’s International jazz festival in Nanaimo at the Old City Quarter’s Wesley Street Stage on Sept. 15 at 1 p.m. (Mandy Moraes/News Bulletin)