Learning to sing is a gift that continues to provide joy throughout life.
That’s why Marian Smith encourages singing in the community at every opportunity.
“Singing, really, is what it is all about,” Smith said.
The director for Nanaimo Youth Choir, which competed nationally last year, earned the Honour in Culture Award from the City of Nanaimo in March. The award is open to an individual, group or corporation for outstanding service, dedication or support to the development of arts and culture in Nanaimo.
Jillian Vanstone, principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada, earned the Excellence in Culture Award this year.
As early as age four, Smith began studying piano and fell in love with music. Piano is often a solitary study, but Smith had the opportunity to accompany choirs and learned the joy of making music with other people. “Which is what a choir is all about,” she said.
Smith continued to study piano with the goal of becoming a professional musician, studying at the Banff School of Fine Arts among other places. In the summer, she played with a trio at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lakes.
“That’s all I ever wanted to be,” Smith said. “I never considered anything else.”
After moving to Nanaimo from Alberta in the early 1990s, she took over as music director at St. Andrew’s United Church, coordinating music for services and events.
“Anything that involved music as part of the life of the church,” she said.
She took over direction of the Camerata Singers and became chairwoman of the piano section of the Upper Island Music Festival.
She created the Nanaimo Youth Choir through the Nanaimo Conservatory of Music.
“When I came here, there was no children’s choir,” Smith said.
Last year the youth choir was named to the provincial performing arts festival and won, following that up with a second-place finish at nationals.
The choir was once again named to the provincial performing arts festival, which takes place in Nanaimo May 27-31.
The choir also travels to Eugene, Ore., in June to compete in the Pacific International Children’s Choral Festival.
“You see the joy they get from the involvement in making music with their peers,” Smith said. “It’s a total honour to work with kids like that.”
She also gives young pianists the same opportunity she had as a child – to accompany a choir.
“I like to mentor young pianists to look at accompaniment as a viable option,” Smith said.
Adults involved in a choir get the same benefits as children by making connections in the community as well as making music with others.
“Singing for everyone is a very healthy thing for people to do,” Smith said.