Samantha and Crystal Cashmore (from left) participated in the Upper Island Musical Festival in their youth and the sisters now travel the world as professional singers. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)

Upper Island Musical Festival a help to budding performers say professional singers Crystal and Samantha Cashmore

Nanaimo-raised sisters graduated from festival program and now perform around the world

These days sisters Crystal and Samantha Cashmore spend most of their time sailing around the world entertaining audiences on cruise ships, but years before they were singing to crowds of passengers on the high seas, they were performing for adjudicators at Nanaimo’s Upper Island Musical Festival.

The Cashmores started participating in the festival as soon as they moved to Nanaimo as children 14 years ago. They say the competition, which enters its 90th year in February, helped them develop as budding singers.

“Personally, I thought it was awesome because you’re constantly hearing the same feedback from your teacher and your family, but it’s always nice to hear it from someone who has maybe a different perspective on it and can give you different advice,” Samantha, 26, said.

“It’s a really good environment when you’re growing up and either learning to sing or you’re a seasoned singer but you still have so much more to learn.”

“It’s also a nice opportunity for some healthy competition where it’s in a safe environment and you can really hone in on your different skills,” Crystal, 29, added.

“It’s just a nice excuse to get yourself out there and it’s a really good way to sort of learn how to combat nerves … and it gives you something to strive towards or work towards when it comes to singing, rather than just doing lessons and having nothing to show for it.”

The duo competed in the musical theatre and classical voice categories at the festival and provincial level for 10 years. Because of their age difference they were never in direct competition and supported each other along the way.

“I feel like we push each other. She’s the reason I started singing, so it’s nice to have someone up there and we support each other so much in all that we do,” Samantha said.

“Especially going through festival and going through provincials we were each other’s No. 1 fans and it carried on through college and everything after that.”

After they aged out of the competition, the Cashmores studied singing in college in Los Angeles together and afterwards found identical jobs as cruise ship singers. But they still find themselves drawn back to the Upper Island Musical Festival. Last year they “gave back” on the other side of the counter, filling out awards and certificates.

“It was really cool to see all these young, aspiring artists come in for all the different categories… You see the nerves in the room and you see them all sitting there waiting to go up and sing and you giggle because you’re thinking, ‘You’re OK, you’ll get through it.’ We’ve been there before and it was kind of cool. It was in a way passing on a legacy,” Crystal said.

“It definitely sparked sort of an interest in perhaps maybe one day working on the other side of things and adjudicating. Maybe getting some credits under my belt and coming back and maybe helping mentor some of these young girls and boys to hopefully inspire them to pursue their dreams like we did.”

“It’s really nice that these kids get to show off the hard work because people don’t realize how much work goes into preparing for festival and it’s crazy and it’s stressful and it’s exciting and it gives you just a rush to be up there,” Samantha added.

“So it’s really nice to see that it’s been this long and it’s continuing on and all these kids get this chance to perform and do what they love to do and ultimately, that’s what made us decide to continue on in our singing in a professional sense, because we got that chance to perform and we caught the bug.”

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