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Squamish Community Music Festival on next week

New name for Howe Sound Music Festival, which is open to the public.

Everything old is new again, as they say. 

The former Howe Sound Music Festival, previously put on by the Howe Sound Performing Arts Association, is now the Squamish Community Music Festival, but it remains all that it ever was. 

The week-long festival, from March 6 to 11, is chockablock full of adjudicated workshops where students are given constructive feedback and may be selected to represent our region at the provincial level. 

Classes are open to students who live in the Sea to Sky School District from Lions Bay through to D’Arcy.

The public is encouraged to come out and watch throughout the festival, which runs from about 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. 

All festival classes are held at St. John the Divine Anglican Church. 

PJ Elliot, who has been an organizer for three previous festivals, remains.

She said due to capacity issues and a shift in focus for this year, there had been talk of the association not being able to run the usual festival this year.

After some thought and discussion, Elliot and some others decided to take it on for this year. 

"The Howe Sound Performing Arts Association did such a phenomenal job as a society and organization and supporting the festival for 20 years," Elliot said.

"I offered to kind of spearhead again and train ... a new group of motivated volunteers to take this on."

The association is still supporting the new festival, particularly by supplying the grand piano for use. 

"They've also made in-kind donations, and they've also made monetary donations to the festival. So their support speaks volumes, to be honest with you. We couldn't do it without them."

The festival also remains affiliated with the Performing Arts BC Association of Regional Festivals.

The Squamish Community Music Festival is 100% volunteer-run. 

This year there are three adjudicators, more than 200 pieces that are entered in the festival and 90 participants.

Really positive environment

Katie Moran, 17, who is graduating this year from high school, has been attending the festival since she was about seven years old. She started participating on piano and then added voice. 

She described the festival as a "really positive environment" with many passionate people.

"It is an amazing performance opportunity and an amazing opportunity to work with some professionals from outside of Squamish, who have a lot of amazing experience and advice to help everyone grow," she said. 

Her advice for first-time performers at the festival?

Moran said it may be a judged competition, but relax — it’s a very friendly environment.

"It's such a welcoming environment that, honestly, I don't feel like it's anything to be stressed about or scared of,” she said. “I just get excited to perform."

Moran said the feedback from adjudicators is always supportive and constructive.

Special performance

Jocelyn Lai is one of the adjudicators. She will be putting on a special performance on Wednesday night, March 8, at St. John the Divine Anglican Church. 

Lai is a concert pianist who has performed at festivals across Canada, the United States, and Spain. 

It is an exciting get for the festival, Elliot said. 

"It is going to be phenomenal. I mean, just to be able to have her, she is amazing."


Musical theatre and classical voice classes are on March 6, 7 and 8.

Piano classes are on March 9, 10 and 11. All of these classes are open to the public.

Each class is $5 to watch or $30 for a festival pass, which is good throughout the week.

The money raised goes back into running future festivals. It costs about $20,000 to put it on, Elliot said. 

Jocelyn Lai tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for students. 

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