Salmon Arm’s giant treble clef, photo courtesy of the Salmon Arm Observer

Salmon Arm’s giant treble clef is a fitting monument for the very musical Shuswap, given the many opportunities there are to learn, perform and enjoy great music of all genres throughout the region. Young people benefit from the exceptional music programs in the schools and in the various private music classes offered by local teachers and local music stores, such as Acorn Music. Once a year these students compete at the very popular Shuswap Music Festival, held in various venues throughout Salmon Arm and that is now nearly twenty years old.

Mayor Alan Harrison congratulating Shuswap Music Festival winners, photo courtesy of the Salmon Arm Observer

Singing was likely the first type of music, and it will always be popular, especially in the Shuswap where there are choirs galore. The oldest choral group at over 60 years old is the Shuswap Singers choir that now has 40 members and often performs with other instrumental groups. Other choral groups include the Northern Lights Choir, the Men’s Choir, the Revelers led by the amazing Burt Revel who is now in his late 1980s, and Andrea Robert’s Intergenerational Choir that is a mixed group of youth aged 14 and under combined with seniors ages 70 and over.

The Shuswap Singers perform at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Courtesy Jim Elliot/Salmon Arm Observer

Every genre of music is being played in the Shuswap by a variety of musical groups and organizations. With horns aplenty, the Community Band began over 20 years ago under the leadership of Cess Kooyman, a Dutch immigrant who wanted to give back to his community, and the band is now going strong with Jim Johnston and Syd Griffiths at the helm. The String Orchestra began in the mid-1990s as a secondary school project under the leadership of Doug Pearson, the then District Superintendent. Over the years, adults joined and now there are 22 string players under the leadership of Gordon Waters who perform a variety of both classic and modern symphonic music plus film scores for both the public and in seniors’ homes.

The Community Band

Jazz music began about 100 years ago in Louisiana and is now popular throughout the world, including the Shuswap where we are fortunate to be able to enjoy the Salmon Arm Jazz Club performances on Thursday nights every two weeks at the Nexus at First thanks to the efforts of volunteers and artistic director Jordan Dick. Featuring a mix of local and regional musicians and touring groups, the jazz shows feature works by famous jazz artists as well as original music with always plenty of improvisation in the mix.

Sandy Cameron and friends at the Salmon Arm Jazz Club, photo courtesy of the Salmon Arm Observer

There are many opportunities for local musicians to play folk music at the Shuswap’s many coffee houses. Throughout each month, except during the summer, there are open mike coffee houses in community halls, including at Sunnybrae, Carlin, Eagle Bay, Seymour Arm, Silver Creek, Enderby, Cherryville and Malakwa. The region’s first folk music organization, the Shuswap Coffee House that presented shows in the 1970s and early 1980s was revived last year by Jake Jacobson and now takes place every third Saturday night at the Gleneden Hall.

Shuswap Coffee House finalé at the Gleneden Hall

After working with the Shuswap Coffee House, Linda Tanaka went on to establish the Salmon Arm Folk Music Society, which focused on bringing great talent to various venues in the community. In 1992, they organized the first Roots and Blues Festival, which has become the Shuswap’s premier event that attracts thousands of music lovers to our community every summer and has helped build our reputation as a music centre for the province.

Roots and Blues Festival, photo by Jim Cooperman

Summer in the Shuswap means live music nearly every night of the week, beginning with Monday’s Music in the Park at Sicamous, followed by Tuesday’s Music on the Lake in Chase, then Wednesday on the Wharf in Salmon Arm, Thursday’s Music in the Bay at Blind Bay, Friday Night Live in Scotch Creek and on Sunday it is Music by the River in Enderby. Many of the events also include night markets and food venders.

Wednesday at the Wharf, photo courtesy of the Salmon Arm Observer

The primary reasons for the Shuswap’s reputation as a music centre are the many musicians who live here and play a wide diversity of music, plus the many bands that entertain us throughout the year. The Salmon Armenians rhythm and blues band is perhaps one of the Shuswap’s oldest groups. Some of the great local folk acts include Birchbark, Jimmy Two Shoes and the Lost Soles, Chicken-Like Birds, Blu and Kelly Hopkins, and the Latin band, The Chorogues. For jazz, there are many groups such as Mozi Bones that include these local players: local saxophone superstar, Sandy Cameron, bassist Jake McIntyre-Paul, guitar wizard Jordan Dick, drummer Darrin Herting, and trumpeter Liam Nadurak. As for rock n’ roll, there are several bands including, Headway, Bay Blues Band, the Canoe Rockers, Concerned Citizens and Stiff Whiskers.

The Salmon Armenians

To make great music happen, there needs to be venues and until recently, there were just a few, including the Salmar Classic, Nexus on First, and Shuswap Theatre where Wildwood Productions hosted yearly benefit concerts on various themes, including famed entertainers such as Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. Fortunately thanks to Craig Newnes and Clea Roddick, the Shuswap now has a fabulous combination music hall and recording studio, Song Sparrow Hall, with state of the acoustics that has become the happening place for concerts and dances.

Wildwood Productions’s cast

When asked why the Shuswap music scene is so successful, Jim Johnston explained how many retired music teachers, including himself, have taken a leadership role in promoting, playing, and directing musical groups. Another retired music teacher, Gordon Waters, also described how there are many very talented private instructors in the community. Plus, several former students have established very successful music careers, such as jazz legend Richard Underhill, trumpeter Mike Zachernuk, gospel artist Greg Sczebel, jazz pianist and music producer Andrew Rasmussen and pianist Jaeden Izik-Dzurko, which confirms how the local school music programs are doing an exceptional job.

Richard Underhill and Jaeden Izik-Dzurko


More photos that show how music play a prominent role in the Shuswap:

Acorn Music
The Men’s Choir
Andrea Roberts directs the Shuswap Intergenerational Choir in rehearsal for their upcoming public performance at the Nexus at First on Saturday, May 5. (Lachlan Labere/Salmon Arm Observer)
The String Orchestra
Salmon Arm Jazz Club’s Jordan Manderioli Quintet. The group includes Jordan Manderioli (piano), Liam Nadurak (trumpet), Chris Petterson (tenor sax), Jake McIntyre-Paul (bass) and Will Friesen (drums).
Millions of Dollars in Pennies at the Sunnybrae Hall
Wednesday at the Wharf
Friday Night Live in Scotch Creek
Chicken-Like Birds
Mozi Bones
Hillcrest School’s “Music Class Challenge” with Sloan at the Song Sparrow Hall
Celebrate Shuswap Society’s inaugural show with The Legendary Lake Monsters at the Song Sparrow Hall
Celebrate Shuswap Society’s March 18th show featuring the funk/hip-hop band from Victoria, The New Groovement

Learn more about Celebrate Shuswap Society shows at their website.

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The Shuswap Country

by Erskine Burnett

Treasures come in assorted shapes and sizes. They might be a grandmother’s beaded purse, or an old apple basket like one resting atop my bookshelf that transports me to the family farm, with voices shouting from treetops as we pluck Macs and Golden Delicious. A personal scrapbook can also be an unexpected treasure, and The Shuswap Country by Erskine Burnett is just that.

Everything Shuswap

by Jim Cooperman

Everything Shuswap explores the region’s rich eco-types and its interwoven historical record. It’s a textbook for understanding one of the most beautiful and least understood landscapes and it should be mandatory reading for anyone who lives in or visits the Shuswap.” – Mark Hume, author of Adam’s River and other books