The Cowichan Music Festival offers local talent a chance to compete for both recognition and cash. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen file

Column: Superb effort behind the scenes keeps Cowichan Music Festival rolling

Marshalling thousands of performers is just a part of the work done by a group of great volunteers

The 69th Cowichan Music Festival kicked off Thursday, Feb. 15 with another month of exciting competition.

The Cowichan Valley is well-known for its wide range of talented performers in many genres and the 2018 festival is sure to be no exception to that rule as events in dance, vocal/choral, instrumental music, and piano are held at venues around Duncan.

Led by their tireless president Leslie Sjoberg, the executive of Karolyn Sherman, and Delores Wagg, committee chairs Carol Newington, Barbara Stone, Joan Wilson, Jean Davis, and Jean Moore are already hard at it, planning, organizing, and scheduling performances by thousands of entrants.

And I mean thousands of entrants.

In the solo dance section alone, performers compete in ballet, character, demi-character, interpretive, national, folk, character-national, contemporary, modern, tap, jazz, lyrical jazz, hip hop/street dance, and musical theatre categories.

Each of the categories can have five or six “classes” to separate competitors into age groups.

For instance, in the increasingly popular musical theatre section, performers will be competing in song and dance, and modern stage/variety. Within each of those, there are categories for solos, duos and trios, and group. And, each of those are broken down into classes by age, with the addition of non-competitive categories for the younger performers.

Meanwhile, the organizers have also signed up skilled adjudicators from all over B.C., lined up the venues, which range from the Duncan fire hall to the Cowichan Theatre, with stops in between, and done countless other things to prepare for the competition. They also ensure that all the bursary and scholarship money from the many, many sponsors is available, making any needed changes.

Then, there are the events themselves.

Someone has to ensure that competitors arrive on time, get on stage on time, and everything else involved in performance. That means gathering, scheduling, and marshalling a host of volunteers to work shifts day after day.

After the competition is over, there is the business of deciding who is going to perform at the three galas that wind up the festival, and then scheduling them and notifying them.

Whew! Still with me?

Now you can see what I mean when I praise the efforts of the group behind the music festival.

A few years ago, I was privileged to twice see these truly amazing people up close as I served as emcee for the vocal and dance gala. That event lasts three hours and, when I worked on it, saw dozens of acts perform and more than 50 awards handed out on each afternoon.

Preparing the “script” for me to use when emceeing that event was a massive job in itself, involving double and triple checking who was going to be onstage and when, how to pronounce their names and basically what was what.

On gala day, I arrived behind stage, as nervous as any performer, to discover a well-oiled machine marshalling everything in a truly astonishing manner.

And, to top it all off, all this magic is achieved without a penny of government support.

The festival may be volunteer-run, but there is only one word for those involved: professional.

Why not attend some festival events yourself this year?

You may even be moved to volunteer for 2019 and, like me, want to shout “Bravo!” when the festival crew finally bring down the curtain on another season.

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