20 Reasons to Love Howe Sound Performing Arts

By Joanna Schwarz
Published: Sept. 8, 2012

1. You have to love Howe Sound Performing Arts for having a vision. In 1993, the new Board of Directors made it their goal to fundraise for a grand piano. They wanted to support local talent and encourage quality artists to perform in Squamish.

2. How fortunate that the alternate name choice submitted to the Government, never came to fruition. Mistakenly written as “The Perming Arts Society”, the Association might have thereafter been known as the “Hairdressers”.  

3. The Directors took a “hands on approach” and produced talent shows, a Children’s Festival, Canada Music Week concerts, and presented Capilano College Singers and Norman Foote who entertained 800 people one snowy day in February. All proceeds went into the savings fund for the grand piano.

4.  Four years later, after a Gala Fundraiser with the Rotary Club of Squamish, the dream of purchasing the piano was realized. Combined with HSPAA’s savings, a matched grant from the Vancouver Foundation and a gift from the Tiampo family, our $46,000 instrument made its “grand” entrance!

5.  What a weekend it was with a three day Festival of Canadian Arts. Wrapped in a giant ribbon and bow, the grand piano was wheeled slowly onto the stage of the Eagle Eye Theatre. A representative from Rotary carefully cut the ribbon and the celebration of music, dance, drama began.

6. HSPAA always had a soft spot for talented youth. “Star Search” — first organized by Squamish teenager, Giovanni Amenta, was taken on by HSPAA. There have been some notable winners:  Nadine McNeil and Ali Milner, as well as Giovanni, himself, who went on to conquer the PNE “Youth Talent Search”.

7. Giovanni thinks back on that time,”HSPAA gave me a place and the means to share my talents and I am so honored that they championed the Squamish Star Search and carried the torch so that more local stars could share their gifts with the world. Thank you HSPAA.”

8. It was a happy day when HSPAA was accepted into the Piano Six program. Founder, and world renowned classical pianist, Janina Fialkowska and five of her esteemed colleagues, brought classical music to small communities across Canada.  Piano Six gave HSPAA the means to build an exciting Professional Series. Janina Fialkowska – honoured this spring with the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award in Ottawa – performed three times in Squamish. She proclaimed on CBC radio that Squamish was one of the most successful communities in the program, in all of Canada.

9.  While Howe Sound Performing Arts Association grew as an organization, it continued to give back to the community. In three fundraisers with the Squamish Rotary Club, the organizations together raised $10,000 for a heart monitor for the Squamish hospital,  $46,000 for victims of the Tsunami in Indonesia, as well as $23,000 for the grand piano.

10.  The many volunteers and especially the hard working Directors are the backbone of the Association. They sometimes produce 8 or 9 events a year. A Director can expect to wear several hats – perhaps as emcee, or accompanist, as stage hand, or food server.

11. Carol Grolman – a founding Director (and the longest serving Director) writes, “Over the years, I have appreciated working with like-minded, hardworking people on the Board of HSPAA who share the common goals of promoting the talent in our community and bringing some of the world’s best performing artists to our little town.” 

12. Performers have often said they feel so well taken care of — from a smoothly run production, to expert technical support, to good food and hospitality in the Green Room.  They are especially grateful for the chance to perform on a beautiful instrument that lets their artistry shine.

13. HSPAA has been privileged to bring many important artists to the stage – among them, Janina Fialkowska, Angela Cheng, Jon Kimura Parker and Chor Leoni to name a few. Young and emerging artists such as Madeline Hildebrand and Avan Yu are presently making a name for themselves. 

 14. Founding Director, Colleen Koop, and current Director, Veronica McPhee, have taken the Howe Sound Music Festival to new heights. Started in 2001 with 500 people at the first Gala concert, HSMF evaluates singers and pianists from Lions Bay to Pemberton. Several top students each year are invited to attend the Provincial Festival.

15. The “Access Music Education” fund or AME, has granted students in need of assistance, the support to continue their lessons or summer programs. A full $18,000 has been given out over the years. As well, an award of $300 is given annually to a student at Howe Sound Secondary going on in the Performing Arts.

16.  The annual Spirit of Squamish concert is a highlight, with talented students and teachers performing. The audience generously supports this event with proceeds going towards the AME fund. One of the performers, Emma Pedersen writes, “I love HSPAA because they help make dreams be realized and achieved.”

17. The benefits from youth programs continue.  Jonathan Aubry comments,”I began performing at HSPAA events at a young age, and through these experiences I developed a love for live performance. Now as a young adult, I have the necessary confidence and experience to promote my music and am on my way to building a career out of it.”

18. Howe Sound Performing Arts Association has had great support over the years from local sponsors. Without this foundation, many concerts and programs would simply not take place. 

19. HSPAA prides itself on partnerships.  St. John’s Anglican church (where the grand piano is housed) has been a most helpful association where both groups benefit. SAM (Squamish Academy of Music) is a more recent partner. The upcoming opening night is co-produced with the Squamish Valley Photo Club (SVPC).

20. The final words belong to the current President, Aaron Purdie, “The thing I love most about HSPAA is the relationship that develops between the past and the present. Our team is made up of both veteran and younger people and the combination leads to great creativity and innovation based in historical knowledge and wisdom”.  

You are invited to HSPAA’s 20th celebration featuring pianist Sarah Hagen and Pro’ject Sound. Listen to the music of Debussy accompanied by photos from the Squamish Valley Photo Club.  An Art Show and Soiree follow.

The date is Saturday, September 22, 8pm at St. John’s Anglican Church — 1930 Diamond Road. Tickets available at Billie’s Flower House and at the venue: Adults-$25, Seniors $20, and Students/Children Free (with a ticket). 

(Editor’s Note: Joanna Schwarz is the founding president of HSPAA, and has been active in the group for 16 of those 20 years.)