After years of dedication, two Shuswap Music Festival Society volunteer board members are taking a bow. Jeff den Biesen is stepping down as president and Marjorie Duncan as vice president.
Since 2008, Rotarian den Biesen has held the title of president, however he has been a board member for the past 11-and-a-half years.
“I just think it’s the right time for others to take over,” he said of his decision, adding he’s ready to enjoy his retirement.
A non-profit society, the Shuswap Music Festival Society’s mandate is “to provide an opportunity for amateur and/or young performing artists to demonstrate their achievements in music to their peers and to the community.”
Through the festival, non-professional musicians from the Southern Interior have the opportunity to work with professional adjudicators from across Western Canada.
“Music is a very important aspect in all our lives,” said den Biesen. “Sometimes I think society doesn’t give enough credit to the importance of music at the school level. It’s very important to support music, and for young people, particularly, because it plays a large role in the development of the mind.”
A registered music teacher and board member for 11 years, Duncan said she took over as vice president in 2008.
“I’ve decided to step back because I felt I have been involved for enough years and felt the job needs to be spread around, and it wasn’t just me, the whole board was feeling that way,” she said, noting she will remain involved, acting as a resource for other volunteers.
Like Duncan, den Biesen said he will act as an advisor and help out when he can, music to the ears of new president Chad Isaac.
“It’s nice Jeff is there for any questions I have,” he said, describing him as “a great leader. “His contribution to the society has been huge and he has definitely been a great asset.”
Ensuring the continuation of the festival is no easy task den Biesen explains, noting the greatest challenge is to find funding. Although registration fees do help, he said they cover less than half of the cost and there is a heavy reliance on donations, sponsorships and volunteerism.
Duncan said another challenge has been finding volunteers who are able to commit and put in the time.
“I think it’s very hard to divide the jobs up, the greatest challenge is simply that one job has many facets. It’s hard to find a team to commit themselves and I say that only because we are all so busy these days,” she said.
But with hard work comes great achievement, and for both den Biesen and Duncan, that has been the growth and success of the festival. At its peak, there has been more than 700 registered artists, quite the jump from just 150 in the debut year.
“The success of the students – that has been the greatest achievement. We are going into the 12th year and we have had so many students from Salmon Arm and the surrounding areas over the years,” den Biesen said.
“The festival is very well thought of throughout the valley and it’s extremely well-organized. We have a lot of repeat students and teachers who say they wait for the festival every year,” she said. “It really is a top-notch festival and for the students, it’s a great incentive, it’s certainly invaluable.”