There is a society of local musicians, but there is no local musicians’ society. Two of the most active are Kevin Derksen and Barry Elliott, and with the encouragement of many others they are taking the consultation steps to establish a proper not-for-profit association that would enable a music industry to learn and grow within Burns Lake.
“This is something Barry and I have been talking about for quite some time,” said Derksen. “Really what started this was, [local music scene leader] Jim Loeb recently moved. He started the coffeehouse for four or five seasons, then the pandemic put the kibosh to a lot of that.”
From Loeb’s experience it was known that to enjoy advantages like preferred pricing and services, the musicians had to partner with a not-for-profit society, to ensure their activities were accountable, the financial transactions were above board, however small or large they might be, and the public always had the knowledge that their money and resources were going to a verified cause.
“We thought, moving forward, let’s be the not-for-profit ourselves,” said Derksen, who has the experience of doing the same thing as a co-founder of the Burns Lake Mountain Biking Association. “It’s not necessarily required to have the shows that were going on, but we have dreamy, lofty ideas and this is not my first rodeo incubating a community-based organization. If you bread-crumb your way through your short-term goals, it makes the long-term goals more achievable. But we literally just had our first meeting.”
That meeting was last Monday and it led to some concrete plans and some open discussions for future planning.
The initial plan was a commitment, even before formalizing as a society, to holding five coffeehouses. The first one coming up is Jan. 27 at 6:30pm (doors open) at Lakes District Secondary School’s library, with performances happening organically from 7-9pm.
“It’s a nice acoustical space,” Derksen said, adding that it allows for better exposure for the high school students to the musical possibilities alive to them, even though they are just formative as players and singers. The truth is, said Derksen, everyone is formative as a musician. The learning is constant and eternal, which makes every live performance a chance to discover and explore. Mixing people together for that is how the artistic magic happens.
“The coffeehouse is open to all musicians,”Derksen said. “Variety is what makes for a great evening. As for audience, anyone is welcome of course, the more the merrier, they will be glad they came.”
It is an event based so solidly on past open-mic coffeehouses that the base purpose is going to be entertaining for all, but it also the ground floor of some major potential.
One of the leading ideas that has already gotten open dialogue is holding an all-local music festival at Spirit Square.
What might the Lakes District Fall Fair represent as an opportunity?
What might Burns Lake’s centennial planning provide for opportunity?
One of Derksen’s favourite early ideas is the society facilitating a performance tour for the town’s musicians, but a tour that never leaves the Lakes District. What, according to the discussion so far, if all the learning and development that a tour provides any musician could be achieved while also serving the local public? Instead of trying to arrange junkets across Canada, the travel was to the array of local community halls? Trout Creek, Decker Lake, Francois Lake, Wisteria, Palling, Rose Lake, the Margaret Patrick Memorial Centre, and many other venues of this nature are open and available. Their neighbourhood residents raised money and went to great grassroots lengths to build them. So a mobile performance series could bring validation to those spaces, animation to those sub-communities, and hands-on knowledge to musicians learning their craft.
“The clear message is, we’re starting small but getting off on the right foot,” Derksen said. “Let’s connect people in their parts of the larger community, let’s connect musicians through workshops and jam sessions and see what we can build. We have time to sort out those summer and fall logistics, talk to Village of Burns Lake about Spirit Square, talk to the hall associations about each of the halls, figure out how to make those happen.”
In the meantime, the plan is to meet up on Jan. 27 for one of the first chances since the pandemic restrictions melted away for local musicians to meet each other and meet an audience.