Interview With Artistic Director Of Steamboat Mountain Music Festival

Posted by on Aug 13, 2014 in Interviews | No Comments
Larry checks for messages as misty profile of Steamboat Mountain stands by out the window.
Larry checks for messages as misty profile of Steamboat Mountain stands by out the window.

Larry Newman calls, “All aboard!”

Why did you decide to organize a music festival?

I believe in music as the universal language. It brings people together for mutual enjoyment. At a time when everything is so fragmented and conflicted, music is a force that unites the world.

Many of the musicians on the line-up for Steamboat Mountain Music Festival are also regular performers at Music on Main.*** Is there a connection?

I have helped with Music on Main every summer since it got started. When we were first thinking about hosting the Steamboat Mountain Music Festival in Edgewater, we already had a strong network of local and regional musicians to draw on. The festival mandate is to begin with a base of at least 60 percent Columbia Valley music. Being a musician and music lover, I can think of no better cause than to support and encourage local music. We have a talent pool here locally and regionally that demands and deserves to be heard. As singer-songwriter Mickey Maione observed, “Shake a tree in Edgewater, and a musician falls out.” And that’s true here in the whole Columbia Valley. There is a huge range of musical talent and some of the best players you’ll find anywhere!

One of the stated goals for the Steamboat Mountain Music Festival is to establish a fund to provide scholarships and bursaries for musicians of any age. Why is this important to you?

Personally, I wanted to go off to a blue grass music camp in Sorrento about four years ago. Because it was a week long camp, and I would have travel and accommodation expenses plus the camp tuition, my costs would be high. And then taking that time off righ

Larry checks for messages as misty profile of Steamboat Mountain stands by out the window.t in the busy summer season would be a big hit to my income. I found that it was almost too much to contemplate. A musician friend and I applied for a Cultural Alliance grant to help us offset some of our expenses, and we did get it, but we had to compete for scarce funds with visual artists, writers, and cultural groups from all over the Kootenay region, all hoping to win assistance for their projects. Through our festival, and setting up this fund, we want to make more targeted resources available for the professional development of musicians. We want to improve access not just for music camps, but for lessons with local professional teachers, workshops, and other music programs. It is a mistake to think that this is just something that will help young performers. Musicians of any age can benefit from such opportunities. Young musicians are all ready to begin developing their skills, but my friend Bruce Smith, who attended the Sorrento camp with me is into his seventies, and he was at a stage in his music where he was ready to develop his skills. He considers that camp to be, as he puts it, “one of the cornerstones” of his life. After he returned from the camp, he went on to join the Kootenay Legends, adding his special dobro sound to their blend. No matter what age you are, you can learn and grow musically when you are at that readiness stage and you take that opportunity. In taking a course or attending a camp, an individual can learn new playing and composing techniques, music theory, new riffs and harmonies, and observe the styles and stagecraft of the best in the field. Meeting other musicians can be an education in itself. The late Gord Askey, for instance, was a master at relating to audiences and playing with other musicians, and doing it effectively.

One of the features of the Steamboat Mountain Music festival is a tribute to Gord Askey. He was mostly known for his mandolin music, wasn’t he?

He certainly did play mandolin, but he performed with great style and wit. He taught me a lot about that interplay, that special communication among the musicians and between them and the audience – the shared appreciation that makes music so much fun. I first met Gord at a music camp quite a few years ago, and since then I’ve discovered that his influence on musicians around this region has been enormous. He’s already greatly missed.

Are there other musicians who have influenced the local music community?

I could name off quite a few but I wouldn’t want to miss anybody. Here in the Columbia Valley, I’ve had the privilege of playing with and listening to some of the best musicians I’ve ever encountered in my life. I consider it a further privilege to be part of this musical family. I’ve lived and played in lots of places – this is the best. Music is one of the main reasons I stay here.

Your group the Dry Gulch Ramblers has been playing together for about eight or nine years. What keeps you going?

I think it’s our strong musical understanding of each other. One time we didn’t get together for a stretch of about seven months. When we played again, it was as though we were never apart, we picked up and continued to grow. I have tremendous respect for the musicianship of the individuals in the band. I think we balance each other in what we bring. Lately we’ve been taking a different direction. Our lead guitar player Mark Fraser is adding in some electric guitar now. John McRobbie and I have been writing quite a few new tunes. We’ve enjoyed the process, and even the re-writing process, as we work out our arrangements. We hope to try out a few of our originals for the festival in July.

Is the planning all done for the festival?

Well, the line-up is complete and diverse. We have some headliners with strong connections to the Valley and, of course, lots of authentic local talent (see posters and website for the complete list). We have been getting great support from the RDEK and some of the granting agencies like CBT, CVArts, and the Columbia Valley Community Foundation, and from corporate and community sponsors. It’s been heartening to see that so many businesses want to jump on the band wagon, so to speak: BC Hydro, Kootenay Savings, the Radium Info Centre, John Wolfe Construction, Max Helmer Construction, Local View Printing, Palliser Printing, Casa Vino, Pip’s Country Store, Kicking Horse Coffee, Prestige Inn, Apple Tree Inn, Gables Motel, and Long & McQuade Music. And of course, since the beginning, we’ve appreciated the steadfast support of our ticket outlets: One Hour Photo, Pips, Skookum Service, Smoking Waters, Meet on Higher Ground, Brisco Store, Parson General Store, and Moon River Gallery. But the planning isn’t all done yet. Our organizing committee still has a few logistics details to wrap up during June, but we’re pleased with the progress so far, and we’re looking forward to a very exciting festival on July 7th. We’re adding some informal jams on Saturday night after hours, and a couple of music workshops with historical themes to tie in with the 100th Anniversary of Edgewater on Sunday morning, July 8th. As we finalize details, we’ll add news on the website, so check in at www.steamboatmtnmusicfest.ca

***Music on Main is a summer concert series sponsored by the Village of Radium, the business community of Radium, and supported by various corporate and cultural organizations. It was developed under the leadership of Edgewater musician Scott Ivers who saw the potential and wanted his own bands to have more performance opportunities. Music on Main brings local and regional musicians to an outdoor main street stage. Musicians have a chance to earn some money and get their tunes out to an appreciative public who gather to listen, sing and dance in the streets. In its fifth year, Music on Main has grown to be a much anticipated sign of summer in the valley. Dozens of local performers have had a chance to get their work out there. Local audiences enjoy a free admission night out every week. It usually gets going on the Canada Day weekend and goes right through to Labour Day.