After many years of hosting its popular Asian Feast and its Tapas and Tunes fundraiser events, the Amy Ferguson Institute has decided to change its emphasis from food to musical entertainment for its upcoming FUNraiser at the Nelson United Church at 7 p.m. on June 15. Some of Nelson best known performers, young and old, will join forces for this inaugural FUNraiser concert.
“Admission at the door will be by donation to allow everyone in the community to attend and share in this celebration of the musical talent of the Nelson area,” said FUNraiser coordinator Lorna Inkster, who is working on the event with co-coordinator Sylvia Reimer.
“In addition to such well known stars of past AFI opera and musical theatre productions, as Allison Girvan, Kathleen Neudorf, Kevin Armstrong and Audrey Bissett, the event will also feature the Cottonwood Singers and pianist, Robert Hargreaves,” Inkster said. “We are especially happy to include up and coming young performers, Gabe Macdonald and Galen Boulanger, as well as the first two recipients of AFI’s June Lythgoe Music Scholarship, Malaika Horswill and Anna Backus.”
One hundred per cent of the proceeds from the FUNraiser will be used to help AFI launch it latest initiative, the AFI Production Skills Mentorship Fund.
One of the many challenges cultural groups face when staging local performances is finding suitably trained and experienced people with the behind the scenes production skills, such as stage direction and management, musical direction, as well as the design and construction of sets, sound and lighting components that are all needed to mount the show. To help address this problem the directors of the Amy Ferguson Institute (AFI) have created a special fund to help nurture these skills in the Nelson area.
The newly creation Production Skills Mentorship Fund will enable local productions to offer experienced directors, designers and technicians assistance to give hands-on training to an apprentice who wishes to join the show’s production team and learn the specific production skill of the mentor involved.
“The success of this program will involve a three-way partnership between the group or organization mounting the production, the skilled mentor providing the training and the Amy Ferguson Institute,” said AFI president, Dianna Ducs. “AFI’s role will be to provide a modest honorarium to the production concerned so they can cover the additional costs of having a mentor provide hands on training to an apprentice as an additional part of their production contract.”
“We are thrilled that the production of Cabaret launched this program by offering an apprentice the opportunity to learn stage management skills under the mentorship of long-time theatre stalwart, Michael Graham,” Ducs said.
Outgoing president, Ron Little explained that AFI had itself benefitted enormously from the generous support of the community during its difficult early years and now wanted to share the befits of its recent success with the community.
“With the proceeds from the huge box office success of AFI’s most recent productions, KHAOS and Jesus Christ Superstar, the organization has doubled its endowment of the June Lythgoe Music Scholarship for advanced musical studies by deserving local music students and will also help defray some of the Capitol Theatre’s costs of enhancing the facilities and technology of the theatre orchestra pit,” Little said. “The new Production Skills Mentorship Funds is the third way we will pay forward to the community with the proceeds from our past and future box office success.”
The Amy Ferguson Institute was founded in 2000 to celebrate the musical legacy of the late Dr. Amy Ferguson, a much loved music teacher, choir director and church organist in Nelson who is best remembered as the founder of the Nelson Boys Choir which she directed from its inception in 1930 until her death in 1972.
In 2007, the Institute amalgamated with the Nelson Community Opera (NCO) to form a single organization operating under the legal auspices of the Amy Ferguson Institute with NCO as the production arm of the organization.
In addition to mounting annual productions of opera and musical theatre, AFI sponsors festivals, workshops and master classes for the vocal arts, mounts joint venture productions with other local musical organizations, endows a music scholarship, and occasionally commissions the composition of new works including the hugely successful new opera, KHAOS, by local composer, Don Macdonald that had its world premiere in Nelson in March 2012.