THE HISTORY OF BLUE SKIES IN THE COMMUNITY
Blue Skies in the Community (BSIC) is a committee of the Clarendon Blue Skies Music Festival. It oversees and governs the community outreach activities of the Festival. The Blue Skies Music Festival began in 1973, and continues to be entirely volunteer run. It has taken place continuously on the long weekend in August since its first year.
From the earliest years, people associated with the festival began reaching out to the surrounding community to support and promote music and arts related activities. As early as 1978 Blue Skies applied for and received an Explorations grant to support a week long “Blue Skies School” on the festival site. It provided lessons in violin, guitar and mandolin.
During the 1980’s many other community initiatives were supported, including, in 1987, a concert series in Perth with Garnet Rogers, Brent Titcomb and Terry Jones.
The following year, in 1988, Blue Skies applied for and received an Ontario Arts Council Grant for $5000.
Although this was designated to help pay for festival performer salaries, it freed up $5000 from festival income to be used for community projects. The festival continues to receive a grant from OAC and festival organizers continue to consider it a reservoir of funds to support community projects.
During the 1990’s many more community projects were supported including another week long “School of the Arts’ held on site in 1997.
In 1996 an Instrument Donation Program was begun.
1999 was the year that BSIC as we know it now really got its start. We are greatly indebted to Carolyn Stewart, who provided much of the vision and energy behind the creation of the Blue Skies Fiddle Orchestra and the Blue Skies Children’s Arts Camp. In 1999, Blue Skies agreed to support a Fiddle Orchestra in Sharbot Lake, and Carolyn Stewart, as conductor, began to develop the orchestra that still exists today. Start up funds for this were provided by a grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Kingston. In 2000 a three year Trillium Grant was received. Its main goals were to develop and expand the Fiddle Orchestra, to promote and support more community projects and to make funding for BSIC projects sustainable. In 2002, also spearheaded by Carolyn Stewart, the Blue Skies Children’s Arts Camp got its start. It too has thrived until the present day.
MAJOR MILESTONES FOR BLUE SKIES IN THE COMMUNITY PROJECTS, OVER THE YEARS
THE BLUE SKIES FIDDLE ORCHESTRA, AND INSTRUMENT LENDING PROGRAMS
- 2000 – the first year for the Blue Skies Fiddle Orchestra, led by Carolyn Stewart and assisted by funds from the Community Foundation of Greater Kingston.
- 2002 – Funding was received a second time from the Community Foundation of Greater Kingston, this time to purchase violin’s for the instrument lending project. This lending bank continues to provide violins at ¼, ½, ¾ or full size at a very low rent to orchestra members and community members. Over the years, violins of various qualities have continued to be offered to the bank. Some quite valuable ones have been received, and these, not being of student quality, are sold to support the activities of BSIC.
- 2002 – In addition to the main Fiddle Orchestra, a Beginners Fiddle Orchestra was started,.Over the years there has continued to be a “Prep Orchestra” which prepares newer fiddle players for the regular orchestra, and periodically, a “Beginners’ Orchestra” for aspiring fiddlers with no previous experience.
- 2003 – the Fiddle Orchestra fundraised for, and then took a group trip to Cape Breton.
- 2007 – All the violins in the instrument lending bank were catalogued, and a system was set up to catalogue all new donations.
- 2010 – Carolyn began mentoring Cindy McCall to take over the Fiddle Orchestra. Cindy took over the full directorship in 2011. The total memberships of the orchestras now exceeds 50.
- 2011-2013 – Cindy organised two day long workshops, one with Wade Foster, Michael Ball and Gary Glover as teachers, one with Anne Lederman, James Stevens and Emilyn Stanwic.
- 2015 – the Fiddle Orchestra fundraised for and took a week long trip to Prince Edward Island.
THE BLUE SKIES KIDS ARTS CAMP
- 2002 – The first week long children’s arts camp was held, under the direction of Carolyn
- 2004-2006 – Marty Hammer and Randy Cameron assisted Carolyn with running the camp
- 2007 – Carolyn mentored Julia Hale to be the director the next year.
- 2008 – Carolyn was able to stop being directly responsible for the camp – Julia Hale directed the camp this year
- 2009 – Julia Hale directed the camp, with assistant director Julia Kent
- 2010 – 2011 – Carone Beaucage directed the Children’s Camp. In 2011 assistants were hired to help Carone with administrative functions, and the website was used to help with registration.
- 2012 – Susan Walker took over the Children’s Camp Directorship, and continued until 2016 with administrative assistants, and with assistant directors
- 2017 – Jenn Ayer and Janine DeVries take on the Children’s Camp Directorship
THE COMMUNITY GRANTING PROGRAM AND MUSIC BURSARY PROGRAM
Over the years many, many music projects in the local area have received funding support from BSIC. Examples include: start up support for other music festivals; support to provide a musical component at local celebrations and events; support for musicians to give concerts and/or workshops in local schools; support for music workshops in other local venues; support for musical groups to take trips to enrich their knowledge and musical experience; support to community groups which mentor youth and include music related activity.
Some requests for support come directly from the community, some from the local schools, and some are developed, in cooperation with community groups, by BSIC members. The music bursary program has provided support to many local children to take music lessons, principally on the violin, but sometimes with other instruments.
In recent years a focus for granting activity has been to encourage schools to use BSIC support to develop ongoing music activities for their students. For a number of years, active support was given to schools to develop ukulele programs which would sustain themselves over several years of a student’s experience. From 2009 to 2012 the committee worked with James Hill to build a ukulele momentum in the local area. As a result ukulele programs were established and/or supported in several schools, and a community ukulele orchestra was formed. Currently the committee is taking the same approach with percussion instruments.
ADULT MUSIC CAMP
In response to much demand, BSIC has developed and coordinated three extremely popular multi-day adult “music camps”, one in 2012, in 2013 and in 2015. These give adults the opportunity for immersion in an Arts Learning Experience somewhat parallel to what children get to experience in the Children’s Arts Camp. Because of the complexities of using the Blue Skies Site for these Camps, they have been held in the Battersea area instead. Maintaining this project is a goal of BSIC.
CHORAL MUSIC LENDING LIBRARY
In 2009 a Choral Music Lending Library was established, using copies of music from the annual Festival choirs. Local choirs borrow the music for their repertoires.
ORGANIZATION OF BSIC
The Blue Skies in the Community Committee was originally formed to support Carolyn, as she actively developed the Orchestra, the Camp and led other community initiatives. Initially various people associated with Blue Skies informally assisted Carolyn in her activities. Inie Platineus was a particularly important support to Carolyn in all of these developments. By 2001 a formal committee was struck to support Carolyn in her activities.
- 2003 – A program evaluation was done, as part of a three year Trillium Grant received in 2000. It enumerated the many successful goal completions related to the grant, and pointed to several issues that needed to be addressed. One was the large and expanding workload that Carolyn was taking on as projects were growing. Another was the accountability relationship of these projects to Blue Skies.
- The festival continued to support community initiatives after the Trillium Grant ran out, using money freed up by the OAC grant. When the grant was increased to $10,000 in 2004, this money was also made available to BSIC to support its various programs. In 2012 the Festival decided to commit more than the OAC grant amount to BSIC managed projects, and increased their support to $18,000. This amount was increased again in 2014 to $20,000.
- 2005 – the BSIC committee was reconfigured to provide more formal support to Carolyn who was in danger of being overwhelmed by administrative duties. A further goal for the Committee was to provide a more formal accountability to Blue Skies. Specific roles were established within the committee to relieve Carolyn from some administrative responsibilities.
- By 2008 Carolyn was able to disengage herself from running the Children’s Camp, and coordinating the Community Granting Program. She retained the role of Fiddle Orchestra Director until 2011, when she was able leave that responsibility. In 2012 she withdrew from the BSIC committee. Her vital role in the evolution of all of BSIC’s activities will continue to be recognized.
- By 2008 the committee felt the desirability of creating a website, and but did not succeed in creating one until 2012, and this did not become truly functional until 2013
- 2017 – the committee has had a very vital and committed membership over the years. It currently consists of 7 members, each of which has a clear focus of responsibility. The membership is primarily drawn from people closely connected to the Blue Skies Festival, though there is also representation from the local community. It is a mix of long time members (several involved for 10 years or so) and newer members (two new members joined in 2014/15.)