Working with a hammer and steel
If you’ve experienced multicultural music in the area over the last couple of years, odds are that Valerie Dare had something to do with it.
Dare has been the music coordinator at the Errington Hall for the past couple of years and with that role she has brought a wealth of experience and connections and a genuine enthusiasm for this ethnically diverse music.
In Arrowsmith she also helped put together the youth marimba group Kumbana Marimba, as well as the group Afro-Mumanzi, who now run local summer camps, she’s involved in the marimba lessons for seniors at the Bradley Centre and she’s also involved in the new Jug Band Project that recently began at the Coombs Activity Centre.
Her community engagement stretches beyond just Arrowsmith.
Dare grew up in the area and graduated from Kwalicum Secondary High School in 1964, before moving to Victoria to attend university. She became a teacher and taught in a number of locations including Parksville, Powell River, Nelson and Revelstoke before settling in Vancouver.
After returning to school she received a masters degree in education with a specialty in school libraries. It was teaching at Brittannia Secondary School in East Vancouver that Dare discovered her affinity for world music and what a wonderful tool it was for introducing new cultures and music to the largely ESL (English as a second language) student population.
“It was a really neat way for students to be introduced to other cultures in a sort of live format, non-text, so they didn’t have to read and could acquire the information in other ways,” she said.
The musicians would come into the classroom, demonstrate their craft and interact with the students, and Dare saw great results. She became involved in creating curriculum that combined learning and ethnic music for schools throughout B.C. Dare discovered marimba music while attending a music showcase during her time on the Vancouver School Board’s art advocacy committee. The idea came up and funding was available to build a set of marimbas at Britannia school’s wood work shop.
In District 69 last year, Dare and Marilynn Sims, both with Arrowsmith Community Enhancement Society (ACES), won a grant to introduce a similar project. Marimbas were built at Qualicum Beach Middle School with the help of students and seniors and lessons and performances around the area followed. Dare was also involved with local community groups on the mainland and helped create a youth performance group that has since evolved into a group called Kutapira. In 2007 they played for Queen Elizabeth at the Aberdeen International Youth Festival in Scotland. This group has been involved with the Errington Hall over the years and some of its members make up the group Afro-Mumanzi, who run a World Music Summer Camp in Errington.
With the idea of starting a local youth performance group, Dare worked with the Oceanside Community Arts Council to hold workshops at the local middle schools. She discovered two youth in an adult marimba band and they became the instructors of the group Kumbana Marimba.
After her first year on the Errington Hall board, Dare managed to get approval for a grant, enabling the hall to book out of town guests. Back on the board of directors at the Oceanside Community Arts Council, Dare is now endeavoring to bring more activities and community engagement to The MAC (McMillan Arts Centre).
“What I’m hoping we can do is transform The MAC into a real community arts centre,” she said.
This will be a tough challenge however, she said, without any basic funding from local government. But whether this challenge pans out or not one thing’s for certain, the community has a lot to thank Valerie Dare for.