Phil Dwyer and Theresa Whitely are no strangers to working together.
In addition to celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary in the fall of 2019 — the two have been collaborating to put on events for quite some time.
The power couple have taken over directing the music program at The Old School House Arts Centre in Qualicum Beach, a role previously filled by Ron Hadley.
“We’ve been doing this together forever. Going back to Toronto days, we basically always worked together. It just seems to be a fairly organic division of labour,” said Whitely.
Whitely does administrative and behind the scenes work, and Dwyer does the booking and communicating with the musicians. Dwyer is the “quirky ideas” half of the duo, and Whitely is the “common-sense, get ’er done” side of things, according to Dwyer.
The two initially met in Toronto. Whitely was working in jazz clubs in the city when she met Dwyer.
They fell in love, though, in London, England. Whitely had been travelling and working abroad, and Dwyer was touring as a jazz musician when he came through the jazz club she was working at.
“The spotlight was shining on him, and he was playing a solo, and I was like ‘look at that guy!’” said Whitely with a laugh.
The rest is history. From Toronto, the two moved to Qualicum Beach. Whitely opened Oceanside Yoga Centre in 2005, and Dwyer has continued to build a successful career as a jazz musician.
Dwyer’s extensive discography is peppered with accolades, including two Juno awards (for Best Mainstream Jazz Album in 1994, and Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year in 2012), six Juno nominations and not least, becoming a Member of the Order of Canada.
“We’re very supportive of each other, and what we want to do. It’s not easy to be a musician, it’s not easy to be a yoga teacher. We both go OK — if that’s what your passion is, then do it,” said Whitely.
Dwyer plans on leveraging his extensive connections in the jazz world to bring a bit of a new flavour to TOSH, while still retaining a strong focus on the classical music the venue is known for.
“We’ll probably just broaden the palate a little bit, in terms of that. Of course, we have a lot of connections in the jazz community. We try to take advantage of touring groups,” said Dwyer.
Typically, the series would bring in a soloist and put a local band as backing behind them. Dwyer will try to shift the focus to bringing in full touring bands to the venue.
The fall 2019 series was booked by Hadley. As of January of 2020, the two will be officially putting their stamp on the musical menu on offer at Qualicum Beach’s arts hub.
They’ve snuck in a couple additional shows for the fall as well, including blues guitarist David Gogo on Nov. 1.
“He usually plays big blues festivals for thousands of screaming fans. So this is a pretty unique opportunity for people to check him out — he’ll be four feet away from you,” said Dwyer.
This fall, the Music On Sunday program takes place weekly at TOSH from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
It kicks off on Sept. 15 with string group the Echéa Quartet. Sept. 22 will bring Dublin singer/songwriter Terry Boyle alongside Riverdance fiddler Ceilidh Briscoe.
The first concert of 2020 will feature jazz guitarist Oliver Gannon with local bass player Ken Lister.
There’s also a special treat for fans of Beethoven on the anniversary of his 250th birthday — two back to back weekends celebrating his music. One will feature the Emily Carr string quartet, and another a showcase of Beethoven’s piano sonatas.
Whitely and Dwyer are excited about the level of artistic talent in the Parksville-Qualicum Beach area, and have a far-reaching vision of continuing to elevate the arts scene on the mid-Island.
“TOSH could be one really important node on a whole regional program of marketing this area as a real arts hub. And it should be. We’re getting enough of a critical mass of people that are tired of paying what you have to pay to live in a big city. Artists, musicians, all kinds of people,” Dwyer.
“I think that this could become a real major destination for the arts,” said Dwyer.
With the depth of volunteer expertise at TOSH, a supportive Board of Directors, and a wealth of musical and other artistic talent in the area, it seems as though music and arts lovers in Parksville Qualicum Beach have a lot to look forward to.
To keep up with the musical events offered, check out TOSH’s website at www.theoldschoolhouse.org/music-events.