The Cariboo Festival Society has appointed a new president in the form of longtime lakecity musician and Cariboo Gold Dance Band pianist Juliana Lam.
Lam is a lifelong piano player and has been performing for the lakecity community at various venues. In addition to her work with Cariboo Gold, she’s also served as the pianist for the Williams Lake Studio Theatre Society in past productions, like their last cabaret about four years back now.
She also currently serves as a board director for Big Brothers and Big Sisters Williams Lake and has been working as a community optometrist here for the last eight years at FYI Doctors.
When it came to discussing herself, Lam was quite modest in her interview with the Tribune.
Lam got her new position after Betty Dryden, the Festival’s public relations officer, said she had a job Lam would be perfect for.
“Basically what they told me was that Ann Smith, the previous president of the Cariboo Festival Society, wanted to step down. She wants to remain a part of the festival but she wants to train someone to take over or succeed her because she has been doing this for many, many years,” Lam explained. “It just seemed like something I’d be interested in because I already know Ann Smith and I’ve played the piano since I was little, so I’ve done all the Royal Conservatory lessons up to Grade Eight.”
While running a festival, musical or otherwise, is entirely new to her, with the support of the society Smith intends to meet the challenge head-on. Besides, Lam was told that without a president to head the organization there was a chance they wouldn’t be able to put on the festival for the lakecity youth next year.
“I was like ‘Well, that sounds terrible’ so I said, sure, I’ll learn (about being president) and let’s do the (festival),” Lam said.
The Cariboo Festival is a venerable event here in Williams Lake with the first taking place back in 1957 with over 200 musical entries. Since then it’s grown and changed as the decades moved on, attracting a wide variety of talent from choral groups, piano students, square dancers and even one-act plays.
Today, the festival is registered under the British Colombia Society Act, is affiliated with Performing Arts B.C. and remains a proud member of the Williams Lake Community Arts Council. Rather than take place over the course of a single day, as in its early years, it now takes place over the month of April with days set aside for what Lam calls the four disciplines; vocal and choral acts, speech arts, piano, assorted instrumental bands and an Honours Concert bringing them all together.
Lam wants it to be clear that she’s receiving a lot of help and guidance from her “guru” Smith for this year’s festival.
In that respect, she’s currently learning to fill Smith’s shoes rather than risk disrupting the festival.
As this is also her first year being involved with the organization of the festival she intends to not try and fix what isn’t broken. Lam said she’s very excited to be a part of it this year and says she intends to focus her energy on learning the ropes from Smith and the society.
This year the dates for the various disciplines and Honours concert are as follows, with registration open now. Beginning the festival will be the Vocal/Choral discipline from April 8 to 10 followed by Speech Arts on April 11 and 12.
The discipline of Piano will follow from April 15 to 17 while the Instrumental/Band disciple starts on April 16 running through to 18. At the month’s end, the Honours Concert will occur April 27.
Venues and act schedules are still pending and Lam said dates may vary, depending on their registration numbers. For the syllabus and registration instructions, Lam encourages the community to check out their website cariboofestival.ca for more details.
“I would like to encourage people of all skill levels to register. They do kind of get graded and marked from the adjudicators so I think that gets a little bit intimidating and there is an award ceremony but, you know, it’s still fun to come and participate and be a part of the festival,” Lam said.
For herself, Lam said she’s happy to get to do her part to help promote music in the community, especially the youth.
“I always say that the best gift my parents ever gave me, besides life, is piano lessons because that’s something I’ve just loved and really enjoy. It was like my piano was my best friend growing up,” Lam said. “I think that it’s just a great thing for kids to learn about music and fine arts in general.”