Small Town, Big Music Scene

Words By Bob Sampson
Photo By David Stevenson

What you may not know about the Sayward Valley Folk Music Society.

If you’ve never taken in a concert in a small town (think 400 people small), you may be interested in exploring the Sayward Valley Folk Music Society (SVFMS). Located 85 km north of Campbell River, the Village of Sayward hosts a variety of events throughout the year, ranging from Canada Day celebrations to the ever-popular Kusam Klimb. And, one feature attraction that draws people to the area from up and down the Island is the concert series hosted by the Sayward Valley Folk Music Society.

The society was founded by Bob and Karen Sampson in 2017. As a musician and visual artist, respectively, they developed the idea of bringing live music featuring both Canadian and international performers to their small community. Based on the same concept used by the Victoria Folk Music Society, and joining a number of established organizations on Vancouver Island, SVFMS continues to provide quality entertainment in a family-friendly atmosphere. As a not-for-profit organization, SVFMS is entirely community supported through memberships, donations, ticket sales, and a remarkable group of volunteers. Originally presenting concerts at the Sayward Heritage Hall in 2017, SVFMS moved to a larger venue at The Kelsey Centre in 2020 with support from the Village Council and Sayward Futures Society.

Since its inception, Bob and Karen have aimed to book an eclectic variety of acts to appear on stage, with an emphasis on acoustic music in the folk tradition. “We try not to limit ourselves,” says Bob. “Over the years, we have featured not only folk, but also jazz, blues, bluegrass, and country, all of which have been derived from folk origins.”

Last fall and winter, SVFMS partnered with ‘Canada’s classical house concert network’ Living Room Live to host concerts and musicians in Sayward during the British Columbia South section of their tour.

From the Old Time Fiddlers to Valdy, from Doug Cox to Harpdog Brown, and others too numerous to mention, all have shared the Sayward experience and have asked to return at some future date. In addition to receiving a performance fee, entertainers stay with host families and are provided meals. The venue is set up with both regular and cafe-style seating, and a dance floor for those inclined to get up and move to the music. Non-alcoholic beverages and desserts made by local bakers are sold at concerts to help support the society. One of the great things about the community-oriented way in which these concerts are presented is that the audience gets to meet and talk with the musicians.

Bob has found the musicians to be outstanding: “There are so many talented people out there. They entertain, not because they want to make a lot of money, but because they love the music. That is what is important. To a certain extent there is ego involved, and they do have to make a living, but I have yet to meet anyone thus far enveloped in their own self-importance.”

All concerts take place on the second Sunday of each month from March through November, with an additional three concerts scheduled for the Classical Series. Membership is available to both individuals ($85) and families ($130), which allows admission to all SVFMS concerts for only $5 per person (non-member concert pricing is $20 per person). Children under 16 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult.

Though it takes a lot of work to produce the concerts, the reward it brings to the members of SVFMS and the community as a whole is immeasurable. Cultivating positive art and cultural experiences through a shared love of music is uplifting to the spirit and touchesthe soul of our community.

Like many other events cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions,the 2020 concert series will resume in 2021.




Category: Volume 2