Whether she was sitting in front of the ivories, singing solo, or performing with her sisters in theatre, local area resident Christina Sawchuk was a staple of the Cold Lake Music Festival for 11 years. She left to attend Concordia University in Edmonton, and recently completed her four year Master of Arts in Music, in three years.
She returned to Cold Lake in June, '19 for a special performance at the Lakeland Lutheran Church. Because fundraising for any non-profit group is always crucial to its survival, she said having the show was a natural.
"The Cold Lake Music Festival was such a huge part of my journey as a musician. I probably wouldn't have ended up pursuing a music degree and pursuing it as a career, if it weren't for the foundation that the music festival gave me. So I wanted to give back to the festival, because I know what a huge part fundraising is in running it," she said.
The pieces she chose to perform were actually the components of her associate diploma exam at Concordia days earlier - a mix of Chopin, Beethoven, and Bach, as well as three more contemporary pieces.
"There's a list you're allowed to choose from. There's some I've been working on for a couple years, some for a couple months. They're all special to me in their own way."
The Cold Lake Music Festival completed its 32nd showcase concert this spring. She said any opportunity like that plays a huge role in any aspiring artist or performer living in a non-urban setting. "It provides not only an opportunity for young students to perform, but an opportunity to be in a more professional setting, and to get feedback from someone who really knows what they're doing."
Adjudicators normally have a Master's or Doctorate degree in music, and teach at universities, or operate studios, or otherwise have proven themselves to be among the best of the best. She added while feedback from friends and family is always nice, the honesty of the adjudicators is in many ways incomparable, providing the constructive criticism an aspiring performer needs.
"They're very accomplished in their fields, so the opportunity for young students to get feedback from someone like that on they're playing is very important. The opportunity to get affirmation from someone who's so well-educated is very important for a young musician. I found that performing in the festival for eleven years gave me a very good sense of stage presence, and so when students struggle with being bullied, or lack of self esteem, music is often a way they can express themselves in a non-judgemental environment, and gain that sense of self confidence in their music."
"Personally, I found that when I started performing piano pieces at the music festival, I was quite nervous. But as soon as I sat down at that bench, I was in this little box, just me and the piano, and I express whatever I wanted to through music. After that, I'd get out and bow, and life would continue as normal. But I had those few minutes where it's just me and my instrument."
With the Bachelor of Arts tucked under her arm, she's now pursuing her Bachelor of Education degree this Fall, and is doing her internship singing with Choral Canada, which promotes and advocates for Canadian choral music and musicians.
Don't be surprised if the next time she's at the Cold Lake Music Festival, it's as one of the adjudicators, helping other young aspiring musicians and performers achieve their dreams, too.