- Our Town
New equipment for jamming at the youth centre
Thursday nights at the Bowen Island Youth Centre just got a whole lot better - they sound better too. It’s the evening when local youth can hone their musical talents. And two new guitar amps, a bass and a bass amp, a sound system, a full drum kit, an acoustic guitar, as well as mikes and mike stands are waiting for a band that is ready to rock. The equipment was purchased with grant money from the Bowen Island Community Foundation and youth services coordinator John Stiver appreciates the help. “We received $3,500 from the community foundation,” Stiver said. “Now we want to focus on playing together and work towards completing a project.” Stiver is excited about the prospect of finding a few more young musicians, have them pick a set of tunes, learn their parts and perform. A friend of his, Stephen Fisk, has offered to record the music when it’s ready. “Stephen works as a music teacher at the Sarah MacLaughlin School of Music and the Vancouver Community College,” Stiver said. “He offered to bring in his equipment to record the band.”
Stiver said that musicians of all levels are invited to join and that he will help to coach them.
“We’ve been running the Thursday practice for a couple of years,” he said, explaining that the musicians used gear that people had left or loaned the youth centre. There had been a guitar and a drum set (on loan from Marcus Hondro) as well as a guitar amp. But the equipment was unevenly matched, affecting the quality of the sound. “The guitar amp was too small to keep up with the volume of the drums set and we had no bass amp,” Stiver said.
To keep the youth music program active, Stiver had actively looked for fundraising options. He found the perfect opportunity when he participated in a grant writing workshop hosted by Joyce Ganong, chair of the Bowen Island Community Foundation. “[Joyce] has been very helpful,” Stiver says, adding that he hopes that the new equipment will be a draw for budding musicians, “It’s so important for kids to have an outlet and the youth music program gives them an opportunity to do something as a group.”
“We’ve had two kids playing drums but both moved off the island. We take turns on the drums but would really like to have a drummer join us,” Stiver said. He added that an organ has also been donated and a piano has been there for many years. “We can cover most of the instruments but invite people to bring their own guitars,” he said. “They can also bring ideas for music or songs they have been working on.”
Stiver plays guitar and bass. He has been a musician for 25 years and has played with a number of different groups. He started playing at 17 and, as a young musician, he also had the opportunity to “jam with people” until he got the call to join a funk band.
Since then, he’s built his career and gained experience coaching bands. “The kids don’t need to have a level of proficiency to join. I’ll help them find music that is suitable for the different levels and get them ready for the recording,” he promised. But Stiver is not the only one helping out. There is a group of three musicians who show up on Thursdays to practice. They often share tips on how to play. “We have a core group that would like to see some new kids fill out the band. And there is a bit of mentorship going on as well,” Stiver said, adding that one of them is Kip Thompson who volunteers regularly.
The Thursday program at the youth centre at runs from 4 to 7 p.m. In addition to musicians, anyone 12 to 18 years of age is invited to drop in and enjoy the free food.