(Keili Bartlett / The Northern View)

Heart of Our City: Ian Lihou plays music eight days a week

Sharing a love of music — and the profits — for longer than he can remember

Ian Lihou remembers the exact moment he first heard the Beatles. He was sitting in the kitchen of his family home near Campbell River, when “Please please me” started playing from the speakers of their radio. Even though he was only six years old at the time, he recalls his brother saying, “Mom, that’s the Beatles.”

Music has struck a chord with Lihou ever since.

“Immediately, I understood why they were so much bigger and better than everything else. They’ve continued to be my go-to,” he said, sitting in front of the iconic Abbey Road poster in Ring System Music Studio.

“Music has always been a part of my everyday life,” Lihou said.

His current set includes five days of teaching his young students in Ring System Music Studio. Saturdays he practices with his own band, then on Sundays it’s back to rehearsals with his students as they fine-tune for their next concert. In his downtime, he likes to listen to his extensive record collection. He loves going camping, and even then he’ll bring along his guitar.

“I haven’t not had a band or a music project for probably 35 years.”

That’s the same amount of time Lihou has been in Prince Rupert.

In January of 1983, Lihou and his older brother were hired to put a band together for TJ’s Cabaret. The gig was meant to last 10 weeks. Then two more. Opportunities just kept popping up.

While TJ’s Cabaret has long since burned down, Lihou became a permanent fixture in Prince Rupert’s music scene.

When asked how many instruments he can play, Lihou said, “Well? None.” Then he laughs. “I play guitar and bass guitar. I can dabble in keyboards and drums — all kinds of instruments. I play horn, I can play trumpet and trombone.”

Professionally he mostly played the bass guitar and sang.

Ask him how many bands he’s played in and he’s likely to laugh again.

“I’ve played with almost every musician who’s played in Prince Rupert,” he said. He can’t count them all.

At a Summerfest in Smithers years ago, someone asked him why all of the musicians from Rupert played together. Each band from the coastal city that went up had a member — or more — who played with at least one other band during the music fest. The stage was a rotation of Rupertites, and it was hard to keep up with who belonged to which group.

“In Rupert, everyone plays with everyone. Whatever makes the song better,” he said. “That spirit’s always been prevalent here. I relish that.”

One of his lasting marks on the Prince Rupert music scene is how many young musicians he’s helped grow under the spotlight. Every year, his students put on the show of the season for the Jingle Bell Rock charity concert.

After the first Christmas concert in the Tom Rooney Playhouse, Lihou had a dream for his students to perform on a bigger stage — in the Lester Centre Performing Arts Centre.

Since then, the young talent take centre stage every Christmas, giving an outstanding performance and giving back to the community. All of the proceeds raise money for the Salvation Army Christmas Appeal. Likewise, their year-end Rock Stock concert donates all of its proceeds to the Lester Centre. The next Rock Stock is May 26.

“They’re great causes, but almost more important than that, the kids thrive when they are given the opportunity to play,” Lihou said. “All of that camaraderie and feeling of belonging that they get from being a part of this. It has ramifications outside of this studio and outside of the Lester Centre.”

These days, his favourite place to be during a performance is standing on the side of the stage, watching his students give their all. Then, after the final applause has rung out, they get to see the rewards whether it’s how many more people the Salvation Army was able to feed or the new equipment at the arts centre.

“They get better all of the time — you can see it in their eyes,” Lihou said. “They have proven to themselves now that they can pull this off. It’s not just simply playing songs.”

READ MORE: Students bring electric Christmas carols to the Lester Centre

Read more Heart of Our City profiles here.


(Keili Bartlett / The Northern View)

Ian Lihou is a rockstar. (Keili Bartlett / The Northern View)

Ian Lihou came to Prince Rupert in 1983 to put a band together and since then he’s taught generations of young musicians. (Keili Bartlett / The Northern View)

Just Posted

Records fall at northwest B.C. track and field zones

Charles Hays hosted the 2018 northwest zones competition in Prince Rupret on May 18

Legion Snooker League honours member

A plaque will be mounted on one of the tables in memory of Clyde Dudoward

Charles Hays drama students in Fine Arts Revue

Prince Rupert high school students draw laughs in 13 Ways to Screw Up Your College Interview

First Special Olympics swim meet hosted in Prince Rupert

Jamie Alexander finished first in the 100-metre individual medley and 400-metre freestyle

Heart of Our City: Sean Carlson gives back as a trailblazer

President of the Kaien Island Trail Enhancement and Recreation Society helps Rupertites get on trail

MVP of the Week: Giving team a try

Lindsay Gidney has taken his passion for team and sport with him around the world

UPDATE: Woman dies in ocean accident near Tofino hours before daughter’s wedding

“We are so thankful to everyone who helped our mom.”

Olympian sues USA Swimming, saying it failed to protect her

Ariana Kukors Smith alleges her former coach Sean Hutchison began grooming her for sexual abuse at the age of 13

Defence minister thanks troops for B.C. flood relief work

Harjit Sajjan says not only was military response quick, support from locals has been ‘tremendous’

Couple survives being buried in mudslide on B.C. highway

The couple, from Saskatchewan, were en route to Nelson when a tree fell in their path

‘So grateful:’ Injured Bronco hockey player glad he’s alive, works on recovery

Ryan Straschnitzki was badly hurt in the accident: a spinal injury, broken ribs, a broken collar bone, and punctured lung

PHOTOS: Floodwaters rise and fall in Grand Forks

The flood-ravaged Kootenay-Boundary region begins to heal

Martin Mars waterbombers’ firefighting days are done

Wayne Coulson said his company still hopes to find a new home for the vintage aircraft

NHL playoffs weekly roundup

Vegas Golden Knights have done the impossible and have a chance at hoisting the Stanley Cup

Most Read