Music was in the air on May 7 as the Prince Rupert and Region Music Society officially opened the Peter Witherly Community Music Studio at Charles Hays Secondary School.
The first notes in the new building, which were played by the CHSS concert band, were more than three years in the making.
“In the spring of 2011, the Prince Rupert School District came to us with a proposal for a way to build our music studio at Charles Hays. I’m not going to say we jumped at the chance, but after careful deliberation we accepted this opportunity,” said society president Zoe Zentner, noting it was then that the hard work began.
“In the summer of 2011 we started fundraising for our studio. We have negotiated, lobbied, played, sung, danced, written letters, written grant proposals. We’ve busked, we’ve begged, we’ve challenged, we’ve cooked, we’ve auction and we worried, but in late February of 2013 the contract was awarded … and here we are. There is still some work to do, but we have our community music studio and it is a wonderful example of how the community comes together to do something truly wonderful.”
Along with the school district, industry like Ridley Terminals stepped forward with major contributions, including a $250,000 donation from the Prince Rupert Port Authority.
“Aside from port development projects such as Fairview Terminal, we want to ensure this community thrives in other ways. One of those ways is the continued movement ahead of what has been a community of excellence in the arts. This building represents a continuation of Prince Rupert’s legacy in that area,” said Prince Rupert Port Authority president and CEO Don Krusel.
“When I look at our new music studio, I believe it is the epitome of Prince Rupert community spirit,” added school district board chair Tina Last.
The facility was named in honour of Peter Witherly, a mainstay in Prince Rupert’s music community since the early 1970s who continues to be an active part of community band and music today.
“It was his vision that encouraged the development of the society and the whole idea of having a community music studio,” said society secretary Dawn Quast.
“There needed to be something in the community named after Peter, it was just a matter of what and when,” added board member John Turner.
The opening of the studio also market the debut performance of March of the Rainmakers, an original piece composed by Charles Hays Secondary School teacher Jeff Saunders that was commissioned for the event by the Prince Rupert Port Authority.