A musical storyteller with a love for letters will headline two free concerts in Roberts Creek to celebrate Family Literacy Day on Jan. 27.
Rick Scott, a former Pender Harbour resident, has composed and performed music for more than 50 years, releasing 19 albums and touring to 11 countries. In 2019, Scott was inducted to the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame.
His upcoming appearances are hosted by the Sunshine Coast Literacy Coalition, a union of libraries, schools, and nonprofit organizations.
“We can all of us be more literate,” said Scott from his home on Protection Island, where he also serves as curator of the island’s museum. “I really believe that in this world we’re living in today, we have to learn better communication skills. We have to because it’s getting weird, the way that language is getting changed all around us. Let’s communicate more and talk about how we feel and what our days are like.”
Since the start of his performance career, Scott promoted epistolary exchanges to foster literacy among his listeners. He encouraged young audience members to send him a letter, with the promise that he would reply. There was one caveat: it had to be written with pen and paper. Scott takes a dim view of emails and computer screens.
“Over the course of many years I have written thousands of letters to kids and they have written to me,” he recollected. “It’s always amazing to see how just that process of writing back and forth improves the skill of communicating.” Scott learned the skill of calligraphy so he could illuminate the names of his pen pals, turning salutations into one-of-a-kind artworks.
In a few dozen cases, a regular back-and-forth began. Eventually it would cease once Scott’s correspondents reached their teenage years. “At first that really was a shock to me,” Scott said. “I wondered, was it something I said? Why did they stop writing to me? And then the moment would come where they would appear again, writing with kids of their own.”
Scott is a singer-songwriter who accompanies himself on the dulcimer, a stringed instrument invented in communities of the Appalachian Mountains. After emigrating to Canada in 1970, Scott learned to make dulcimers from luthier Rick Stone.
“We’d take them into Vancouver and sell them,” he said. “The first time I built one, I sold it for $50. And then I realized that I could make a living playing a dulcimer, but not so much building them.”
The event will be the first in-person celebration of Family Literacy Day since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Trudi Diening, Capilano University’s Literacy Outreach Coordinator and a member of the 25-year-old Sunshine Coast Literacy Coalition, stresses the Coalition’s broad definition of literacy.
“Reading itself is the gateway to the wonderful world of being literate, but it’s a lifelong journey,” Diening said. “Cultural literacy is important. There’s also musical literacy. Because everyone expresses things differently in communication, we know how important it is to be inclusive.”
The Coalition — which includes the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts — receives funding from Decoda Literacy Solutions, a provincial organization subsidized by the B.C. government. The upcoming concerts received financial support from Decoda’s Raise-a-Reader campaign and the Sunshine Coast Credit Union.
Performances by Rick Scott will take place at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. at Roberts Creek Community Hall on Friday, Jan. 27. Admission is free but online registration is required by browsing to www.sd46.bc.ca/fldcreg/.