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Winsome artists in spotlight at Sunshine Coast Festival of the Performing Arts closer

A multidisciplinary concert and distribution of over 60 scholarships and awards before a capacity audience on May 11 brought the golden anniversary of the Sunshine Coast’s longest-running festival to a resounding conclusion.
Festival of the Performing Arts participants and award-winners gather onstage at the Heritage Playhouse in Gibsons.

A multidisciplinary concert and distribution of over 60 scholarships and awards before a capacity audience on May 11 brought the golden anniversary of the Sunshine Coast’s longest-running festival to a resounding conclusion. 

The Sunshine Coast Festival of the Performing Arts, in partnership with the Coastal Dance Festival, featured over a hundred local youth and adult artists across eight disciplines. Adjudicated piano presentations at St. Hilda’s Anglican Church led the month-long event on April 9; performances concluded on April 25 with band, woodwind and brass renditions at Chatelech Secondary School. 

One of the festival’s longest traditions — stretching back to its first year in 1974 — is the Highlights Concert, where high-achieving participants reprise their contributions. The May 11 event featured a dozen performances, among them the debut of a choreographed piece that culminated with dancers gently navigating the grand piano at the Heritage Playhouse across the stage floor. 

“Our festival was founded by some very forward-thinking and dedicated volunteers,” said Sarah Lowis, president of the festival society. “And it’s been built on ever since.” 

A representative of the qathet Performing Arts Festival, Melanie Munroe, presented a certificate of congratulations from the Performing Arts Association of B.C. The association is the umbrella organization for 35 regional festivals around the province. Munroe is president of the qathet festival, which marked its 80th anniversary this year. 

The festival’s most-decorated participant was Ally Sato, who received prizes across two separate disciplines: piano and strings. Appropriately, Sato also earned the festival’s Multidisciplinary Award. 

Sato’s brother Gene excelled in the folk discipline, in which he was named the most promising young performer. Gene will also represent the Sunshine Coast in the piano discipline during the Provincial Festival, due to be held in Fort St. John from June 2 to 6. He will be joined by pianist Taho Shinagawa, who was honoured in five distinct categories. Meanwhile, Sierra Balqis was selected by adjudicators to receive the Most Promising Young Performer Award for Piano. 

Cellist Esmé Woolliams was chosen to compete at the provincial level, while violinist Madeleine Malcolmson was named Most Promising Young Performer Award for Bowed Strings. Another cellist, Miyo Shinagawa, will travel to Fort St. John as a provincial competitor in the junior division. 

Fiddler Joshua Paolozza pocketed the Senior Folk Award, and Jinny Marshall and Sebastian Young-Laidlaw earned the prize for folk duos following their performance of a piece by adjudicator Gordon Stobbe. 

Three local choirs split the the Sue Milne and Barbara Lightfoot Memorial Awards, which honour legendary Sunshine Coast music leaders: Choralations, A Cappella Strait, and the Suncoast Phoenix Community Choir. Soloist Brielle Taylor was identified as the most promising young performer for voice; Cody Kelso and Rowan Sawatski shared the top prize for vocal duos. 

In the category of dramatic arts, both Amy Wood and Ruby Stephenson received special distinctions. Saxophonist Leif Montgomery, who shared prizes for woodwinds with Ythan Leitso, will represent the Sunshine Coast at provincials. 

Pianist and composer Daniel Claudepierre won the festival’s Composition Award for the second year running. Claudepierre earned praise from adjudicator Lauren Kelly when he performed his original work Ballad in mid-April. 

Provincial representatives were also named from among performers at the Coastal Dance Festival: Audrey Altenburg (in the category of junior classical), Brooklyn Turner (intermediate classical), Caia Minatsis (senior classical), Peyton Gray (junior stage), Makenzi Harris (senior stage), Meg Greenfield (intermediate modern) and Connor Dixon (senior stage). Isabella Watts and Annah Kotai are alternates for junior classical and intermediate classical disciplines respectively. 

A full list of results and select festival recordings are available by browsing to