Five years ago this month, Pacific Region International Summer Music Academy’s board of directors anxiously prepared for the first season of the symphony music festival.
In the fall of 2012, a group of six people committed to orchestral music in Powell River gathered to discuss a project that eventually became PRISMA. The working group, including Arthur Arnold, Brian Balfe, Pat Gerlach, Paul Schachter, John Silver and Kim Stokes, became its first board of directors. Lee Coulter joined a short time later as volunteer general manager.
Each founding board member contributed greatly to the success of the first season.
Due to his legal experience, Schachter offered to tackle the paperwork required to register PRISMA as a charity. Stokes started the accounting, Arnold built a website and strong artistic map, Silver worked tirelessly to promote the events and Gerlach provided general assistance. With a background in finance, Balfe suggested starting with a policy to not spend money the organization did not have.
“Brian had the idea to each pitch in to create a starting fund of $10,000,” explains Stokes. “The commitment grew very quickly.”
A few months later PRISMA had the funds required to hire its first two part-time staff members: an administrator and a special-events coordinator. A combination of hard work from the board and staff members propelled the festival toward success.
“The first year when we decided to do PRISMA in November, it was non-stop work until it started,” says Arnold, who also serves as music director. “I was building web pages around Christmastime; we had a house full of people and I was in the other room building the website.”
Corporate and individual donations were also pivotal to PRISMA’s success.
“The PRISMA team knocked on the doors of local businesses campaigning for support and the doors were opened,” says Stokes.
Currently, more than 250 individual members and 90 corporate sponsors support PRISMA.
As the first season came into focus, Arnold wanted to give back to the community for its support, and the idea for PRISMA on the Beach was born.
“It was absolutely my wish to give back to the community,” says Arnold. “The team looked at me and said, ‘Forget it, we can’t do this,’ but I said, ‘Believe me, it’s going to work.’ And it did.”
Attracting more than 2,000 community members annually, PRISMA on the Beach has become a landmark event in Powell River.
“I thought there was no way we would be able to do it,” says Stokes, “and then it just happened.”
Fast forward a few years and PRISMA is back for its fifth season. The budget has tripled, a scholarship fund now finances over half of the student orchestra and the artistic vision continues to grow.
“What I’m very grateful for is that the support in the community grew,” says Arnold. “We’ve said before that PRISMA is ours, and it really is.”
With five years of experience now under their belts, PRISMA organizers look forward to the next five years.
“PRISMA will continue to grow and expand,” says Arnold. “Worldwide contact with other institutes, universities and teachers is growing. PRISMA is taken seriously; people know about it now.”
PRISMA continues until Saturday, June 24, with a selection of chamber music and symphony concerts, $5 master classes, free student recitals and more. Tickets are available online and at the PRISMA box office at Evergreen Theatre, 5001 Joyce Avenue.