During its annual general meeting held on January 11, 2019, Pacific Region International Summer Music Academy (PRISMA) bestowed honorary fellowships upon three of its longtime supporters, marking the beginning of a new tradition that will recognize individuals who have gone above and beyond in offering their time and expertise to the organization.
Retired lawyer Paul Schachter, financial advisor Brian Balfe and research scientist Sharon Thomas became PRISMA’s inaugural inductees, with the honours presided over by PRISMA Board of Directors president Mike Robinson, CM.
“Paul was instrumental in the initial legal guidance and setup of the charitable structure that is PRISMA today,” shared Robinson, reflecting on Schachter’s tenure as a founding board member, secretary and treasurer of the organization before transitioning into an advisory role. “He was just a wonderful contributor to the early days, and he’s still doing it for us.”
Balfe’s contributions as a founding board member, past president and ambassador significantly expanded PRISMA’s reach and patronship in the Comox Valley.
“He’s instrumental even now with the [Sail to the Symphony tour] and helping us stage events over on the island,” said Robinson.
The PRISMA Endowment Fund was also a pet project of Balfe’s during his tenure, and one he continues to find donors for to this day.
And finally, on an eve that celebrated, among other things, a 22 per cent increase in PRISMA's membership numbers by the close of 2018, it was more than fitting that Thomas be recognized for her dedicated work in that field.
“A total of 364 members were signed up last year through the coordination efforts of Sharon,” said Robinson. “That’s a valid, wonderful core of support for the organization because each of those people become a kind of diplomatic representative for PRISMA; from Saltery Bay all the way to Lund, over in Courtenay/Comox, and even down in Vancouver.”
Thomas herself has been a member since PRISMA’s inception in 2012, exemplifying the kind of commitment and dedication she sought from others. She logged an estimated 400 hours during the past year; making phone calls, writing letters, inviting people for coffee, and networking face-to-face during each of PRISMA’s events. These personal touches garnered tangible results, and the organization’s membership grew and flourished as people responded to her in such a positive way.
All three fellows received a framed plaque and a wall print by festival photographer Robert Colasanto. Thomas took the stage to accept hers, with Schachter and Balfe sending their regards in absentia. She described a mixture of surprise and satisfaction in looking back on her role as a PRISMA volunteer.
“Three years ago, I responded to an email asking for office help, and I got swept up into the energy,” she said. “I’d just like to say thank you on behalf of Paul and Brian, and from myself as well, and that PRISMA really values its volunteers, so if you have any extra time they are always looking for help. They just sweep you right up into their arms and make you love the organization even more.”
For more information on PRISMA, go to prismafestival.com.