Pamela Voss believes public speaking is a skill that helps everyone, no matter where their lives lead them.
She has lived in Powell River for 42 years. An elementary teacher now retired, she came to Powell River as one stop on her world travels that included Australia, Scotland, England and Canada. She met her husband and remained to raise her family. Now they travel the world together. She is passionate about providing training for young people so they are not intimidated by speaking in front of others.
For the past 33 years, she has been speech arts discipline head for Powell River Festival of Performing Arts. “It’s so good for kids because the number one fear in life for adults is public speaking,” said Voss. “It’s important to get them started early in life.”
Her involvement started at one of the performance series presented by Powell River Academy of Music. She sat next to music teacher Nancy Hollmann who told her the organizing committee was considering having monologues as a demonstration for the next festival. Hollmann asked if she was interested in helping.
“Do I call it chance?” asked Voss, reflecting upon that time. “Being in the right spot at the right time? Serendipity?”
About five individuals participated, said Voss, and they were so well received that speech arts became part of future festivals. She and Hollmann wrote the first syllabus for the discipline. Since that first year, she has promoted speech arts among teachers and given workshops to both School District 47 schools and Assumption School. Including entries for duets helped youngsters who were more comfortable with someone else on stage with them.
About six years go, school district officials decided to pay entry fees for all students who wanted to participate in that part of the festival. “Numbers increased dramatically then.”
She has coached students from grades one through 10 in public speaking as well as some adults.
“It’s a thrill to see them on stage,” said Voss, adding that the students are “diamonds in the rough” in the beginning. She offers a tribute to teachers. “It’s quite a commitment on their part” as well as parents for their efforts. “It’s a lot of work. It’s a team effort.”
Voss said it is her understanding that the Powell River festival has the largest component in the province. She wants to see that continue.
Voss was recognized at the Grand Concert for the 2011 festival earlier this month. She received the David Pike Memorial Award for “Outstanding Contribution to the Development and Continuing Support of the Arts in Powell River.”