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International Choral Kathaumixw names Walter Martella new artistic director

Paul Cummings steps down from position with choral festival
PASSING THE BATON: Walter Martella [left] has been named the new artistic director of International Choral Kathaumixw after Paul Cummings resigned. David Brindle photo

After the surprise announcement that Paul Cummings was resigning as artistic director of International Choral Kathaumixw, Walter Martella has been named to replace him.

According to Don James, president of the Powell River Academy of Music (PRAM), which operates the festival, Martella was chosen because of his “rich experience in choral music and organization.”  

Martella, currently music director of Powell River Academy of Music, is a conductor, pianist, trumpeter and accordionist. He also conducts the Academy Chamber Choir, Chor Musica Mens Choir, Powell River Community Chorus and the Powell River Boys Choir.

“I’m going to be relying on the expertise of the people around me,” said Martella. “There’s a big learning curve.” Martella is not an outsider to Kathaumixw, having been the festival’s music advisor in the past.

Cummings said he was pleased that Martella will be taking over. Artistic director of Kathaumixw since 2012, Cummings said he and PRAM board of directors attempted to reach an agreement.

“I never had a contract, and many aspects of my job were undefined, which was uncomfortable for me,” said Cummings. “It turns out that the executive board and I had vast differences of opinion as to how the Kathaumixw artistic director contract should look. Negotiations stopped and I made the onerous decision to resign.”

According to Cummings, he wanted to continue as Kathaumixw’s artistic director and build on the success of the 2016 festival. Audience attendance was up over the 2014 festival, he said.

“I believed Kathaumixw should grow, evolve and flourish in our community and throughout the world,” he said. “I’ve worked with some incredible people, participated in an amazing example of cooperation, teamwork and volunteerism, and witnessed the absolute joy of music. I appreciate the extraordinary people who rallied behind me and supported my vision of what the festival could be.”

James said parting ways with Cummings was amiable. He added the search to replace Cummings began on Thursday, October 6, the day his resignation was submitted. The selection process took 12 days and PRAM received interest from individuals and organizations in North America and Europe.

Cummings will still be a member of the contingent that will accompany the Choir of the World totem pole to Hong Hong where the 2016 winning choir came from.

Cummings will also continue teaching at Powell River Academy of Music and Brooks Secondary School where, according to School District 47 superintendent Jay Yule, he incorporated Brooks students in all aspects of the festival.

“Paul was groundbreaking in seeing Kathaumixw as a real learning experience for Brooks students,” said Yule. “He immersed them in the planning and operation of a world-class festival, which earned them credits toward graduation and ensured all our students receive opportunities to view and take part in the festival.”