Clara Anderson née Rabie has lived her entire life in the Shuswap. Born in the old Salmon Arm Hospital to parents George and Louise Rabie and raised in Sorrento, Clara graduated from Salmon Arm Senior Secondary in 1966. After obtaining her teaching degree, she taught in School District 83 for 34 years. In 1967 she married Elton Anderson. They have twin daughters, Melissa (Wood) and Jennifer (Wheeler), and four grandsons.
Music was always being played and sung in Clara’s home. Born with an innate musical ability, as a young child she learned to play the piano ‘by ear.’ A neighbour loaned her an accordion that came with instruction books and teaching LPs, and before long, she was playing that accordion every chance she got. When she was 10, her older brother bought her an accordion of her own. The closest accordion teacher was in Vernon – too far away for Clara to be able to take lessons, so she continued to play by ear, teaching herself to create her own musical arrangements.
From ages 13 to 18 Clara played at dances all over the surrounding Shuswap area. After re-turning to Salmon Arm to begin her teaching career, she played with the Salmon Arm Old Time Band for 19 years. Today she has her own ‘one woman’ Black Velvet Band and is in constant demand throughout the Shuswap and the Okanagan. In 2012, Clara achieved First Prize in her individual age category at the Kimberly International Old Time Accordion Championships.
Clara is also gifted with a beautiful soprano voice. She is a charter member of the Shuswap Singers, sang with the Monashee Chamber Choir until 2009 and has sung with the Northern Lights Chamber Choir since its inception, in 2009. She credits Tom Brighouse for mentoring her and encouraging her talent. He was her choir teacher in junior high school and worked with her and a group of other girls throughout all her high school years. That is also why she became a charter member of the Shuswap Singers, as Tom was the choir’s first director. “Having had the opportunity to work with such a talented musician, singer, and teacher meant a lot to this young girl from the country!”
In October 2012 Clara established the Clara Anderson Endowment Fund with the Shuswap Community Foundation. When the fund accumulates $10,000 the interest earned will be disbursed annually to a person or persons of any age who demonstrates musical ability and a financial need. This assistance can be applied to lessons, the purchase of instruments or to any other means which will enhance the ability of the recipient(s). “It is my hope that when the fund matures, it will help musically talented people who need financial assistance; something I certainly could have used in those early years.” The fund is open to contributions from anyone who wishes to contribute.