“Some funds became available and I couldn’t think of a better use for them,” says retired music teacher Blair Borden commenting on her $10,000 donation to the Arts Council Scholarship Endowment Fund, (The fund is held by Shuswap Community Foundation). See separate story on the Arts Council scholarship
She adds, “I’d like to see the focus on music and not necessarily on youth. I think learning goes on all your life.” Blair insists on an inclusive approach to the world of the Arts. She believes references to the “Arts” sometimes suggests graphic or visual arts only leaving out music, dance and drama. “They don’t realize they’re artists,” she states.
Active in the local music scene for many years, Blair currently plays string bass in the Salmon Arm Community Band. She has been with the band since its inception 10 years ago. “I was one of the seven originals,” she recalls, “and at that time played the E-flat tuba.” She instructed an Adult Beginner Band class through Okanagan College for a couple of years. Several of her students now play in the band… a band that has grown to some 50 players ranging in age from 13 to 80 years under the direction of Cees Kooyman.
A music enthusiast all of her life, Blair recalls learning to sing “at mother’s knee as a kid riding in the car.” Her mother had a powerful alto voice. And while her father claimed to have a “tin ear,” Blair’s paternal grandfather played the fiddle. Blair sang in school and university choirs and played trombone in the Montreal Junior Symphony.
Born in Toronto, Blair grew up in Montreal and attended McGill University, after graduation, she spent two years travelling and working in recreation in both London and South Africa.
She arrived in Salmon Arm in 1968 to teach school and was encouraged by then principal Tom Brighouse to move into music teaching. “I’ve always enjoyed music and learned to play a diversity of instruments and enjoyed their relationship to each other.” When she first lived in Salmon Arm she played with the Okanagan Symphony for 10 years and later, after a move to Sorrento, played for another 10 years in the Kamloops Symphony. Blair also joined the Shuswap Singers. During these years with the symphonies she played the string bass and brass instruments. “I consider myself a specialist in low brass instruments,” she comments.
Other musical pursuits included a nine-year association with an approach to music teaching called ETM (Education Through Music) now officially called Music EdVentures. ETM approached music education in pupil-directed learning based on folk material. In the Shuswap School District, Blair actively promoted school choir programs.
Blair has taken an energetic role in many Shuswap organizations: member of a local writing group dubbed “Octava”; director on Shuswap District Arts Council board for 15 years; president of The Shuswap Recycling Society; and on-stage and back-stage with Shuswap Theatre productions. An enthusiastic photographer, Blair has entered her work in the annual Salmon Arm Fall Fair and participated in local shows.
The outdoors held a special fascination for Blair and she is happiest near the water whether it’s canoeing, fly fishing or camping.