Harbour Quay is about to become a much more melodic place with the addition of youth buskers.
“It’s trying to serve a couple of purposes—one is to get more vibrancy at the Quay and so having more live music and performances down there and also to give young people the opportunity to be entrepreneurial,” said City of Port Alberni director of community services Theresa Kingston.
The youth busking program is organized by the city’s parks and recreation department and auditions for the performers were held in mid-July. According to Kingston, the program will run through the summer and possibly beyond.
Buskers in the program will perform only at Harbour Quay. Any tips or donations they receive will be their own.
Musician Misha Monroe, 24, believes that having an organized program will help other youth have an easier time getting started busking than she did.
“Busking is so huge to me. I’ve been wishing that I could be involved in some kind of youth program or some kind of way to give order to youth busking in this town,” Monroe said.
“I just wish more people could understand that it’s about performing art and not about asking for money.”
For the Capitol Theatre’s Janet Deakin, who was approached by Kingston to be a supervisor for the program, the importance of getting youth active in pursuing their passion is immeasurable.
“I’m a musician and I’m totally supportive of Theresa’s passion for everything she does for youth arts and music in this town,” said Deakin.
“It’s a very similar set of benefits to participating in sports—confidence, self-esteem. Particularly for arts, there’s public speaking, conducting yourself with poise in public and having that thrill of being on a stage and the thrill of sharing your music and your art with other people.”
Monroe is passionate about teaching both performers and the public the difference between busking and panhandling.
“It really affects the way we’re treated when we’re out there singing. Panhandlers will have their hands right out and just ask for money from anyone and everyone. Buskers, musicians, realm performers, are out there to show what they have to give,” she said.
Monroe’s passion for busking comes from personal experience. She moved to Port Alberni from Terrace, B.C., five years ago and began busking shortly after.
“I was in a few different towns before I came here but I feel like I grew up here in Port Alberni and I couldn’t be more happy for it.”
Music has always been a constant in Monroe’s life.
“I’ve been playing the guitar since I was 15. I was in piano lessons when I was younger and I’ve been singing, song writing and playing guitar for almost 10 years now.”
Busking hasn’t always been easy for Monroe.
“It’s been a hard go. I’ve had to do a lot of asking of other buskers and musicians for advice. I had to get out there and sing even when I didn’t want to—I was surviving off what I could make with my guitar.”