Lucas Schuller admits the idea of starting up a new concert series in Campbell River began as a “totally selfish” endeavour.
“There’s a lot of music that I want to see that just doesn’t come here,” he says. “That’s how the idea started. I wanted to see bands and musicians that maybe aren’t big enough to play the Tidemark, but too big to play a coffee shop. There’s nothing else going here that fits that niche.”
Not long after he had that thought, he attended a performance at the Rivercity Stage for the first time and knew it was a perfect fit for such a project.
“As soon as I walked in, I immediately thought, ‘I want to hear bands in here,’” he says. “I used to play in bands and put on shows down in East Vancouver, and in those days, I would have loved to have a space like that. That’s the space I wish we’d had.”
So he had a concept, and he had a space in mind in which he could execute it. Now what?
“Well, I started talking to people involved in music here and around the Island and everyone was super supportive, and talking to some friends and people in town, it seemed like there was a desire for more shows in town, so when I found out about the grant opportunity through Creative BC, I wrote up and fired off an application to them and figured, if they give me some money, I’ll have to finally do it.
“And then they did, so here we are. I guess I have to do it now instead of just talking about it.”
Schuller got $5,000 from Creative BC – which is the minimum they give out. It was enough, he says, to at least get started.
And so, Highway 19 Concerts was born.
Schuller says there will be “at least five” concerts in the series, with the first scheduled for Saturday, May 18, when Whitehorse-based, Swedish-born award-winning singer/songwriter Sarah MacDougall comes to town. MacDougall is a tempest of a performer who has shared the stage with the likes of Bruce Cockburn, Cat Empire and Passenger. She reflects on the world with a sense of wonder that has drawn the eyes and ears of the Canadian music world over the past few years, including garnering nominations just last month for both Songwriter of the Year and Singer/Songwriter Artist or Group of the year at the 19th Annual Independent Music Awards for her latest album, All The Hours I Have Left To Tell You Anything.
Then there’s Saskatoon-based Steph Cameron, another singer/songwriter turning heads in the Canadian music scene with her rootsy, soulful songs of love and loss, who will take Rivercity Stage on June 1, followed by jazz trio Houle-Burrows-Sorbara, which is led by renowned clarinetist Francois Houle.
“We’re not going to do any in the summer when there are festivals and people are out camping and fishing and there are shows at Spirit Square and other things for people to do, but then we’ll be back in September with one and a bluegrass band from Toronto coming in November that I’m really excited about,” Schuller says. “I’ll do those five, and then if enough people come out, I’ll do more next year.”
This isn’t the only involvement Schuller has with the local arts scene. He also serves on the board of the Campbell River Art Gallery. But music, in particular, is where his passion lies.
“It’s kind of just been what I’ve always done,” he says. “I was basically raised at the Vancouver Folk Festival and Vancouver Jazz Festival. My parents were involved in both of those, I grew up going to tons of shows, my family ran an independent distributor of CDs and tapes, back when people actually went to stores and bought those kinds of things. That’s how I grew up. I was surrounded by music.”
He still likes to surround himself with music and share it with others as often as possible, though he doesn’t have as much time these days as he used to.
“I still play drums sometimes, but with an eight-month-old, I don’t have time to be in bands anymore,” he says. “I mainly play with choirs these days, actually, when they have performances and need a drummer, and I have a kit set up in my garage and give a few drum lessons to kids here and there.”
Schuller says his goal is to keep the cost down as much as possible, so the shows will be “somewhere in the neighbourhood of $20,” with a certain number set aside at a discounted $5 rate for teenagers, and kids 12 and under are free with a ticketed adult.
Youth tickets are available by contacting him directly at email@example.com with “teen tickets” in the subject line. Up to 10 of the 90 or so seats in the venue will be set aside for these discounted rates.
“I really want to get more kids into seeing live music,” he says. “It was such an important part of my childhood and so integral in terms of what I became that I really want to open some doors to the kids here so they can see some music that would probably not otherwise enter their world.”