For the months of June and July, we are thrilled to present a series of blog posts by Collections Intern Rebeka Beganova. Rebeka (she/her) is a post-secondary student with a passion for research, literature, and history. Having completed an Associate of Arts Degree at Okanagan College, she is glad to be joining the MAV team during her last summer in Vernon before heading off to UBC Vancouver. There is no better way to say goodbye to her hometown than to explore its local history!

A black-and-white image of a man staring away from the camera while he conducts an orchestra (not pictured).
Okanagan Symphony Orchestra conductor Leonard Camplin, photographed in 1969

Food for the soul

Music is food for the soul, and Vernon has always had enough to satisfy.

Since the 1920s – when the city dubbed itself the “Pioneer in Music of Interior BC Cities” – and beyond, citizens have seemed to possess a yearning for expression and an ear for the arts. Every known and unknown genre has filled the Okanagan Valley at some point. Classical music has been a staple for decades: the Vernon Symphony Orchestra was formed in 1925, an abounding collective borne from a humble room of twenty musicians. Beyond the orchestra, music with local themes has poured from parchment to instrument to audience, with pieces heralding the Ogopogo and songs proclaiming the city’s beauty. The “Vernon Song,” for example, claims that Vernon is “a warm and friendly folksy kind of town,” and that “it’s the only place on earth to be with someone there to love you.”

Lending a helping hand (or bow, or pick, or string…)

A black and white image of a large group of men looking at the camera, standing in a semi-circle. They are holding a range of instruments, including clarinets, trumpets, and trompones.
Army band at Camp Vernon, 1916. Love of music was shared by civilians and military personnel alike.

Vernon musicians are not only masters of their craft; many are also good Samaritans. Benefit concerts and fundraisers are common local events that simultaneously spread good cheer and fight for important causes. In 2012, a local trio (including a prodigious eleven-year-old) lit up Los Huesos at Christmas time to raise money and food donations for the Vernon Women’s Transition House. The musicians adapted to the theme of the restaurant by performing Spanish Christmas songs. That same year, a concert called Tunes for Teeth helped raise money for the Community Dental Access Centre. This organization is a non-profit dental clinic providing support for low-income residents, and its place in the community is so invaluable that musicians travelled all the way from Denman Island to play in its honour.

Fundraisers have also been held over the years for the Vernon Community Music School (where, in 2013, a Winter’s Aria graced the ears of eager listeners) and for the Jessica Eaman Memorial Fund, which helps make possible cross-country skiing lessons for kids. From time to time, bands have performed in support of their own members, like the band New Classics did in 2013 for Mike Nitchie. Nitchie was diagnosed with HHT, a bleeding disorder, and underwent multiple surgeries. His friends and fellow musicians put on a show of support – literally – that raised both money and awareness for the disorder.

Music has long flowed through Vernon’s streets, as background sound and as spotlight events. Whether outwardly or not, it has been a binding force within the community: an aid in times of need, a balm for collective aches. What to know more about Vernon’s musical scene? Check out these other blog posts:


To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts!

Rebeka Beganova, Collections Intern