Leslie Sjoberg, left, long-time president of the Cowichan Music Festival, congratulates singer Shaylee Martin on being chosen to attend provincials at last year’s event. (File photo)

Cowichan Valley laments the loss of arts cornerstone Leslie Sjoberg

Long-time president of the Cowichan Music Festival dies on March 25

Leslie Sjoberg, the long-time president of the Cowichan Music Festival and perennial community volunteer, died on March 25.

Jean Davis, long-time friend and organizer of the festival, said Sjoberg did all she could to make the festivals the best they could be and encouraged the students to do the same, whether in dance, instruments, piano, speech, voice, classical or musical theatre.

“Whenever she could, she would be at the various sessions, cheering them on and they loved her for it,” Davis said.

“Leslie was a very generous person and always appreciative of things done for her. She preferred to be in the background rather than the forefront and was not great at accepting accolades, although there were many, including the City of Duncan Arts Award. I know Leslie was proud of receiving the Queen’s Jubilee medal.”

Davis said Sjoberg was a great champion for young people, whether in the arts or sports.

“Leslie was the one who drove her children and other students to the soccer matches, or the swimming pool,” she said.

“She worked tirelessly for the arts and sports communities and was one of the driving forces behind the building of the Cowichan Community Centre. She was the president of both the Friends of the Cowichan Theatre and the Cowichan Music Festival for many years, as well as being on the Provincial Music Festival executive a number of times.”

Cathy Schmidt, who has been on the festival’s board of directors for many years, said in a Facebook post that the Cowichan Valley owes a lot to Sjoberg, who she describes as an “amazing woman”.

Schmidt said Sjoberg knew the Valley was full of greatness and talent that needed to be celebrated.

“I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know her,” she said.

“Her encouragement and passion for the arts was amazing. Leslie founded the Friends of the Cowichan Theatre 30 years ago and it still goes on now.”

Lexi Bainas, former arts and entertainment editor for the Cowichan Valley Citizen before her retirement earlier this year, said in a column last year that Sjorberg was such an iconic and important part of the Cowichan Music Festival that it could have been spelled “Leslie Sjoberg”.

“This dainty but dauntless dynamo, and perennial music festival president, has been a stalwart supporter of young talent for decades, and a tireless volunteer and strong voice for the performing arts in the Cowichan Valley for well over half a century,” Bainas said at the time.

“On stage at the annual gala concerts that wind up the annual festival, Sjoberg can still be found, ready to hand out bursaries, awards, and the coveted invitations to take part in provincials. Her ready smile and willingness to help out is a byword in the Valley.”

Bainas said this week that she was saddened to hear of the death of her old friend.

“We first met in 2002 and we talked about the festival, the Cowichan Theatre and the history of the old Steinway Grand Piano that the theatre owns,” she said.

“We just got on so well. I respected her incredibly. She was such a great volunteer and her whole life was dedicated to volunteering and helping young musicians and amateur performers.”

A statement from the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre said the arts community is deeply saddened by the passing of Sjoberg.

“She was a fierce advocate for the arts in Cowichan, a proponent for the building of our theatre, the president of the Cowichan Music Festival for many decades, and the first president of the Friends of the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre,” the statement said.

“Her tireless devotion to our centre and her steadfast commitment to empowering young performers in our community will be sorely missed.”


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Arts and Entertainment

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Minister and Halalt First Nation chief consult on effects of recent flooding

Community heavily impacted with many damaged and uninhabitable homes

Drivesmart column: Regulatory vs advisory road signs

The regulatory sign must be obeyed exactly as it is read.

Alistair MacGregor column: Responding to the challenges of the COVID-19 global pandemic

This crisis has shown us just how many Canadians struggle every day to pay the bills

Second vehicle from Crofton Geo-Tech theft recovered

Supervisor at Crofton operation finds it parked at Chemainus campground

List of cancelled Cowichan Valley community events

An ongoing list of events that have been cancelled in the Cowichan Valley due to COVID-19

‘Nothing concrete’: Tenants, landlords lack details after B.C. unveils COVID-19 rental aid

Single mom in Golden says she’s already going to the food bank after being laid off

Canada will make sure masks sent by China meet quality standards: Trudeau

Chinese Embassy tweeted that China was sending 30,000 medical masks along with gowns, gloves and goggles

B.C. issues guidelines about distancing, reusable bags to grocery stores amid COVID-19

Hand sanitizer and markers to keep lines two metres are apart are needed, province says

No plans to call in military right now to enforce COVID-19 quarantine: Trudeau

Trudeau unveils $7.5M for Kids Help Phone, $9M for vulnerable seniors amid COVID-19

QUIZ: How much do you know about the Olympics?

Put your knowledge to the test with these 12 questions

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

B.C. Ferries passengers staying away, as asked, during COVID-19 pandemic

Ferry corporation says ridership down 70-80 per cent over the last week and a half

Most Read