Festival of the Sound welcomes a new Board Member – Ailene Wittstein!
Ailene has more than a 30-years relationship with the Festival, and just over a week ago, she finally joined our Festival Family as a Volunteer Coordinator.
We asked Ailene to share her story, and here is her longread full of nostalgia and warm feelings. Get cozy and read this wonderful story!
I grew up in a family that loved music… from Orchestras to Bagpipe Bands; we were there! Every evening we played a concert for ourselves; my Mom was a pianist, my Dad a research chemist, played violin, and I played a miniature violin. For a long time, I wanted to study music until I almost did… I changed my major the first week of University from flute to Family Studies! My husband was a great lover of classical music and Jazz, as was I… beautiful music was always playing in our home!
As the years went on we moved to Canada from the States and found CBC radio on our very first day in our new country! My husband loved the sound of the clarinet, and it became a game in which one of us would be first to recognize the sound of James Campbell! Both of us had demanding jobs, and the Festival Concerts recorded from the high school gym in Parry Sound were enjoyed right at home! We were amazed how many times the pieces we wanted the most were recorded at the Festival of the Sound.
After a few years of limited exposure to classical music in our home city of London, Ontario, we decided to come up to the Festival for a long weekend!
The Festival at that time sent out a listing of Bed and Breakfasts along with your tickets! We made a reservation for the third floor of the Belvedere Bed and Breakfast Inn, owned and operated by the Brunton Family! Unfortunately, we soon found out that my husband had to have major surgery and we would not be able to attend!
We called the office and spoke to Margie Boyd and explained our situation, and said that we knew the tickets were not refundable. Without hesitation, she said how sorry she was that Joel had to go for surgery. She prayed for a speedy recovery and not to worry, we could transfer the tickets to the next season, and the same conversation was had with the same comforting message from the Brunton’s, and they said call us that next year, and we will save the third floor!
Our reaction was not only does the Festival of the Sound have beautiful music but a beautiful and kind community wrapped around it!
The next year we came for a long weekend… Joanne, a FOTS board member, and David wanted us to go with them to a reception for the musicians at the Ibeys after the concert. Both being somewhat shy, we couldn’t go in, but we immediately became part of the team of cooks and servers for the musical brunch that Joanne was chairing the next day! We then gave our tickets we had purchased for the brunch… served ourselves and sat in the back, and loved the experience!
At the end of the Festival Season, we came back for another long weekend and helped with the FOTS tea hosted by Margaret and Chris Ibey, FOTS Board members. We helped make tea sandwiches with Joanne Brunton and Margaret and lots of members of the Board and then got all dressed up and went to the Garden Tea.
The following year we came for all the weekends staying in the Belvedere third floor and bought an auction item of Tea at the Campbells. We met two special people at Tea who have become extended family to the Wittstein’s as have the Brunton’s and the Boyd’s!
From that summer for the next thirty years, the Wittstein’s attended all three weeks of the Festival! We became the ushers at all morning concerts at the church where Bill Boyd was the Minister! I think he always felt that his Sanctuary would be well taken care of in the hands of a Rabbi and his wife and friends! The Campbells little ones used to stay with the Brunton’s little ones at the Brunton’s during the evening concerts, so after the concerts, we would return to our BnB and have a chance to informally meet with the Campbells and Brunton’s for an after-concert toast!
As the years went on and the Beautiful Stockey Centre was built, we continued to come but found it had become a bit more formal. We no longer ushered, where we had met so many wonderful Patrons and all the musicians getting ready to enter the morning concerts, or cooking for the Brass on the Bay, or pouring punch at the receptions after the concerts… we were more or less attendees but continued to help where we could! Our involvement as subscribers, donors, and especially volunteers increased as the years went on, and we felt like we were part of the Festival Family and would do anything asked that would help! But casual volunteer experiences were a bit more difficult to find!
I was recently asked to join the Board of Directors and immediately said yes to this great honor! Many years ago, my husband and I were Associate Board Members for a year! We were part of a group that did not live in Parry Sound but loved to promote this exceptional Festival in our hometowns! London has many loyal followers and supporters of the FOTS!
Now, as a full Board-member and looking back at those experiences that made this Festival so important to us, it was our hands-on involvement. The friendships we have formed, the music and meeting the musicians, and becoming part of the FOTS family are the reasons I come back every year! So now I can help and give others a chance to experience the magic of volunteering for the Festival of the Sound!
In my board role as Volunteer Coordinator, I will work alongside the Chairs of all the committees and hope to support their work with volunteers! The Chairs are the experts at determining when they need our extra help and are excellent at finding the volunteers they need! My window will be to ensure that the volunteers are using their special skills and talents that they are offering and feeling not only appreciated by the Chair but by our whole FOTS family. I will be developing an orientation for all volunteers, similar to the one I just experienced after joining the FOS board of directors! I thought I knew so much and realized there is so much more to understand and appreciate! Most importantly, I want to make sure every volunteer knows how much they are appreciated!
Before I retired, I was the Executive Director of a Family Support and Crisis Centre and an Accredited Children’s Mental Health Centre! Even with our fabulous staff, our doors would have never opened without our caring team of dedicated volunteers! In this new role, I want to make sure that residents of Parry Sound and the area, as well as so many of us from afar, know that we can not only attend but also be part of this very special Festival of the Sound Family! Looking forward to this new role, but I can’t do it without All of YOU! Can’t wait till we are back together in person!
Such stories make us extremely happy, grateful, and proud. Welcome, Ailene!
Dear Festival Family,
We welcome you to our Autumn concert season. Put on your coziest socks, make a cocoa (or something stronger) and join us for these exciting shows.
If you have not yet purchased your tickets just click on the link below. Your presence keeps us warm, and we look forward to seeing you all as the leaves change colour and the nights get longer.