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New training in Lake Cowichan teaches live music industry skills

Program will run at Laketown Ranch
Participants in a new program to train professionals for the live music industry will learn their skills at Laketown Ranch in Youbou. (Citizen file)

Want to work behind the scenes in the live music industry? Lake Cowichan will soon see a new program dedicated to training people to fill these jobs.

Thanks to a grant from Creative BC and the Province of British Columbia, this new education program will be offered by Wideglide Entertainment Ltd., the Cowichan Valley-based company behind the Sunfest, Laketown Shakedown and Laketown Rock music festivals.

“This new program will help address a major gap in the industry by increasing the number of trained productions and operations personnel available,” states Deb Beaton-Smith, acting executive director, BC Music Festival Collective. “Access to trained staff within the live music industry was already a significant challenge in our sector, and the industry exodus precipitated by the pandemic has only made the situation worse.”

Wideglide’s new program seeks to address this gap by promoting an influx of trained event workers into an industry that has been heavily damaged by the pandemic.

This new initiative has been designed by industry experts to provide comprehensive, hands-on training in all aspects of event operations and productions to individuals interested in a career in the live music sector, says a press release about the program.

“Many of the trained professionals that music festivals like Sunfest and Laketown Shakedown rely upon are gig workers who permanently left the sector during the pandemic due to a sustained lack of employment opportunities,” says Mike Hann, festivals manager, Sunfest, Laketown Shakedown and Laketown Rock music festivals. “This created a vacuum of available labour that is detrimentally impacting live music organizers as they try to rebuild after the devastation of the last two years. This project will inject essential human capital into the field at a critical time of reconstruction.”

Hann adds that “because major festivals like Sunfest and Laketown Shakedown are tourism drivers for communities like Lake Cowichan that rely on out-of-town spending, it is very important to successfully re-establish these destination events so that communities can recover.”

Through an intensive six-day course covering everything from set up to tear down (including lighting, sound, rigging, crowd control, operations management, and much more), students taking part in this training program will develop knowledge and skills to secure employment in the live music field. At the end of the six-day course, participants will take part in an industry Q&A, and be provided with supported connections to employment with regional/provincial festivals, production companies, and other organizations working in the live music sector.

To improve equity within the live music industry, Wideglide will be reserving 30 per cent of program spaces for students from groups that have been historically underrepresented in the live music industry (BIPOC, women, LGBTQ2S, persons with diverse abilities). Through collaborations with local organizations serving and/or representing priority communities, Wideglide will make every effort to ensure that the program’s student population reflects the diversity of the Canadian population.

This new event operations and production training program will take place at Laketown Ranch, a purpose-built 250-acre live music venue located just outside Youbou, home of the Sunfest, Laketown Shakedown and Laketown Rock music Festivals. The infrastructure available at Laketown Ranch (including multiple world-class stages of various sizes, a full-service campground, and myriad guest amenities) will provide participants with access to almost every setting and situation they are likely to encounter in future employment environments.

A pilot training course, made possible thanks to a Music Industry Initiatives grant from Creative BC, will take place from April 25 to 30. A maximum of 18 learners will be accepted into the course free of charge in return for helping Wideglide to test and improve this program before scaling it into a recurring annual program.

Wideglide is currently accepting applications for enrollment in the April 25-30 training session online at