Name: Melinda Suto
Committee: Pre-fest Transport
Number of years volunteering: 39 years and I’ve never missed one year of volunteering or attending the festival.
Why do you volunteer for the Festival?
I began volunteering at the first Vancouver Folk Music Festival in Stanley Park because it offered a venue to learn more about social issues, to be around like-minded people who valued community-based, non- commercial music, and to support the musicians who kept the tradition of telling stories alive through their words and songs. Music is a powerful force for change. For many years the Folk Music Festival was responsible for raising awareness about injustices, locally and abroad, and highlighting musical traditions from around the world that most of us would have never heard on the mainstream airwaves. The musicians also brought songs that were joyful, complex, funny, clever, and hopeful; a much-needed tonic throughout the 1980’s and other hard political times.
One of my summer pleasures is greeting many of the festival artists at the airport (occasionally at the bus or train station), and driving them to Gage Towers at UBC or to their hotels. The stories that Utah Philips could tell in a 25-minute drive were pretty amazing! Band members in Shooglenifty showed incredibly good humor and appreciation when I picked them up at 2:00 a.m., after many, many hours of travel delays. It’s great fun to chat with musicians, artists, and social activists, learn more about their music, hear about their travels, and tell them about the festival they’re about to help create. Once, I drove Leon Bibb out to the airport so he could greet his son Eric Bibb, who was living in Europe and playing the festival for the first time. The affection, respect and love that these two great musicians had for each other, father and son, was quite something to behold as they reunited.
I keep volunteering because I enjoy the music, I have skills and experience to offer, and I want to be part of an event that builds and sustains our community. I work with well-organized, dedicated and good-natured people on the Transportation committee. What a crew! Together we meet the challenges of changing arrival schedules, larger instruments than anticipated, additional band members, and some very interesting requests from the performers. We succeed because we’re experienced, have communication skills, are calm and have a good sense of humor. Hats off to my wonderful co-volunteers, on Transportation and its previous incarnations e.g., “Pick-ups” (now that T-shirt was some conversation starter).