Oceanside Classical Concerts’ president and artistic director, David Douglas has two main passions. Music and aviation.
“I have a life long love of classical music. I was brought up in a house where my mother played the piano and sang, and received awards for some of the stuff she did,” Douglas tells Oasis Magazine.
Born in the United Kingdom, Douglas spent 41 years of his life as a commercial airline pilot with Air Canada, Canadian Airlines and others. He’s got more than 23,000 hours of flying experience to his credit — many of them as a captain -— and he’s flown all around the globe.
“When I was doing overseas flying I really loved the Boeing 767. It’s getting to be an older plane now but when I was flying, it was brand new,” Douglas says. “It was really nice.”
Douglas retired from aviation in 2010 and moved to the Parksville-Qualicum Beach area that same year. Shortly after arriving, he began to notice something about the community’s classical concert scene.
“I really noticed that there were lots of little concerts but they never really seemed to work,” he says. “I felt we could do better than this.”
Douglas, doing what he’s done for decades as a pilot, decided to take control of the situation. In 2014 he created Oceanside Classical Concerts, a four-show concert series that brings highly talented classical musicians from Canada and abroad to Parksville.
“What I am trying to do is bring music to everyone,” he says. “I think that we’ve got a good thing going here.”
Keeping their shirts
The Oceanside Classical Concerts 2017-2018 season kicks off with a performance by the Zodiac Trio on Oct. 18. It’ll be followed up with performances by Touch of Brass on Nov. 25, Lafayette String Quartet and Alcan String Quartet on Jan. 20, and the Vancouver Chamber Choir on Mar. 11. All held at the Knox United Church in Parksville.
“What we have is great at Knox. The seats are comfortable and there isn’t a bad view in the place,” Douglas says.
Oceanside Classical Concerts or OCC, is unique in that it is a subscription-based series. They do not sell individual tickets to each of their four shows. Instead, they sell season memberships for $95, which is valid for all four concerts. Members are given a card that allows them access to each show. If they can’t attend a show, the card is transferable, making it a great gift for friends and family.
“It works out to $23.75 per show. We couldn’t do this if we didn’t sell subscriptions. On single concerts, we would lose our shirts,” Douglas says. “I’ve never made a cent off this and I never will. The way it works is that this is for everybody. We’re trying to keep the price low and we are doing that with a subscription-based model.”
Douglas explains that the idea for a subscription-based concert series model came to him after he witnessed the success of a White Rock classical concert series run by George Zukerman, who now serves as OCC’s artistic advisor.
“It was successful and I thought this model was a brilliant idea,” Douglas explains.
In previous seasons, Oceanside Classical Concerts, which is a non-profit society, has featured performances from highly talented musicians including the Bergmann Piano Duo, Gryphon Trio, Janelle Nadeau, Andre Leplante, Canadian Guitar Quartet and the Borealis String Quartet.
As a result, OCC has become so successful that it is totally sold out of memberships for the upcoming 2017-2018 season. Those who wish to attend will have to contact Douglas or find a friend who has a membership card and can’t make it to a show.
“I didn’t have to do any marketing at all this year,” Douglas says.
An Evening Out
An Oceanside Classical Concert performance night has become an evening out and an excuse to dress up and have some fun for many in the community, including Don Dempson and his wife Nancy.
“You have a lot of people who have come from big business that are living here, and from other cities that have probably had some kind of an experience with an evening out, whether it is a formal dinner or a classical concert series or theatre, and this is a new alternative for them,” Dempson says.
“It gives them a chance to get dressed up, go out and meet some new friends, and enjoy something that just doesn’t normally happen here.”
The Dempsons have been subscribers of Oceanside Classical Concerts since its first season. Dempson says he liked the idea of a subscription-based concert series even though he wasn’t a classical music enthusiast.
“The whole concept of it just sounded so good to me. I thought, I really enjoy music but I would really like to get to know more about classical music,” Dempson says. “I have been blown away with the quality of music …they make you feel like you’re really at a first-class concert.”
Seating at Knox United Church is done on a first-come first-served basis. The performers are always professional, entertaining and engaging with the audience, says Dempson.
“You can tell by looking at their faces and the intensity, that they are into the music. And it brings the crowd into the music too. You can hear a pin drop at these concerts,” he says.
“They come out and they talk a little bit about what they are going to play and what you are going to hear, see or feel. Almost all of them, after two or three pieces will stop and say ‘What did you think about that piece? Did you notice this? Did you understand this?’”
Dempson believes the concert series has had a positive impact on the community. He says it has brought total strangers together, created new friendships and given people an opportunity to fall in love with incredibly talented performers.
It has also made Dempson and his wife appreciate classical music more than ever before.
Avoiding a burning wreck
As a former airline captain, Douglas knows a thing or two about leadership, organization, responsibility and risk.
He says all those skills, and decades of experience as a captain, have proved invaluable in helping him build Oceanside Classical Concerts into what it is today.
“Risk management is what you do as an airline pilot,” Douglas says. “You don’t want to be bringing in a burning wreck, so it is risk management. I think this is just the same. You’re trying to mitigate any problems that could potentially arise.”
Douglas, who is now in his 70s, is proud of what Oceanside Classical Concerts has become, and credits its success to all the board members and volunteers.
However, he’s also thinking about the long-term future of the series.
“I want this to last,” he says. “One of the things that is very important to me is sustainability. I would like to be able to hang around and be the artistic director, but I would like to be able to get other people involved.”