A Nanaimo vocalist known for her tribute to French songstress Édith Piaf has won a prestigious provincial award.
The lieutenant governor of B.C., Janet Austin, awarded Joëlle Rabu with a Lieutenant Governor’s Arts and Music Award as part of celebrations in honour of the late Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee.
Along with the other recipients, Rabu was honoured at a celebration ceremony at the Government House in Victoria on Aug. 23.
“The award was really quite special because it was from an outside entity. It’s not somebody that you hear or talk with every day or who are ‘in the business’ – but they recognize the business. And it’s very nice to be recognized,” said Rabu. “I was honoured and humbled.”
The Lieutenant Governor’s Arts and Music Awards are one-time awards given in recognition of individuals, groups and organizations throughout the province who have demonstrated exceptional leadership, creativity, community engagement and commitment through fostering and mentoring others in the fields of visuals arts, music or performance.
“I think the award has to do with how long I’ve been in the arts,” Rabu said. “I mean tourism and supporting the arts, supporting the players in the arts, has always been a real important part of my life … And, of course, supporting a lot of young upcoming artists. I really believe in that. “
Throughout her career, which she said started in Vancouver in the early 1980s as a “Cinderella story” after being dragged by her older brother to a music director for a live performance, Rabu has helped countless artists “stage their craft” by offering them guidance and different perspectives for the stage.
“For many young performers, sometimes just being thrown into a theatre show or a show on a big stage is quite daunting,” she said.
Rabu has helped the community at large through various fundraisers, including for TheatreOne, the Vancouver Island Symphony, the Port Theatre, and even volunteered with the Maple Sugar Festival du Sucre d’Érable for 10 years.
“Nanaimo has been my community since 1995 … I saw the Port Theatre being built. In fact I was singing at the opening ceremonies and at the groundbreaking,” she said. “If I’m going to take from the stage, I have to give [back].”