Photo: Monika Rose

Photo: Monika Rose

About Joanna Schwarz


Joanna writes, "If you only have a moment, I hope you will read the first and last paragraphs of my bio. Thanks for your interest."

Joanna Schwarz is a photographer, songwriter and arts volunteer in Squamish BC. She was raised in Parksville on Vancouver Island - a town of 2,000 at the time. She credits her parents with the many creative opportunities she enjoyed as a child with lessons in dance, singing, speech arts, guitar and piano as well as fun in the drama club, painting in the park and the community band. The community band's motto was "from 8 to 80" and indeed, her brother, two sisters and father joined in as well.

The 60's was the folksong era and Joanna and her guitar were inseparable. She performed at local events and particularly enjoyed being part of the "Moods of Man" series at Qualicum Coffee House with Jim Johnson and Harry Aoki. Harry became a mentor and friend of the family.

A Rotary exchange trip to Bamberg, Germany for one year in 1968 was life changing. Music opened many doors and Joanna flourished in the rich culture of this beautiful Unesco Heritage city. The music high school she attended had a piano in each room, a choir, an orchestra and offered private music lessons. Rotarians offered her tickets to concerts and the Bamberg Symphony. She experienced her first opera - Mozart's Magic Flute - at a gala concert in Berlin.

Back home, Joanna met her future husband - a teacher from Germany who taught at the Qualicum College. The German connection with friends and relatives overseas continues to this day.

The couple moved to Port Alice at the north end of Vancouver Island. Joanna continued her piano studies with monthly lessons in Victoria - a 10 hour journey south (part logging road). She acquired her ARCT degree and began teaching. Before children came along, this was a creative time of songwriting.

In 1973, she and her husband moved to Squamish BC and raised their two children there. As church keyboardist for 30 years at Squamish United Church, she had many opportunities to put her music to use both as accompanist and choir leader.

Joanna was an active member of the Squamish Folk-Song Circle. Several piano teachers from this group went on to found Howe Sound Performing Arts Association (1993). Joanna became the first President and helped produce concerts for 16 years. She continues on the board and takes pride in the contribution HSPAA has made to the community.

In 2010, Joanna was honoured to represent the arts in Squamish as an Olympic Torch Bearer. The date was February 5 - the same day as her mother's 81st birthday. Friends and four generations of family were on hand for the special day.

Joanna was fortunate to meet Vancouver composer, Larry Nickel, who has since arranged several of her pieces for choir. Her songs no longer sit in a drawer but rather are being performed by choirs across Canada. Her search for a lyricist, via composer Ron Klusmeier, has led her to John W. Oldham of Winnipeg. Together, they have created a number of new hymns.

In retirement from teaching, she gets to indulge her passions of songwriting and photography. The interest in photography came about naturally. Her camera was a constant companion around Squamish and on her on travels. She started to produce photo cards for family and friends who encouraged her to take her hobby more seriously. . .

Joanna is self-taught. "I am always learning," she says. "I've learned from experience, from other photographers, from books and I find my computer particularly helpful. With several versions of a landscape on the screen, I see clearly which one is successful (or not) and then study why this is so.

"The Visuals group in Squamish, of which I am a member, has been an inspiration. Each artist - whether a painter, sculptor or photographer - brings a unique sensibility to his or her discipline. Squamish is literally bursting at the seams with artists.

"Clearly, as I look back on my life, I see the role that family, community and the arts have played in my life. Whatever pleasure or challenge I face, I view each through the lens of creativity. Our complex 21st century needs creative people more than ever! Let's never forget the importance of the arts!!"