75 years old
By Sally Samuel, Wood Buffalo Regional Library
Norma Jean Atkinson has devoted countless hours being involved socially and culturally within the music community for over 40 years, as a music teacher, choir conductor, musician, and perhaps most notably, as the organizer of the Oilsands Rotary Music Festival, the first and only annual youth music festival in our region.
She first moved to Fort McMurray in 1975 as a music teacher in the Catholic school district, ultimately working in five different schools over the course of 34 years. She noticed shortly after arriving that, without a formal music festival, there was no avenue for local children to improve and showcase their talent. Her hard work resulted in the first music festival occurring over 3 days, with 216 entries, in April 1976. Every year since then, Norma Jean has been instrumental to the success and growth of local music festivals, to the point where Fort McMurray’s festival has become one of the largest in the province!
Besides holding the title of President in the Alberta Music Festival Association in the past, Norma Jean conducted the Y Community Choir, was a member of the Overture Concert Society, served on the ATA Professional Development Committee, directed choirs at both the Catholic and United Church, and currently plays the piano and organ at First United and Faith Presbyterian Churches. She has participated in Pink Ribbon Runs, UNICEF Campaigns, Poppy Campaigns, and organized the Lions Club Carol Festival. To this day, she directs the choir at the Golden Years, and continues to help with the Music Festival.
Without community leaders championing for the arts like Norma Jean, Fort McMurray’s music scene would not nearly be as rich and thriving as it is today.