Journey before destination: greetings from BJP's new Executive Director Shana Barbour

By buckingjam on January 21, 2024

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about trajectory. With my recent warm welcome into the BJP Music Foundation community and my new role as Executive Director, I wonder what forces were at play to help me end up here? As I watch my two emerging adults (twins, 21 years old this month) consider what they want to be when they “grow up”, I can only imagine what life has in store for them, and naturally begin to reflect upon my own professional journey, and decisions made over a very rich lifetime so far. 

BJP ED Shana Barbour

As a young person, I don’t recall having a clear path or really knowing what I wanted to do as an occupation. My earliest memory of this was when I was 5 years old, convinced I wanted to be a bus driver. I’m not entirely sure why, but the memory is still quite clear in my mind’s eye. A high school aptitude test suggested I be a flight attendant because I liked working with people and travelling. Instead, I took a year of Business Administration in college upon the recommendation of my dad, but soon realized that was not my path. With a somewhat creative nature, I shifted to a diploma course in Interior Design, and while I loved the creative outlet, I realized that wasn’t quite it either. Finally, after enjoying a particularly riveting criminology course, and with my young, somewhat naïve outlook, I realized I was going to change the world by helping people and went on to complete a Sociology degree. From there, I spent the next 10 years working in different capacities for Hull Services, providing support to children, youth and families, and learning about community development. As my introduction into the non-profit sector, I knew this was how I was going to spend my life. Then, enter burnout, stage right! 

After needing a change from the toll that such emotional front-line work can bring, I decided I wanted to save not only people, but apparently the world, and embarked on a master’s degree in Sustainable Development. The next almost decade of my life was spent working with the Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society, a small but mighty all hands-on deck volunteer organization, where I had many incredible opportunities to learn the ins and outs of non-profit work. I was fortunate to be involved in everything from volunteer and program management, Human Resources, fund development, occupational health and safety, managing teams, building critical collaborative partnerships with donors, partners and sponsors, and working with all levels of government on comprehensive ecological projects. Then in 2022, I began working for the Alexandra Community Health Centre as a grant writer in their Fund Development department, securing funding to ensure the front-line teams can do what they do best: provide critical healthcare, mental health, social and housing support to Calgary’s most vulnerable citizens. Graciously, they have allowed me to remain with them part-time so I can again stretch my wings and become part of the BJP Music Foundation. 

But what does any of this have to do with jazz or the arts? 

Well, nothing, really.  And if I were to look back on my early life, there is little chance I would have expected that I would end up where I am. There are inherent trade-offs between having a solid plan for your life and following it diligently, versus being open and embracing new, unique and unexpected opportunities that come your way. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, although I do believe there is a special kind of creativity and magic that happens in the latter. It’s of course a balance between the two and that balance is also reflected in the work we do.  So much of the magic happens organically because of beautiful connections and relationships that develop along the way and that could not have been anticipated. That’s a big part of the wave we need to ride. 

It may sound clichéd, but it’s the journey, not the end point, right? So, the trajectory towards and end goal is important, but it is driven by what we learn along the way. One of the most important things I’ve learned about myself throughout this journey is that I am driven wholeheartedly by my values, including lifelong learning and being involved in important work that makes even a little corner of the world a better place.  I have learned that community is an important common denominator in every part of the voluntary sector: we build it, we support it, we depend on it. So, whether it’s helping people, supporting the environment, or bringing attention to the arts, I’m grateful to be part of it. And I am grateful knowing that the richness of experience and understanding I’ve developed throughout my time in the voluntary sector will be of service to the BJP Music Foundation.   

So, back to trajectory. When I think back to my first awareness of BuckingJam Palace, the group had just formed. It’s incredible to see how far they have come in just a few short years.  As so often is the case with grassroots organizations, they are driven by sheer passion, grit, tenacity and a deeply embedded belief in the importance of their work. Where we are today is a testament to the former and current board members and volunteers who have paved the way. From what I can see, the trajectory has been steadily upwards. And with the support of our community, the sky is the limit! 

On behalf of the incredible Board of Directors of the BJP Music Foundation, I express my most sincere gratitude to the Calgary Foundation for the financial support provided to help launch us into the next phase of growth and development. I am thrilled and honoured to be part of such trailblazing work, with some of the most passionate and heartfelt people I have had the great fortune to meet.  

And thank you to Lisa, Jodi, Tiro, Céline, Janice, AJ and Graham for the warm welcome and their faith in me. I have no doubt that we are on the path to great things together. 

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