Jean Wellburn: harpist & artist

Featured Artist, Flavour Of The Month | July 13 2016

I showed our artist of the month where my studio was so I could get some images of her for this month’s Stew, and had only left her alone for a couple of minutes when our store started filling with this amazing music from her harp. To be honest, I have no way of describing the music that Jean was playing, but it was just amazing.

Jean Wellburn was born and raised in Penticton, moved to Ft. St. John for a year after finishing University, then landed in Williams Lake in 1968, where she soon married her husband Roy. Jean and Roy have a son and daughter, and now two grandsons that both call Jean, Nana Abula.

Jean has also been a lifelong educator, whether it’s in the structured environment of a classroom for the school district here in Williams Lake, or the open-air preschool at Scout Island which she started in 1980. In the early 70s, she was coaxed into working with the Field Naturalists, and was mentored by Anna Roberts, eventually becoming a Nature Interpreter. She is still involved with the Centre, but now only as a Grandma.

Jean has painted all her life, and her most recent show was at Williams Lake’s Station House Gallery in 2012. This show featured acrylic paintings of Becher’s Prairie Rocks out on the Chilcotin Plateau that were moved there by glaciers 10,000 years ago.

In the 90s, after taking her Early Childhood Education program through Cariboo College, Jean started working at Nesika Elementary in their music program. At that time, Jean had no formal music training other than her will and her voice.

In 1997, Jean attended her first harp workshop at Island Mountain Arts in Wells and was immediately hooked. There are two week-long workshops held per year, and Jean says she has only missed a couple since the very first she attended. As well as attending workshops in Wells, she also goes to ones that are held on Vancouver Island. Jean calls herself ‘a happy intermediate player’ but has been forced into participating in the advanced classes as well. She says she doesn’t sight read music very well, but will memorize the songs she is going to be playing.

Since getting to the point where she is comfortable playing in public, Jean has had numerous performances over that last few years such as recently playing at the High Tea for the Shriners convention that was just held in Williams Lake. She has played all over town, including for Hospice during the memory tree ceremony, and does a half dozen performances in a year.

Jean says her life is totally dedicated to the arts. She has spent her life immersed in it, whether playing her harp, painting in acrylics or just enjoying someone else’s work. If you get a chance to hear Jean play definitely stop and enjoy – I guarantee you will love it.

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