History – Amy Ferguson

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Who Was Amy Ferguson?

Dr. Amy Ferguson lead the Nelson Boys Choir from 1930 until 1972.  She was born in London, England in 1884 and emigrated to Canada when she was six years old. She was raised in Brantford Ontario, and studied at the Brantford Conservatory of Music and later received a scholarship to study at Queens University.

She moved to Olds, Alberta to teach, and there met Reverend Joe Ferguson, who had a parish at the United Church.  Amy and Joe married a few years later and in 1908 moved to Turkey for two years to work at a school for Armenian men supported by the United Church. They returned to Canada in 2010 and eventually ended up in Vernon, BC and in 1930 moved to Nelson, BC.

Dr. Ferguson resided in Nelson, BC for 42 years, until her death in 1972. Dr. Ferguson trained over 800 boys as well as many girls to sing and to love fine music. Several of Dr.  Ferguson’s former music students went on to become highly regarded professional singers and musicians in Canada and abroad. 

Two of the most prominent were Don Brown, outstanding Canadian baritone in the 1950’s and later, Nancy Argenta (Herbison) famed international soprano.  One of Dr. Fergusons students, Ray Thompson, wrote a lovely letter in her memory. Thompson was one of her students from 1935 – 1952. His words are rich in thanks and so much more: “Thank you for making our hearts soar in song Mrs. F. We are forever grateful and your legacy lives on.” 

Dr. Amy Ferguson
Dr. Amy Ferguson
Boys Choir
Boys Choir in Nelson 1934
Boys Choir 1964
Boys Choir 1964
Article from Nelson Daily News 1997
Len Lythgoe letter to the Editor, 1997

What is the Amy Ferguson Institute?

The Amy Ferguson Institute (AFI) was founded in 2000 to celebrate the musical legacy of Dr. Amy Ferguson, a much loved music teacher and mentor best remembered for her dedication to providing an artistic outlet for young boys. 

Since 2000, AFI has sought to celebrate her legacy by organizing festivals, concerts, workshops, productions, and master classes in Nelson focusing primarily on the vocal arts.

From 2001 to 2004 the newly formed Amy Ferguson Institute partnered with the Nelson Community Opera (NCO) and mounted Nelson Summer Songfest, a festival which attracted renowned singers and clinicians to Nelson for two weeks of masterclasses, choral workshops and performances. NCO became part of AFY in 2008. It is is prudent to recognize the founding members of the NCO in 1996, the impetus for AFI: Adele Baker, Gus Boss, Karen Livingstone, Tony Salway, Ieuan Gilmore and Marty Horswill.

AFI also sponsored annual Advanced Voice Masterclasses from 2004 to 2007 under the world-class tutelage of Nancy Argenta and Ingrid Attrot.

Many productions, Opera and Musical Theatre, were produced by AFI to provide accessible music opportunities for locals, of all musical levels, to perform and embrace music, which was a deep love of Dr. Fergusons’. 

Khaos, was commissioned in 2009 with composition by Don Macdonald and libretto by Nicola Harwood. It was produced in 2012 by AFI and under the leadership of Marty Horswill, a long time AFI and Nelson Community Opera board member.

Since 2010 AFI has been managing the June Lythgoe Scholarship, with support from the Osprey Foundation. This scholarship awards a recipient who is furthering their studies through post-secondary studies, a masterclass or a course of study at a summer music school. 

In 2016 the family of Doris Bradshaw, who was very close to Dr. Ferguson, created a bursary in her memory,  that is awarded annually to youth to assist with their musical studies.

With the continued need to grow the production skills of locals AFI created a Production Skills Mentorship Fund. This fund enables organizations to engage mentors and support their efforts. 

AFI is a nonprofit organization run by local vocal music lovers. They are always looking for new shows to produce and opportunities to support vocal music in the West Kootenay. If you have a vision that supports local vocalists please reach out and together we’ll try make it happen. 

Join AFI!

Contact one of the board members, or email info@nelsonkootenaylake.com for more details.