Meet your neighbour: Robert Stewart
I’m not from Burnaby - I was born and raised in California and came here at 18. My father was a theatre manager and we moved around a lot. I remember what it was like in the early 1970s - just a laid-back, sleepy place.
What a change - looking at it now, it is more like L.A.
My father ran the SFU theatre for quite a few years. Eventually, he was offered another job and once again, my family moved. This time, they moved without me. I had started to set down roots here and decided to stay. More importantly, I had met my Sandy.
Music has been my other love, and a huge part of my life. I will never forget the day my dad took me to my first concert – Santana. The warm-up act was an unknown singer and he was so amazing he should have been the main event - his name was Stevie Wonder. Through my dad’s connections, I was able to meet some of the most important musicians of my time - David Crosby, Joni Mitchel and many more – they helped shape me into the eclectic music lover I am today.
I have played many different types of music, from folk to rhythm and blues, but I always gravitate back to classic rock. I was 16 when I started to play in my first band. It was a Christian band and I was the youngest of the group. It is hard to explain what you learn while playing with a band; the challenge of learning new styles, blending with other artists. You come to admire other people’s talents and it drives you to become a better musician.
My advice on becoming a musician and balancing your family life? Marry a musician. Sandy plays the guitar and sings. Truthfully, it wasn’t always easy and I was rarely home before we had children. I almost missed the entire first year of my daughter’s life, so I decided to stop playing for a while. I chose family over music and I have to say I have never regretted my decision. My life has had much more balance, raising a family, working and volunteering in my community.
Volunteering was something Sandy got me into – she really does have a heart of gold. She is always doing something for someone. I started volunteering as a soccer coach and, just recently, I began helping young musicians find their passions and voice on stage. I run an open mic and it fits me perfectly. To see so many new and experienced performers on stage, sharing their talents with the community. Everyone should have a chance to be on stage. It will change your life – it certainly changed mine.
Robert Stewart is an experienced musician and a founding member of the bands “Rainshadow” and “Silver Brothers”. He is also the host of the Burnaby Neighbourhood House Open Mic, a monthly event at the Burnaby Neighbourhood House Hall on Royal Oak and Rumble in Burnaby. It is open to all types of performers including singers, instrumentalists and stand-up comedians.
The Burnaby Neighbourhood House is a charitable, non-profit organization with a unique focus on neighbours supporting neighbours. Check us out at www.burnabynh.ca.