Joanne McNeal: “We Are All Connected”
Joanne McNeal came to McCauley in 2006 to live closer to her grandchildren. Joanne is one of _Boyle McCauley News’_ most prolific contributors. Whenever there is a call for submissions, she is usually among the first to respond.
“I write because I am an educator, and I want to do my part … to share what I learned from life that might help others. I believe we are all connected and that if we help each other, we all benefit,” she says. Joanne has been a board member with the paper, and recently became a block carrier. Joanne also volunteered in other capacities in McCauley, like coordinating painting of the murals south of Stadium Station, working on gardening contests, and serving on the Revitalization Committee.
We chose Joanne as our featured volunteer for our Arts issue because of Joanne’s long and distinguished career as a performer and artist. “I find I have to be creative to feel alive,” she says. Joanne began singing duets with her sister at the age of 4 in Hollywood. She sang solos, and played violin in orchestras throughout school. She won a vocal scholarship to Whitworth College in Spokane, and was sent all over the State of Washington to sing for fundraisers.
“Later I was asked to model professionally by a large department store and served as one of their regular models in fashion shows. What fun it was to wear the fancy designer clothes!” Joanne won the ‘Best Actress of the Year’ award for playing Anne in _The Diary of Anne Frank_, and represented the College at the Regional Metropolitan Opera Auditions. Later she narrated a children’s daily live PBS radio show.
Joanne and her husband immigrated to Canada when he began his doctoral studies at UBC. They had two daughters before moving to Calgary, where she supervised arts activities on playgrounds. Joanne eventually got a chance to be a lead singer and violinist with a new show group called Stratus Faction, who toured Western Canada for 15 months. Joanne and girls moved to Edmonton, and she sang with several groups including many Klondike Kate shows.
In Edmonton, Joanne did a lot of performing. She:
- sang with several groups including concerts led by Tommy Banks with the Symphony for ITV, including singing back- up to Nana Mouskouri, Johnny Mathis, and others;
- recorded music for the opening/closing ceremonies for the Commonwealth Games in 1978, as well as a lot of original music for CBC radio and TV specials;
- acted in many educational films produced by Access;
- had a supporting role in the feature film _Why Shoot the Teacher_; and,
- was a founding member of ProCoro, Edmonton’s professional chamber choir.
She currently sings with the Edmonton Metropolitan Chorus and Chamber Choir. In addition, as a single parent, Joanne earned a Master’s degree when her daughters were teens, and her PhD at 57.
In the future, Joanne hopes to create a celebration of women and mothers. “In Fort Smith, NT we created a concert which told the history of women through song. The dinner theatre benefitted the women’s shelter.” In Virginia, Joanne created a Mother’s Day Celebration. “My sisters and I sang songs celebrating our mother, and the audience shared stories or memories of their mothers. I want to organize something like this in McCauley next year, with various local artists participating, sharing, and celebrating together. It could benefit the women’s shelter here.”
In closing, she says, “We really are connected. If we all improve our part of the neighbourhood in some way, other areas improve too. As we help each other, we share a happier and more caring place to live, and the arts can help bring us together.”