Canyon Lake Fine Arts Guild celebrates 20 years of music

Founding members Art Zasio, Carol Vaughn, Mavis Schaffner, and Ken Cable were honored by the Guild in 2018. Photo by Canyon Lake Insider.

Twenty years ago this month, the Canyon Lake Fine Arts Guild began its humble beginnings as guests filed into the Holiday Bay Room at the Canyon Lake Lodge. Homeowners were dressed to the nines in gowns and tuxedos for a formal winter concert sponsored by the Canyon Lake Woman’s Club, led by then-President Mavis Schaffner. The purpose was to raise money for a new baby grand piano for the lodge.

After the Inland Valley Symphony played classical music throughout the evening, the audience rose for a standing ovation. Inspired by the overwhelming community reception at this event, which raised the needed funds for the piano, Schaffner proposed the formalization of what became the Canyon Lake Fine Arts Guild. 

The Guild’s 2019 board members pose for a group photo. Pictured, from left, are Jim Lafferty, Bonnie Dubbs, Ron Martel, Shari Skidmore, Larry Garland, Rhonda Pilto, and Corrie Tutt. Photo by Canyon Lake Insider.

Schaffner became the Guild’s first president while the club went on to produce an eclectic set of music programs from classical, choral, Broadway, jazz, swing, country, and rock.

“I can’t believe that twenty years has passed so quickly, Schaffner said. “I’m very proud of how the community has continued to support this program of live music.” 

In addition to Schaffner, the original Guild Board included Marlo Schaffner, Ken and Dorothy Cable, Dr. Vick Knight, Audrey Barrows, Carol Vaughn, and Shirley Beauttas. After a couple of years, Mavis turned the reigns over to Art Zasio, who passed away this month. Zasio helped the club flourish with many processes and procedures that are still in place today. 

“After Art’s 10 years as Guild president, my challenge as his successor, was to try and match his enthusiasm, passion, and dedication, while presenting top-notch entertainment for the community,” said former Guild President Travis Montgomery. “It was a pleasure to serve with him on the Guild board and to call him a friend. He is missed.”

In addition to the Inland Valley Symphony, other performers over the first dozen years included the Redlands Symphony, Gary Bonner Singers, Glenn Yarborough, Celtic Tenors, the Doo Wah Riders, Rob Rio Boogie Band, and tributes to Frank Sinatra and Neil Diamond.

Members of the Fine Arts Guild gather aboard a pontoon boat for Canyon Lake’s Annual Fiesta Day Parade. Photo by Canyon Lake Insider.

Before Zasio departed the board, he recruited Ron Martel as program director. Together, along with Montgomery and the board, they transformed the program dramatically into a set of tribute concerts that have sold out for more than five consecutive years. 

Two years later, Martel became President of the Guild and continued to evolve the program by adding concert events, including free concerts at the park, revamping the membership program, and creating the Guild’s website and Facebook page. The audience was surveyed for their input into the performance selections and, for the first time, alcohol was introduced at Guild performances.  

Over the last few years, the program has consisted primarily of tribute performers such as John Denver, Eagles, Beatles, Stones, Willie Nelson, Elton John, Santana, Beach Boys, Billy Joel, Bee Gees, Rod Stewart, and Garth Brooks. Upcoming 2021 events include tributes to Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Brooks & Dunn, Journey, and Queen.

After serving as president for three years, Martel stepped down and turned the reigns over to Bonnie Dubbs, who previously served as the Guild’s vice president. “It has been a privilege and a pleasure to have served on this board for the past five years,” Martel said. “My proudest moment was the Guild being named Canyon Lake’s Organization of the Year.”

The Guild has given back to the community in a number of ways, including the purchase of a bench for Holiday Harbor Park. Photo by Canyon Lake Insider.

The Guild installed its 2021 board during its November meeting. Joining Dubbs are Vice President Larry Garland, Publicity Director Corrie Tutt, Secretary Shari Skidmore, Treasurer Rhonda Pilto, Programs and Membership Director Brian Wood, and Director Chris Papavero,

“With changing demographics and musical styles, we will continue to evolve accordingly,” Dubbs said. “This is truly much-needed music and entertainment to bring our community together. We encourage your input and suggestions as we intend to continue delivering quality music at an affordable price to help Canyon Lake remain a little bit of paradise.” 

The Guild has made donations to the POA for the new amphitheater and park bench at Holiday Harbor Park, the new sound system in the Holiday Bay Room at the lodge, and to other community music programs, such as the Canyon Lake Choraleers and Canyon Lake Theater Group. The Guild does not solicit donations from the community and membership is capped at a capacity of about 200. 

For additional information about the Canyon Lake Fine Arts Guild visit, or email [email protected].

The community gathers at the Holiday Harbor Park amphitheater for a free concert sponsored by the Guild. Photo by Canyon Lake Insider.

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