Local musician, volunteer awarded for community service
It’s not the first medal local performing artist Miriam Dreher has received, but it did cause the nearly 79-year-old to have an emotional day.
On Jan. 21, Dreher, along with 49 other recipients, received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for community service from Lieutenant Governor Donald S. Ethell during a ceremony at Calgary’s McDougall Centre.
She was nominated for the award, which is being given to 60,000 Canadians in celebration of the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s ascension to the throne.
“I was overwhelmed, I was most humbled and I was ecstatic,” said Dreher. “I can’t believe that I really received it, I was so emotional all day long.”
Dreher, a singer, guitarist and yodeller with decades of experience, was nominated for the Diamond Jubilee Medal by Airdrie MLA Rob Anderson who said although it was difficult to pick just two recipients in Airdrie (see story on Mayor Peter Brown on page 11), “Dreher’s dedication to community service stood out.
“She is a senior and she puts in so many volunteer hours, and she has had an incredible music career - she just keeps going,” he said. “Age is not an issue for her. I find that inspiring.”
Dreher is the founder of Airdrie Yodelfest, which has been a community staple for nearly a decade. Last year, the event sold out, drawing 557 people who eagerly took in the festival at the Airdrie Town & Country Centre, which included Swiss yodellers and dancers, as well as accordionists and alphorn musicians.
Dreher comes across her musical ability honestly.
“My great grandfather came from Switzerland,” said Dreher.
“He taught dad (music) and dad taught me.”
Dreher’s first performance was at a Christmas concert when she was five years old. During her youth, she performed at talent shows and events, singing and yodelling for many people.
After she married and had children, Dreher was busy raising a family and working at Access Television, which left little time for music. However, after a hiatus from performing, she was encouraged by a co-worker to enter a Calgary Stampede talent show in the 1970s.
She won that competition and hasn’t stopped performing her bluegrass, classic country and gospel music at special occasions and events since.
Dreher has also raked in 21 other music awards over the years, including Canadian and international yodelling awards. In the process, she has performed in front of thousands.
“I enjoy competing,” she said.
Dreher also has a passion for people and gives back tirelessly. The senior not only puts on Yodelfest every year, but helps arrange trips as part of two senior’s groups she belongs to.
Itineraries have included Waterton Lakes National Park, Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump, the Royal Tyrell Museum, Lake Louise and the Great Canadian Barn Dance in Hillspring, Alberta.
“Some of those dear people, that is the only trip they have ever been on,” she said. “I fuss over them and they think that is just great.”
She also volunteers her time visiting hospitals and seniors’ homes, sharing her music.
“Their faces just light up,” she said. “It is amazing how music can really get to them.”
Dreher said she is motivated by a passion to help others.
“I just love people,” she said.