The Coquitlam Musical Theater Academy was established in March 1997 by Elaine, Lalainia and Rochelle Lindbjerg.
They crossed paths for years.
Chad and Erin Matchette had worked with – and auditioned against – Lalainia Lindbjerg since the 1980s, through various Lower Mainland musical theater companies.
The couple also knew that Lindbjerg had a reputable performing arts school which she, her mother and sister had established in March 1997, with various classes in the Tri-Cities.
So when Lindbjerg’s sister Rochelle asked in 2019, as sole proprietor, for a partner to take the business to the next level and find it a permanent home, the Matchettes took the lead.
By January 2010, Chad had become the owner and artistic director of the Lindbjerg Academy of the Performing Arts and took almost a year to make his house perfect.
This month, 11 years after IKEA opened the business at the foot of Blue Mountain Street, Lindbjerg celebrates its 25th year by thanking the family that started it all – and honoring the staff and students who have gone through his doors.
Last week, in an interview with the News, Erin Matchette spoke about the couple’s lifelong love for musical theater and education, how the business has coped with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and what lies ahead. installation of Coquitlam at the end of this year and beyond.
IT ALL STARTED WITH DUKE
Chad and Erin Matchette met in September 1992, while performing in the Fraser Valley production of Gilbert and Sullivan. The Grand Duke.
Next, Ladner High School graduate Erin was part of the set, while Cariboo Hill High School graduate Chad portrayed a villain.
But later, while raising their two children, Jack and Emily, the couple took different paths.
Erin, who studied drama and drama at UBC and the William Davis Center for Actor’s Study, got into the early education field, while Chad, a high-profile Telus employee, also performed and directed for the Footlight Theater Company, among others.
At the time he took over Lindbjerg, Chad Matchette was the production manager of the Royal City Musical Theater in New Westminster, staging major musical theater productions.
His last show with RCMT was that of Rodgers & Hammerstein Oklahoma! in 2013.
Still, that wasn’t the only musical theater project up his sleeve.
That year, Chad Matchette also founded Align Entertainment, a Metro Vancouver theater production company that offers large-scale family theater, along with Patti Volk of Coquitlam.
In February 2020, Align Entertainment had just completed the reassembly Shrek: The Musical at the Michael J. Fox Theater in Burnaby when COVID-19 hit.
Within two years, Lindbjerg’s enrollment in its courses in Richmond fell to zero, while its Coquitlam headquarters lost 35% of its students.
“We have a lot of students who don’t come back or who have completely given up on musical theater,” Chad Matchette lamented. “They just don’t come back.”
But, for those who remained at the academy, Lindbjerg installed technology and physical distancing measures to keep students and staff safe.
“It was a huge expense to continue,” Erin Matchette told The News from the three cities“but we persevered and now we are on the other side.”
Now that provincial health orders are easing, the Matchettes say they look forward to their next projects in Lindbjerg’s landmark year: the Rising Stars shows at the Terry Fox Theater in Port Coquitlam in April and May, as well as their year-end productions in June.
And, on Jan. 4, 2022, the couple purchased Showstoppers Academy from the owner, who was leaving the Maple Ridge company she founded 13 years ago. “It has a good reputation and we are happy to participate,” she said.
Currently, the 95 students with Showstoppers are temporarily practicing at the Riverside Community Church in PoCo, but the Matchettes hope to find them new digs in Maple Ridge this year.
In addition to their busy schedule, Lindbjerg takes 25 students from his show choir to Disneyland in California during spring break.
There they will perform in the company’s renowned outfit which has the outline of two golden dancers reaching for a star (in 2020, the show’s choir was three days away from leaving for Disneyland when it was grounded due to the virus).
And from April, to make better use of its daytime space, Lindbjerg will inaugurate new programs for children and seniors alike:
- • Tuesdays: Broadway Tiny Stars, Broadway Tiny Stars Advanced, Seniors Tap and Broadway Golden Stars
- • Wednesdays: Senior Showtune Sing-a-long
Erin Matchette said their plan is to increase enrollment this spring and summer at Lindbjerg and Showstoppers.
“Our goal is to get things back to normal in September,” she said.