Black Bear

Hey team,

Wow, I’m so happy that I can finally share this recording. This project has been some good months in the making and is really special to me. If you’re wondering why, check out this video below:

This recording is done by the premiering ensemble, the Gimli High School Senior Concert Band with guests, directed by the incredible music educator, Rob Chrol. He’s the senior years teacher at my alma mater, a program that (for obvious reasons) is near and dear to my heart.

When I stepped in to workshop the band, we focused a lot on local stories and the value of just being where you’re from. I remember being 18 and not only ready to graduate, but to move to Winnipeg and live somewhere new. As I’ve gotten older, I find myself gravitating back to the place where I grew up – it’s not nostalgia, it’s something deeper, almost like a calling. There are deep roots that have become more important as I’ve gotten older; in Gimli’s case: Lake Winnipeg, my Icelandic heritage and the history of New Iceland, and the old songs and stories of the area. And these things have value to a community and the people who live there. These are some of the many things that bind people together in a community or region, and it’s certainly not limited to where I grew up; this happens everywhere and can happen to anybody.

There were so many people from my hometown at the premiere performance who had some connections to the songs of Sol Sigurdson. My old music teacher (and private piano teacher, and Grade 6 teacher, and organizer of the WSO commission in 2014 because this is a small town, after all) told me that the repressing from Ancient Raven Records was actually her Dad’s LP. Others shared their stories from dances in Riverton. Another was Solli’s cousin, because again, small town, hahaha.

Another particularly striking moment was while I was in the hospital with my Dad, who was fighting acute pancreatitis at the time of premiere (but is getting better everyday). I shared a recording of the performance with him and he told me in a quiet, worn voice that he had that record in his house as a kid, then he started reciting the lyrics to “Suzanne E” from that LP. He just had them locked away somehow here. I’m sure he hadn’t heard that song in several decades, but there was another connection to this Interlake folk music.

And that’s why this is important: We must never forget that music connects people and it connects people to a time and a place. Music is part of a person’s life, but also a group’s shared history and stories. What we do here is important, not just for kids, but for families and communities.

And while I’m on this soapbox, let’s keep finding music and music education because the school is, in my opinion, the lifeblood of a community. If we have both music and connecting people in a community, there’s no limit to what we can achieve.


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