Not long ago I discovered a fantastic initiative in Nibinamik First Nation, north of Thunder Bay, Ontario. A music program has been running that is making a difference in the lives of young people in the community. This program is basically set up with instruction by two professional musicians to several community members. The idea is that the two professionals train key people, mainly on violin, guitar, percussion and voice lessons, and then these people in turn teach others in the community.
I talked to Chief Donald Sofea of the Nibinamik First Nation, and he had great things to say about this program. He believes, as I do, that the introduction of music into people’s lives is a very positive thing with all kinds of beneficial results. The program has already resulted in the formation of a music band and people are looking forward to having live entertainment at community events.
In a way this program should provide beneficial results for years to come by simply introducing people to the wonderful world of music. Chris Krienke and Ardon Broyere are heading up this musical instruction. They visit the community and work with trainees who in turn go into the school to provide lessons to students. The local education authority has been very helpful and supportive of this program with the allotment of a classroom. In addition, guitars and fiddles were purchased to be used by the students.
Many First Nations communities have the benefit of sports instruction, and activities such as hockey, baseball and volleyball are all provided. The arts are often not part of the scene in remote communities. Nibinamik has put together a formula that is giving its young people a chance to become involved in the arts through this music program.
I have a friend who claims that if there is music in a house there is love in that home. I really believe that music has a healing quality and also contributes to enhancing the creativity in people’s minds. Everyone who is introduced to music through this program will have been awakened to the comforting and positive world of music.
Most of these people will probably simply learn to play an instrument and enjoy entertaining themselves as well as others.
There is also the chance that some of the participants in this program will become very enthused and move ahead into a career related to music. My hope is that with the seeds that are planted in these participants many people will be touched by the power of music.
One of the best things that has happened to me in the last few years is the fact that I have learned to play the guitar. My guitar is my best friend. When I am sad I go to it for comfort; when I am happy I pick it up and strum to my heart’s content. It is a great idea to try to reach every young person with the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument. This is a pastime that has great rewards and creates much satisfaction. It also is a boost for a person’s self-esteem.
First Nations people are close to the land and to the heartbeat of mother earth. A lot of our culture is based on the sound of the drum. I know many great First Nations musicians and I see more and more developing all the time. The Nibinamik First Nation and the program organizers and funders — Matawa First Nation Management and Mamo-Wichi-Hetiwin Employment and Training — deserve a pat on back for introducing the healing powers of music to community members.
I hope that this idea catches on and spreads to other First Nations communities and, especially, to remote First Nations communities. Let the music lift our hearts.