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Music for the future

Erika Sherk
Northern News Services
Published Monday, December 7, 2009

NUNAVUT - Students of the Music Club in Pond Inlet were living their lives Nov. 7, little knowing that people in Lunenberg, N.S., had gathered to raise money for an association inspired by their success.

A choir, a band and a guitar and fiddle duo performed at a benefit concert that night, raising more than $4,100. Organized by a new group, the Tusarnaarniq Sivumut Association - Music For The Future, the money will go straight into furthering its purpose: helping Nunavut students play music.

It started in 2004, when Julie Lohnes, then a teacher at Nasivvik School in Pond Inlet, decided the students needed a music club.

"I just saw that a lot of the kids needed a more positive outlet, an outlet not only for something to do but also to express themselves," she said. "I saw music as a way to take up some time, less time they could get into trouble and also as a positive way to just express themselves and have fun."

She had a couple of guitars and invited students to come to the school once a week in the evenings to play around and learn simple tunes.

"I had a number of students I knew wanted to learn to play an instrument. It just basically started out as safe place to come," she said.

Interest grew but the number of instruments did not, so Lohnes got into touch with her musical contacts back home. Lohnes' hometown choir, the Riverport and Area Community Choir, organized an instrument drive, collecting people's old or underused instruments. They sent eight crates' worth of instruments north on the sealift in 2005. "We're a very musical community so we wanted to share that love of music and the ability to give things a try," said choir co-director Mark Currie.

It was a boost to the club and gave more kids a chance to join in, Lohnes said. Other Nova Scotia musicians got involved, particularly Gordon Stobbe and Greg Simm, a fiddler and guitarist, respectively. The two flew to Pond Inlet to do music workshops with the kids in 2007 and have done so each year since.

Despite leaving Pond Inlet in 2007, Lohnes said her heart is still with the community. Anxious to continue helping, she launched Tusarnaarniq Sivumut in April.

The Lunenberg concert was its first major event. The money will be used to help fund the Pond Inlet fiddle workshops in the spring and possibly buy instruments if a community needs them. It will also be a base for the association.

"We need a lot more," said Lohnes, adding the group will be seeking funding from other sources to set up more workshops, training and scholarships to help spread music further across the territory.

Meanwhile, in Pond Inlet, the music club goes on. Around 20 students show up to the weekly practices, said Julia Landry, who now co-instructs the group.

Michael Enook, 13, has been playing fiddle and keyboard with the group since September.

"Music makes it better," he said, when he's feeling worried or tired. Enook is working on a few songs on each instrument.

"It is a lot of fun," he said, adding that sometimes "it is really loud."

Some students come in to learn as beginners and others have been in the club for years and have played in the fiddle workshops.

"Often times the student coming in just doesn't have the instrument available at home so they know how to play songs, they know how to read the fiddle music and they come in and use it as a practice time," Landry said.

A classroom is dedicated to each of the three instruments the club focuses on: keyboard, guitar and fiddle, she said. Four accordions were recently donated and Jack O'Keefe, a local accordion player, has begun teaching students as well. The young musicians are blossoming, according to Landry, and she says she hopes their love for music will continue.

"What I'd like to see happen is for some of these young people to develop into musicians for the community and use Music Club as a bit of a jumping-off point for that."