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Inaugural residency

Leading Indigenous artist helping create new music studies curriculum


By Jeff Green

The School of Music is welcoming its first Indigenous artist-thinker as part of a new residency program.

Michael R. Denny is a Mi’kmaw singer, drum maker, storyteller and dancer from the Eskasoni First Nation in Nova Scotia, the largest Mi’kmaw community in the world.

Indigenous artist Michael R. Denny is spending time in N.L. as part of a new School of Music residency program.
A drum making workshop in Suncor Energy Hall.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

He is spending part of this month leading a variety of workshops and performances while also meeting with students, researchers and local Indigenous leaders and groups.

His residency is part of a new project called Indigenous Voice, which engages First Light as a community partner.

Earlier this year, a team of Indigenous leaders and scholars secured an Indigenous Research Capacity and Reconciliation – Connection Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) to create Indigenous Voice.

The goal is to engage with Indigenous artists and leaders to create a music studies course to be delivered by Indigenous artists.

‘Join in’

On March 5, Mr. Denny led a drum making workshop in the Suncor Energy Hall.

“We talked a little bit about the spirituality behind creating a hand drum,” Mr. Denny told the Gazette during a visit to the session.

“It was a great time of community drum making and music making," said Music student Nicholas Hiscock.
“It was a great time of community drum making and music making,” said music student Nicholas Hiscock.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

“The hand drum is more than an instrument; it plays a big part of our gatherings and powwows.”

Mr. Denny says he is delighted to be in Newfoundland and Labrador and is encouraging everyone to attend the variety of sessions planned during his residency.

“You don’t often get an opportunity like this to participate in Indigenous workshops, especially with people like me who are well knowledgeable in song and dance, but also in our traditional ceremonies.”

From left: Gale Franklin; Ellen McCutcheon; Christian Dauble; Boxuan Du; Kala Davis; and Daniel Neill were among the participants in the drum making workshop.
From left are Gale Franklin; Ellen McCutcheon; Christian Dauble; Michael R. Denny; Boxuan Du; Kala Davis; and Daniel Neill, at the drum making workshop.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

“I would like everybody who is around to come and join in and take part.”

Music student Nicholas Hiscock says the workshop was eye-opening.

“It was a great time of community drum making and music making in St. John’s,” he told the Gazette.

“It’s an opportunity that’s pretty rare for people to take in music and collective culture that’s not Western art music. We don’t often get the opportunity to fully experience or be a part of something that’s so intimate. It’s a bit different than any of the other workshops that I’ve been able to be a part of.”

Variety of sessions

While in St. John’s, Mr. Denny is also leading a free Powwow Music Workshop, which is taking place in the MMaP Gallery in the Arts and Culture Centre on Friday, March 8, from 10 a.m. until noon. Anyone wishing to attend should email jvandenscott@mun.ca.

Also on Friday, he is leading a Ko’jua Workshop from 3-4 p.m. in the MMaP Gallery on the second floor of the Arts and Culture Centre. Ko’jua is a Mi’kmaw social dance. This workshop is open to the public and admission is free.

On Sunday, March 10, there will be a public concert in the School of Music. Tunes ‘n’ Talk: Traditional and Contemporary Mi’kmaw Powwow Music begins at 7:30 p.m. This performance is open to the public and admission is free.

Mr. Denny is also taking part in a First Light Culture Camp from Friday, March 15, until Sunday, March 17.

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