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The National Arts Centre Orchestra's 2012 tour: making music in Northern Canada.


Touring has been a key part of the National Arts Centre Orchestra's mandate since its formation in 1969. The Orchestra has toured across Canada, as well as in Europe, the U.S. and the Middle East. Over the past decade those tours have been renamed 'performance and education tours,' and with good reason: while they may have several concerts, the accompanying education events number in the dozens. For example, the Orchestra's Atlantic Canada tour last fall included seven concerts and 75 education events; larger tours have had upwards of 100 such events, such as masterclasses, question-and-answer sessions, coaching by Orchestra musicians with community or school groups, broadband events and more. All are planned in consultation with regional music, educational and community groups so that as much as possible, the events meet the needs of the community.

Nowhere has that consultative approach and high community involvement been more important than in planning the 2012 Northern Canada Tour that will see the Orchestra visit a part of the country whose rich musical heritage dates back many hundreds of years before the first European settlers arrived in Canada.

From Oct. 26 to Nov. 4, the NAC Orchestra will visit Iqaluit, Yellowknife, Whitehorse, and, in smaller numbers, Pangnirtung and Rankin Inlet. And while the concert in Iqaluit will be the Orchestra's first, the National Arts Centre is no stranger to the region: the tour's education activities are extensions of outreach activities that the NAC's Music Education Department has been developing over the past three years, in partnership with the Government of Nunavut's Department of Education and local music champions.

It was in 2010 that the NAC's Music Education Department began engaging more deeply with communities in Northern Canada. Despite the region's rich musical heritage, the lack of music education resources is--as is the case in so many other Canadian communities--abundantly real. And so the National Arts Centre began to think about how it might adapt some of its existing programs to suit the specific needs of northern Canadian communities.

The obvious choice was Music Alive. Active in Alberta and Saskatchewan (with a pilot year now under its belt in Manitoba), the NAC program brings multiple visits from high-calibre professional musicians to perform for and work interactively with students in Grades 4 through 6 for three consecutive years, resulting in approximately 100 school visits that reach 10,000 children annually. The program has a strong element of cultural exchange: several of its teaching musicians are aboriginal, and many presentations explore both classical and aboriginal music.

"The traditions and the musical culture in the North are so deeply a part of the history of the land, and of the people," said Genevieve Cimon, the NAC's Director of Music Education and Community Outreach. "And so in remaking Music Alive for Nunavut, we focus on celebrating those traditions and finding ways for them to thrive. We've learned so much from our many northern partners and continue to be amazed by the incredible talent in the North."

Music Alive Nunavut works primarily by engaging local and visiting musicians to inspire youth, teachers and the community. Through ongoing consultation with local partners, programs are based on local musical culture and designed to meet the community's needs. Fiddle, accordion, guitar, singing, throat singing, Inuit drum-dancing, and community concerts have all played a part. Since 2010, the program has involved more than 3000 students, teachers and community members, in places like Iqaluit, Pangnirtung, Igloolik, Kugluktut and Rankin Inlet.

Music Alive Nunavut develops and supports programs based on five principles: music education for children and youth; music making in the community; building capacity among educators and musicians; preserving and celebrating local culture; and showcasing northern artists.



There have been many highlights in the 2011-12 year, including five community performances in Iqaluit, Igloolik and Pangnirtung that featured local and visiting musicians. One such concert in Iqaluit involved 25 local musicians and music students, as well as NAC Orchestra brass musicians playing new arrangements of traditional Inuit folk songs. In front of an audience of 400, the concert also included community members and students throat-singing, drumming and dancing.

There were workshops with visiting musicians such as Ottawa fiddler, guitarist and accordion player Greg Brown, local Inuit accordionist Simeonie Keenainak, throat-singer Sylvie Cloutier, and musician and Governor General Award recipient Aaju Peter. The National Arts Centre also partnered with the Nunavut Teacher Education Program to host three teacher training workshops in Iqaluit, Pangnirtung and Rankin Inlet. Like its counterpart in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Music Alive Nunavut works on a multi-year basis to ensure long-lasting impact. The program also includes the donation and delivery of musical instruments and resource development.

"It is so positive to see music education opportunities expanding for our youth in a more sustained way," said Darlene Nuqingaq, the educational leadership development coordinator for the Government of Nunavut. "This is the key to helping us get more music in the schools and more adults to help teach our youth music. Music helps people to find their voice, and encourages pride in ourselves, our culture, and our place in the world." "Music Alive Nunavut has really been a success because of the relationships that we've developed in the north," Cimon said. "The schools, the elders, the musicians who are there in the community, the education groups-we've all made it work together. And it's really those relationships that we built on in planning the NAC Orchestra's Northern Tour."

In Iqaluit, a number of interesting tour activities are planned. In partnership with the artist-led Qaggiavuut! Society, which is working to create a Nunavut Performing Arts Centre, the orchestra and the Alianait Festival will host a leadership event for young people to help strengthen the performing arts in their own communities. (In October 2011, the National Arts Centre hosted members of the Qaggiavuut! Society in Ottawa for three days of professional development.)

A student matinee in Iqaluit will include a new composition inspired by winter with movements composed by students at Inuksuk High School in Iqaluit and at Hillcrest High School in Ottawa. (The students were guided by Montreal composer Tim Brady and throat-singer Nancy Mike at two three-day workshops in each location last spring.) The piece will also be performed in Ottawa during one of the Orchestra's "Family Adventures" concerts as part of the NAC's Northern Scene festival in 2013.

The tour will include a broadband videoconference masterclass linking Ottawa's Orkidstra--a group based on the El Sistema system of free music lessons and youth orchestras--with a Sistema-inspired Iqaluit fiddle group. Concerts and matinee repertoire will incorporate both Western and Inuit music, and presentations will use three languages-English, French and Inuktitut--as will the accompanying teacher resources.

While in Iqaluit, Yellowknife and Whitehorse NAC Orchestra musicians will provide coaching sessions for school music students, offer in-school chamber performances, band clinics and fiddle club coaching, as well as offer community concerts. Guest artists will also teach throat-singing, composition and mime.

Every NAC Orchestra tour has a theme, and the Northern Tour theme is about transformation, Cimon said.

"With our partners and through our education activities, we will celebrate and explore how music can transform individuals and communities for the better. We can hardly wait!"

The NAC Orchestra's Performance and Education Tour of Northern Canada runs from Oct. 26-Nov. 4, 2012. Music educators across Canada can follow the tour with their students on the NAC's Web site, .

All photos courtesy of the National Arts Centre.

Mary Gordon is a Communications Advisor who works in the Corporate Communications department of the National Arts Centre. On top of working to promote the nationwide work of the National Arts Centre--which has a significant youth and education componentshe is also at the forefront of a project to shift the demographic makeup of the NAC audience. She is a former journalist whose work has appeared in the Ottawa Citizen, Maclean's magazine and the Toronto Star. She is married and has two children.
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Title Annotation:principal themes
Author:Gordon, Mary
Publication:Canadian Music Educator
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Sep 22, 2012
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