NEWS: Iqaluit June 04, 2012 - 8:45 am

Music symposium encourages young Nunavut musicians to play and lead

“Leadership can be in anyone, but you need workshops to bring it out"


The sounds of fiddles, accordions, guitars and drums filled the Anglican parish hall in Iqaluit June 1 as participants in a music and leadership symposium for youth took turns teaching each other how to play each other’s instruments.

During the two-day gathering, half of the 15 participants from Iqaluit, Igloolik and Pangnirtung, chosen to attend the symposium for their musical skills and community involvement, taught guitar lessons, while the others tried to learn from them.

Then, those who could throat sing taught the others how to throat sing.

The goal of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association-organized event is to develop leadership skills through music.

The QIA’s youth co-ordinator and throat singer Becky Kilabuk said everyone caught on very quickly to the instruments they were learning. That gave a sense of accomplishment to the youth to continue learning and teaching.

In between their musical sessions, participants attended workshops, led by Kilabuk and Thomas Anguti Johnston, where they talked about how leadership isn’t just for elected officials.

“Leadership can be in anyone, but you need workshops to bring it out,” said Colleen Nakashuk, 15, who came from Pangnirtung for the symposium, which she called “pretty hard,” but “cool.”

Christine Tootoo, 17, of Iqaluit admitted that “teaching isn’t as easy as I thought it would be.”

Kilabuk said she hopes to see a similar symposium take place in 2013.

It’s for organizations like QIA to take the initiative when it comes to planning these types of events for young people, Kilabuk said.

“We’re of the thinking that we don’t want to just sit and wait for [opportunities like this] to fall out of the sky,” she said.

Music has always been a strong part of Inuit culture, as with any culture,” Kilabuk added. “Art and music is a sign that a culture is thriving and not just surviving. It’s a sign of a good quality of life.”

Life can be dreary without music, particularly “if you have a lot of social issues that you’re combating,” she said.

With their new music and leadership skills, participants in the symposium will now be better equipped to cope with life and anything it brings — although sometimes it’s hard for youth to cope with new pressures and recognize the cultural value of throat-singing and other traditions, Kilabuk said.

And youthful musicians shouldn’t just look up to southern artists, she said. “I see faces light up when I talk about throat singing. I want to make sure they realize how sophisticated Inuk music is as well,” she said.

When Kilabuk told the group about the history of throat singing, “it empowered them to think, that came from us.”