Iqaluit Music Camp returns this month

“Parents still send kids because they believe in the power of music education”

Darlene Nuqingaq, a retired teacher and principal, helped co-found the Iqaluit Music Camp, which returns this year from Aug. 19 to 23. Among the children and youth who have attended the camp over the years since its inception in 1995 are Andrew Morrison and Brandon Doherty, two members of the Jerry Cans. (Photo by Thomas Rohner)

By Thomas Rohner
Special to Nunatsiaq News

Before the Jerry Cans came Ivory Hail.

And before Ivory Hail came the Iqaluit Music Camp.

This year marks the 24th annual week-long summer camp, slated for Aug. 19 to 23. Darlene Nuqingaq co-founded the camp, along with Bev Brown and Judy Watts. Nuqingaq remembers when two members of Nunavut’s Jerry Cans, Andrew Morrison and Brandon Doherty, learned fiddle in the camp. That was in 1995—the first year the camp was held.

“In those days there weren’t a lot of venues for young musicians to play. So after the camp, throughout the year, we’d hold coffee houses in different venues,” Nuqingaq said.

Ivory Hail was a band created by current Jerry Can members Morrison, Doherty and Steve Rigby, Nuqingaq remembered.

“We’d put them on at the end of the coffee-house list, when only the die-hards still stuck around. They had long hair back then, and played a kind of a screaming music,” Nuqingaq said with a laugh.

“They’re more melodic now. I hope they won’t be embarrassed.”

Since the camp started with 40 children and youth in 1995, it has expanded considerably.

This year, over 130 participants have already registered and there is still room for a few dozen more. Some of those who participated when they were kids are now instructors. And connections have been made with similar camps across Canada and even South America.

“Parents still send kids because they believe in the power of music education,” said Nuqingaq, a retired teacher and principal.

There are many benefits to such an education, she said.

It jump-starts youths’ minds as the summer holidays come to an end. And it gives kids who are more interested in arts than sports an important outlet.

That’s especially true for kids who, like Nuqingaq, are “strong introverts,” and might not otherwise find a voice without words.

The camp also teaches teamwork and collaboration, rather than competition and individual success. Unique, long-lasting bonds are often forged between youth. And Nuqingaq said she’s observed something she calls “latent learning.”

She remembered a small girl who joined a choir but wouldn’t sing. Years later, Nuqingaq saw her during a solo performance.

“You might not think they’re learning, but you’d be surprised years later what they picked up and kept,” she said.

This year new additions to the camp include a ukulele workshop, a step dance workshop, and a traditional dance band workshop for older youth who can already play a few traditional Inuktitut dance songs on a fiddle, guitar or accordion.

And a few guest instructors will be joining the camp from Sistema New Brunswick.

Sistema New Brunswick is a Canadian chapter of a movement of music education for youth that began in Venezuela and has spread around the globe.

El Sistema, as it is called in Venezuela, aims to create more socially minded and well-rounded citizens through orchestral education—especially in historically poor areas of the world.

“We [at Sistema NB] have shown that for children, an orchestra means joy, motivation, discipline, teamwork—that it builds confidence and self-esteem and that is incredibly fun,” the chapter’s website says.

“My dream is for the camp to be more Sistema-like,” Nuqingaq said.

But in the meantime, she is looking forward to this year’s camp—her “favourite week of the year.”

“I just love walking through the halls of Nakasuk School and hearing music everywhere. And seeing how the kids are engaged—they’re there because they want to be,” she said.

For those who are interested in enrolling for the last remaining spots in the camp, you can email or call 222-0220.

The camp is offered at no cost, but does accept donations.

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