Comin’ Round the Mountain…

....Hamilton Mountain, that is! When you think of Hamilton ON, it's easy to picture that industrial basin you see from the skyway or even the ragged charm of its deco downtown but that high escarpment feature is easy to forget until you find yourself up on it - where I was today for a dual presentation at Our Lady of Lourdes school with their guests from nearby St. Michael's. Following the presentation, Lourdes student Daniel Molina (holding Voyageur) got things started with a rendition of Oasis' "Sad Song". He was followed by classmate Kolin Revill (left) and things wound up with the camp favorite "Fish & Chips & Vinegar" lead by St. Michael's principal Ed Bradica and teacher Mrs. McCanty (right). Thanks to all the staff and students at Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Michaels with a special thanks to Maria Brenyo and Mary Ann Rubino.
Posted at 5:21 PM

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Pre-pre-production in Windsor

I'll have lots more to write about this in the coming months and whole lot more to write about it when we hit the stage in February but yesterday began the process of putting together what is bound to be an amazing show with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra built around Voyageur, the Six String Nation guitar and a variety of Windsor area artists - all woven through with the WSO. Yesterday was our first chance to get together and begin to imagine how the program will unfold in terms of music, story, multi-media, marketing and more. In the coming months, as we begin to hone the show, I'll introduce you to each of the featured musicians individually and give you more information about what we've got coming up in Windsor. For now, I'll just thank the WSO's Director of Operations Sarah Boonstra, Assistant Conductor Peter Wiebe, guest conductor Martin MacDonaldand the rest of the staff and musicians who participated in this initial meeting.
Posted at 10:26 AM

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Muskoka Chautauqua

The Chautauqua movement born in New York State in the 1870's was the TEDTalk of its day - and, like TED, satellite Chautauqua events sprang up all over. And receded. In 2010, the Chautauqua tradition in Muskoka was revived and this year they invited Six String Nation to take part. Yesterday was a fascinating day with all kinds of political, cultural and literary discussion – including a terrific panel hosted by TVO's Steve Paikin (pictured) speculating on what things might be like had the War of 1812 gone definitively differently, with real gems of analysis by panelists John Ibbitson and Richard Gwyn especially. I was pleased to be introduced by my friend, author Jason Schneider and I was thrilled with the performance at the end of my presentation by Jenn Morgan Anderson but I have to say the icing on the cake was what happened afterwards: about 25 of us retired to the verandah, where we talked, told stories – I answered questions and various people played Voyageur until dinner time – a true Muskoka weekend! Special thanks to Gary Froude, Gayle Dempsey, Leah Leslie and the staff at the JW Marriott Resort and Spa, Steve Paikin and family, Richard Gwyn, John Ibbitson, Grant Burke, Jason Schneider, Wendy Rohife, Jamie Sherman, Mitch, Andrew Nunno, Beverlie Robertson and all of the Muskoka Chautauqua participants, sponsors and attendees.
Posted at 10:30 AM

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Pre-Chautauqua

This weekend we've been invited to participate in the Muskoka Chautauqua, so I suggested to organizer Gary Froude that I'd love to take the opportunity of the visit to deliver the presentation at a local school. In no time, he'd enlisted the support of French Immersion teacher Marc Ius at the beautiful and spacious new Bracebridge Muskoka Lakes Secondary School. With a lot else going on at this huge school (including it being election day for students!) it was a smaller group than I'm used to but it all felt very cosy in the library and I didn't need any headset to speak. Liam Prymack, Tsya Gagnon, Holly Simpson (pictured left to right) each played a tune following the presentation. Thanks to Marc Ius, the players and Gary Froude and Gayle Dempseyfrom the Muskoka Arts Festival.
Posted at 4:00 PM

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M-m-m-my Winona

The title of this post could also simply read "mmm...mmm Winona". This new public school in the Niagara Region celebrated their incredibly diverse student body and community yesterday with a fair that included food from around the world made by the students and their families. I was invited to deliver the Six String Nation presentation as part of that Diversity Day event and it was great to be there (and I have to confess that I kept returning to the Iraq table display for the awesome treats they were serving there!) Thanks to the staff and students at Winona P.S., especially teacher Susanna Gojsic and student Kosta Petrovic, who played Voyageurfor the assembly.
Posted at 8:23 AM

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Looking Back at Learning Forward

Learning Forward Ontario is a new educational conference that had it's inaugural gathering in beautiful Hockley Valley a couple of days ago and I was very glad to be asked to give the Six String Nation presentation following Wednesday's dinner. Since I was headed Orangeville way, I thought it might be a great opportunity to catch up with friends Laura Bird and Javier Santamaria and since the conference wasn't quite sure what kind of talent they might have available to play Voyageur, I asked Laura if she might be available to be on standby. That turned out fantastically well: teacher Mary Jo Drager was scheduled to play but came down with a migraine midway through dinner. Teacher Christina Schilling did play her song but had just the one prepared so Laura stepped in (pictured) and delivered a beautiful and poignant musical tribute to Jack & Olivia that had audience members frantically scribbling her name on notepads. It was great to meet so many teachers there from as far away as Dallas, Texas - who connected to Voyageur in their own way. Always great to make new friends. Thanks to all the musicians, sound man Colin, David Jaeger and the staff at the Hockley Valley Resort. Special thanks to conference director Amy Lin.
Posted at 9:28 AM

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An Out of This World Encounter

When it was announced the Canadian Astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield would be the first Canuck to command the International Space Station in 2013, we proposed the idea to the guitar-playing spaceman that he take Voyageur with him. Unfortunately, not a whole lot of room on those Soyuz capsules he's flying these days - not to mention the potentially rough splash downs!
Still, he liked the idea of it and is still going to be the first person to record an album in space (with a more portable and zero-G guitar already on the space station and producer Paul Mills manning the audio equivalent of Mission Control in Ontario). In place of taking my guitar into orbit, Chris sent along his self-designed Mission Patch, which has been sewn into Voyageur's guitar case. And before he heads back to the ISS (via Houston and Kazakhstan, we had a chance to meet yesterday afternoon so he could get one earthbound shot with the Six String Nation before lift off.
He was a genuinely great guy and it was great to hear him run through a few songs on Voyageur - even better to find myself singing along with him on a rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"! (pictured).
Safe travels, Colonel! Special thanks to Paul Mills and Ron Skinner.
Posted at 8:00 AM

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The Week of the Heritage Fairs

Yesterday it was the Durham District School Board in Whitby, today it was the Toronto District School Board's Toronto East Regional Heritage Fair at the Scarborough Civic Centre. First of all, haven't been to Scarborough Town Centre in years - totally "Logan's Run"-type architecture right down to the amazing futuristic bucket chairs in the lounge! Two groups of students today - all of whom had done their own amazing work on projects around Canadian history and heritage, many of which had specific resonances within Voyageur. Congratulations on all of your great work and good luck to everyone in scoring the awards come Thursday! Thanks to those who played the guitar for the presentation, including teacher Trevor Wong (pictured) who did The Hip's "Wheat Kings" and Bryan Adams' "Summer of '69" and students Hamayal Chaudry and Krithika Ragupathi (who was joined by her friend for a tune by One Direction). Special thanks to Rob Mewhinneyand the staff, teachers and student participants of the Toronto East Regional Heritage Fair.
Posted at 6:35 PM

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Heritage Fair

It was last year around this time that I participated at the Peel District School Board Regional Heritage Fair and the success of that event has had a big spin-off this year. Today was the Durham District School Board Heritage Fair in Whitby. My presentation ended a whole day of activities for students – including Métis heritage workshops, local archeology, museum and archives and more. My own project is kind of a mix of all of those things so it's a perfect fit! I had a big list of names of people slated to play Voyageur at the appointed part of the presentation. A few chickened out but then came up - along with dozens of others - to give the guitar a try after the presentation was done. Lots of enthusiasm and unofficial pictures, though, so it's OK. That's Muslime Mushega from Bobby Orr P.S. in the top shot and a student named McKenzie below, who actually did his heritage project on Six String Nation! Thanks to Mary McMulkin and her #DRHF2012 committee. Also to Andy Barber, Jeff Kitchen and all of the participating students in this year's fair. Hope to see you again next year! Tomorrow, it's a Toronto District School Board Heritage Fair at Scarborough Civic Centre.
Posted at 6:13 PM

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The Bayview From Here

Bayview Secondary School in Richmond Hill ON did a lot of special programming around Earth Day this week – including a special focus on Canada's First Peoples – and I was honored to be asked to be a part of the festivities with two presentations there today. Amazingly, it was actually snowing in Richmond Hill when I arrived this morning – grabbed a latte across the street and promptly bumped into teacher Sally Joyce, who'd seen my presentation at the OMLTA event last month and promptly got the ball rolling to bring me to Bayview. We were especially fortunate that the second group included a bunch of guitar students so there was plenty of talent to take up the challenge at the end of the presentation. Thanks so Sally and the rest of the staff and students at Bayview and thanks, as always, to the good people at Mariposa In the Schools.
Posted at 9:05 PM

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