Making Connections @ETFOWaterloo

Darrell Kuwabara Probably the most rewarding part of my work sharing the story of Voyageur around the country is the connections I make with people. After all, the guitar is a kind of story engine - built from all these different histories and communities and characters and events that make us who we are. Invariably, these stories resonate for people when they hear them and that inspires them to tell me their stories and that's been the beginning of many conversations and correspondences and friendships. Michael Beetham - an educator in the Waterloo Region - heard my story at an educational event for the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario back in the fall and immediately connected on many levels. Within a few days he contacted me about coming out to his part of the province to speak to an ETFO family gathering at the Edelweiss Bar & Grill and helped generate the two school presentations earlier in the day.

I'd arrived the night before in order to be ready to go first thing in the morning and Michael and his wife Lori graciously invited me to their home - along with their friend and fellow educator Suzanne - for a spectacular home-cooked meal and some great conversation. We discovered a common African connection with Michael having spent several tours working on school programs in a few West African countries. The following evening at the Edelweiss, I was thrilled to see not only some teachers I'd met earlier but also Kim Gill, whom I'd met at an educator's retreat in Algonquin Park called Unplugged back in 2012 (Kim had a very interesting idea for an addition to the case or strap, which I'll reveal at a later date). But perhaps the most profound connection of the evening was with one of the players for the evening, Darrell Kuwabara (pictured). He is Japanese-Canadian with roots in Vancouver. His parents were among the thousands declared "enemy aliens" during the second world war and sent to internment camps across the country. That's what brought his family to Ontario, first to Hamilton. He said that growing up his father had told him about watching games in Vancouver played by the Asahi - the Japanese-Canadian baseball team, part of whose ca. 1930's jersey is now on Voyageur's strap. It made his beautiful performance all the more poignant seeing that piece standing out near his left shoulder.

Thanks also to Laura Dicknoether, who also played in the "performance pocket", to our portrait station volunteers Nora Davis, Deanna and Tamara Hurley and to the terrifically helpful staff at the Edelweiss. Special thanks also to Dave Worsley from Words Worth Books for handling book sales at the event and to Michael Beetham for making all those connections possible.

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