Music stops at Nunavut summer music camps
The Government of Nunavut drops funding for week-long music workshops in small communities
The Jerry Cans had a hectic schedule this past summer, flying and playing around the North, but if the Iqaluit band members had it their way, they’d be even busier.
This year, Nunavut’s Department of Culture and Heritage cut funding to the group’s popular Qikiqtaaluk Arts and Music Camps, which had received money from the former department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth between 2008 and 2011.
“When we didn’t get funded we were quite shocked because it was a successful program for so many years,” said Andrew Morrison, the program coordinator and lead singer of the Jerry Cans.
During the summer camps’ week-long workshops, participants learn how to play a variety of instruments like the guitar, fiddle, and accordion.
“Through this work, we’ve gained a reputation and people have started to hear about what we’re doing, they’ve been very supportive,” Morrison said. “It was difficult to get the information on the grounds of why they denied [funding]. When we found out it was pretty shocking. That was a rough time.”
Morrison had asked the department to help support four community camps. Each camp costs approximately $10,000 to $12,000 to host, most of that going towards airfare, but the application and a subsequent appeal were both denied, he said.
Morrison finally received some money from the National Arts Centre, which covered transportation and some wages.
But due to the cut in territorial support, summer camps took place in only two communities — Pangnirtung and Igloolik.
In Pangnirtung, 50 kids participated in the free event, while 35 came out in Igloolik.
Morrison did, however, manage to give some territorial money towards the camps.
“You remember that birthday song competition on Nunavut Day? Well, I won second place in the competition. And as a cheeky shot, I donated all of the money I won to the music camps,” Morrison said.
That meant the $2,500 given out by the Department of Culture and Heritage went towards food, extra rental costs, and some instrument repair for the Qikiqtaaluk Arts and Music Camps.
But less money still meant fewer people to help out at the two camps.
“In years past we’ve hired three junior instructors as well as an instructor, for fiddle,” Morrison said. “Often they are working with the hamlet this summer or are taking time off. When we [didn’t] have money to pay them this year, they weren’t able to do it.”
That’s an important part of the program, teaching others how to conduct workshops, he said.
“It’s really great to have the kids play music, but the most important part is working ourselves out of the job so people can do it within the community — they can start fiddle clubs and start jam groups and accordion lessons,” Morrison said.
Nancy Mike of the Jerry Cans was disappointed she couldn’t go into smaller communities to teach throat singing — one of the activities lacking in those communities.
“I also teach Inuit history along with it. It think it gives the kids a better understanding of where their people came from,” said Mike. “And to me, when I learned about Inuit history, it gave me a sense of pride to be Inuk.”
A culture and heritage department spokesperson did not yet return a call, seeking more information about why the camps saw the funding cut.
As for the Jerry Cans, they’re coming off the back of playing their biggest gig yet at Folk on the Rocks music festival in Yellowknife. Next, the band plays at Kuujjuaq’s Aqpik Jam, before flying to Greenland for a show.
The Jerry Cans expect to release a new album soon.