Youth program tunes in to Nunavik’s musical talent
"Some of the kids don't really like school, but they really like music — and I think this helps them stay involved"
Mary Argun likes to sing.
The 12-year-old student at Ikusik school in Salluit has been singing for the last two years, mostly English and Inuktitut-language covers of pop songs, and mostly for a small audience of friends.
That changed last fall when Argun sang Rihanna’s pop ballad, “Stay,” in front of a packed community centre as part of the first ever Talentshow Salluit, attended by Elisapie Isaac.
“That was actually my first time, and it gave me a little scare,” Argun said. “But this time, I’m not going to think that way again.”
“This time” is a weekly vocal workshop held at Ikusik school, led by instructor Geneviève Bernier. She is with Youth Fusion (Fusion Jeunesse), a Quebec-based youth organization that offers programming to encourage young people to stay in school.
The workshop is one of many offered by Bernier and fellow instructor Alan Dicknoether throughout the school week to Salluit youth who are interested in developing their music skills and playing with a group.
At 3:45 p.m. each day, Bernier and Dicknoether offer something different, from group guitar jams, to karaoke sessions or more traditional Inuit-themed workshops like throat-singing.
“A lot of my students are new,” Bernier said. “Some of them saw the talent show and they were really inspired. They talk to me about it all the time and there’s a really big interest.”
So much so, that Youth Fusion now has coordinators in three other Nunavik communities, where students there are working towards producing their own talent shows.
“Some of the kids don’t really like school, but they really like music — and I think this helps them stay involved,” Bernier said.
Next week, she’ll help about 30 young Sallummiut put on an acoustic talent show, including mostly guitar and vocal performances.
Lucassie Amamatuak, 16, who started coming to Bernier’s workshops two months ago, will be playing Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” at the show. “I just wanted to show my talent to people,” he said.
While Amamatuak and Argun are students at Ikusik, not all of the youth who take part in the workshops are. Youth Fusion-funded programs are designed to help encourage success at school, and that means reaching out to students who have dropped out.
“The need is definitely there,” said Emmanuel Morin, Youth Fusion’s director of development for Nunavik.
He would know first-hand; the former Salluit youth protection officer helped coordinate Talentshow Salluit and saw the positive impact it had on many youth in the community.
“We created an enthusiasm and a momentum… the more the talent show approached, the more involved these youth became,” he said. “We’re definitely making a connection here.”
Not all Youth Fusion focus is on music — in Kuujjuaraapik, Youth Fusion’s coordinator launched a science program in collaboration with the local Northern Research Centre.
Together, they’ve hosted a lunch-time science club, a greenhouse project and field trips.
But music and the performing arts have emerged as a key interest in many communities.
In Umiujaq, students are working towards an exhibition at the end of the school year to show off their creativity, from song, dance or even food dishes they’ve prepared.
In Aupaluk, the local coordinator has invited musician Saali (Saali Jararuse Keelan) to perform an outdoor show for the school community.
And a number of Nunavik communities are working towards the first-ever regional talent show, which will be held in December 2014 in Salluit, welcoming musical talent from across the region, along with Quaqtaq singer Beatrice Deer.
“This will be a huge event,” said Morin, who hopes to see it attract even more youth.
The program is already growing; in September 2014, Puvirnituq and Tasiujaq have signed up for Youth Fusion partnerships.
Morin hopes the growing number of programs can fit under the new Nunavik school success program Esuma, which just launched a call for projects.
Youth Fusion is currently funded by a number of Nunavik organizations, including Makivik Corp., the Kativik Regional Government, the Kativik School Board, the Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau and Air Inuit.