VYC KINDRED: Fostering Connection with Indigenous Music

September 28, 2021

“Singing together, like breaking bread or sharing a meal, builds strong connections between people, rooted in empathy and tolerance,” shares Carrie Tennant, Artistic Director of the Vancouver Youth Choir.

With that idea in mind, VYC developed KINDRED, an innovative new choir designed to welcome newcomer and refugee youth through Indigenous music and culture. The pilot program, funded by the Raymond James Canada Foundation, brought together 25 participants, aged 13-18, for three free workshops facilitated by celebrated First Nations musicians Deanna Gestrin and Russell Wallace.  

“It is our hope that by learning songs from the Indigenous people of this place, singers will find a connection to their new homes,” explains Carrie. “These newcomer youth are faced with a host of challenges, from learning a new language and adapting to a new school system, to forging new connections with friends and community. We know that this program will have a powerful impact on their lives.”

Video courtesy of YVC KINDRED: Songs included: Lil’wat Welcome Song – Traditional Bear song – Tiqilap Singers With Open Arms – Deanna Gestrin Where the People Gather (Round Dance) – Tiqilap Singers

“The rehearsals were incredibly moving and inspiring,” shares Nicky Anderton, Senior Registrations Officer at Raymond James Ltd. “All the kids participated with such open-hearted bravery and they were so, so talented!”  RJCF is proud to support the volunteer work of our Raymond James colleagues, and this initiative would not have been possible without Nicky’s commitment and hard work.

Nicky Anderton is passionate about sharing the choir experience with newcomer youth because she knows firsthand the benefits of being involved in the arts: “Both my children have been members of the Vancouver Youth Choir for several years and have experienced the joy of singing and feeling connected to a wider artistic community.”

Carrie Tennant, Artistic Director of Vancouver Youth Choir, and Nicky Anderton, YVC volunteer and Senior Registrations Officer at Raymond James

As a volunteer, Nicky has witnessed how VYC’s programs teach more than just music: “Through their experience in the choir, singers learn how to collaborate, persevere, and show resiliency in the face of obstacles or struggles. By working hard and striving for excellence, they find motivation and confidence. VYC creates a safe and encouraging place to develop their artistry, and to become caring citizens who contribute to their communities.”

 “Leadership comes in many forms, and is most effective when the work is authentic and rooted in true connection to cause,” explains Janine Davies, Vice President and Executive Director of RJCF. “I applaud Nicky for her work delivering this truly innovative and impactful program.”

Nicky is grateful for the culture of giving at Raymond James that made this initiative possible. “I feel incredibly proud to work for an organization that values and supports the efforts of its employees to make a significant impact in their communities.”

At the end of the first session of KINDRED, leaders Russell and Deanna presented each participant with a medicine bag designed and created by Renae Morriseau. Renae shared with the singers: “Medicine bags are usually used for our 4 medicines – Sweetgrass, Sage, Cedar and Tobacco. These medicines are always used in our ceremonies (my Cree and Saulteaux teachings). A medicine bag is a form of protection and also with these medicines in your possession you can make an offering, especially with Tobacco. Placing the tobacco onto the ground or on a rock, or perhaps in the ocean in a moment that you are grateful for. My question to you is, what is sacred for you? What would you place in your Medicine bag?”

YVC KINDRED Participants

This project took place on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations