Why Community Arts Matters: A Testimonial from DAREarts
DAREarts artist-as-teacher, Glenn Marais, on Evan, Webequie, Ontario, 2011:
“I met Evan the first year I went to Webequie. We were hanging out after school and he picked up my guitar and started playing Metallica, Johnny Cash, riffing out on some solos and just jamming. His playing caught my ear right away. He had a gift and was very precise and clean in his technique. He was very relaxed playing in front of his friends, but as soon as I mentioned how good he was, he retreated and didn’t want to play anymore.
This year, he was again part of the program. When I work with the kids, we first choose a theme, which this year was pride and then we work in small groups writing down conversations on the topic of pride and what it means to them. The teachers and I prompt them if they get stuck and encourage them constantly to keep the conversation moving and ideas flowing. One of the teachers, Romeo Fournier, came up with the idea of giving them post it notes to write down their thoughts and stick them on a larger piece of paper. Very soon, we had a lot of great lyrics with which to work. I then worked in the evening with a very talented multidisciplinary student artist, Krystal Shewaybeck, on editing the lyrics into a structured form. The next day, I presented the lyrics to Evan and explained the next process in the writing of the song: to let the lyrics dictate the melody and chords, by really delving deep into the meaning of the words and placing yourself almost in a cocoon around the words. I asked him not to play anything that he normally would to avoid his ‘go to riffs and chords.’ In fifteen minutes, he had written the chords and riff that became the driving melody and chord pattern and really identified the mood and feel of the song. He not only understood the process, he took it to another level, creating his own chord and a picked rhythm pattern that was extremely catchy and very unique. He remained humble and shy throughout. It took a lot of prompting from me to get him to play it to the class. It was interesting in that he would readily play known songs, but stepping out and sharing something that he created was very difficult for him. It illustrated to me, that despite his talent and stature as a guitar player in the community, his self-image was still low and not yet fully realized. The song became an anthem and rallying cry for a community that is still mourning the loss of one of its students. ‘Spirit of the North’ is power, beauty and all of the challenges of life in the North, in a three minute song. Evan created the magic from the students’ words. After the performance of the song to the community, DAREarts presented the school with a donated guitar. In minutes, it was in Evan’s hands and he was beaming like a star. There was no doubt in anyone’s minds that the guitar belonged in his hands… ”
Submitted by Marilyn Field, Founder & President