About 40 young people from the North are performing, emceeing, producing and altogether running the show, with the help of their head producer and organizer Sheryl Kimbley.
“The whole thing started from Voices of the North and the realization that our northern youth weren’t having the same chances to spread their wings,” Kimbley said.
The youth came in from all over the North on Thursday, with many driving or flying hundreds of kilometres just for this show. Ages range from nine to 18 and they come from as far away as Uranium City.
Kimbley says that it is really the youth who make this project possible.
“They’re coming with these skills. They are survivors. They’re coming knowing how to get things done in their communities when having very little … so when they come to me they have that basic skill and I think that if we give our kids these challenges, they’ll always rise to it.”
Kimbley says the benefits of being a part of this showcase are much broader than just music.
“They learn how to work well with others and they develop a whole lot of other skills … they learn to be proud of their community and (to) respect, and (about) being on time and all kinds of things above and beyond what the arts can give them,” she said.
The logistical challenges of getting a group of youth to organize a show like this are extreme, Kimbley said, especially when they live hundreds of kilometres away from one another.
The Saturday show won’t be flawless, she admits.
“There are a lot of shaky performers and there’s a few blips in the program and we have to overcome much bigger things than your average show would.”
Many of the youth deal regularly with challenges back home, such as suicide, Kimbley said.
“It’s just an unbelievable amount of things these kids are handling. And just to watch these kids pull off what they do, it’s very inspiring.”
Kimbley says the success of the program is evident because young First Nations artists are being seen more in the broader community.
“The Search for the Stars competition, years ago you couldn’t find really any First Nations people, or Northern people … and this year the winners were aboriginal. One being one of the Northern Spirits (youth),” she said.
Tristen Durocher, 17, a Northern Spirits performer won in May of 2012.
Another example is that this year seven of the Voices of the North performers were in Northern Spirits.
One of those is 19-year-old Dakota Favel from Ileala Crosse who was part of the first Northern Spirits Showcase when he was 12.
“I’ve learned a lot,” he said.
“There is so much hidden talent in the North. Like it’s unbelievable … I think that’s what we are trying to do, is bring that talent onto the stage and show people. It shouldn’t be kept inside, you should let it out,” Dakota Favel said. -
He says that the experience he has had with Northern Spirits, first as a performer and later as a volunteer, as well as his experience with Voices of the North, has had a serious impact on him.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Sheryl. She believed in me,” he said.
It was Sheryl who convinced him to enter Northern Spirits.
“There is so much hidden talent in the North. Like it’s unbelievable … I think that’s what we are trying to do, is bring that talent onto the stage and show people. It shouldn’t be kept inside, you should let it out,” Favel said.
Jamin Mike, 15, of Bernice First Nation, is emceeing the event as a first-timer and is excited about his role. He has some experience emceeing for social gatherings and at Powwows as well as on the radio and loves doing it.
This is the second time La Ronge-raised Aleisha Charles, 17, will step on the Northern Spirits stage.
“It was amazing. I had never sung in front of a crowd that big before. And when I went up there I was a little shaky and nervous but when I started singing, I just I couldn’t stop, I didn’t want to stop,” Charles said.
Charles believes this program is vital to Northern young people.
“To me it is very valuable for the youth. Stuff like this should be happening in all the provinces, because it gets children and people involved in activities and to meet other people and learn how to socialize positively and learn how to do things positively. Instead of going onto a wrong path like drinking or drugs or anything and this is a very good way to keep away from that,” Charles said.
Mike says this something he would to see filtering back into his community.
“This is something we should be taking home and being practised in our community. … Everyone has a purpose, everyone’s worthy of doing something good, of following a good path … this is a starter point of wherever you want to go,” Mike said.
The arts are vital to the health of these young people, Kimbley said.
“It gives them something else, something else than being on the street, something else than getting in trouble. It gives them something to feel proud about and know that they’re contributing in a good way and it shows them they are more than what they thought … Cause where’ they are coming from, sometimes music is that thing that they need when they are having a tough day,” she said.
The showcase is on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Exhibition Centre.