Spreading positivity with the “Tour of Empowerment”

Tyler Clarke
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Prior to strumming their opening chords on Saturday, the five musicians that made up the “Tour of Empowerment” were visibly upbeat from their weeklong tour.


“It’s been a week of spirit,” local singer/songwriter Liza Brown said of their weeklong tour of northern Saskatchewan, of which their Prince Albert performance was the last.

“I met some really nice people, had some fun as musicians, and really had some nice moments along the way that were really refreshing and renewing -- particularly with the young people,” she concluded.

“They just ate it up -- they loved it.”

The weeklong tour was the brainchild of Mike Simon, a retired school counsellor from northern Saskatchewan who compiled the group of musicians from Prince Albert and Winnipeg.

“Most of our shows have been school shows, and that’s been really helpful … because we’re really happy to connect with kids,” he said.

Drawing from his experience as a school counsellor Simon said that his key goal was to help nudge students out of the cycle of despair many northern youth find themselves in -- a multigenerational loop that’s tough to break.

“Life throws tough stuff at all of us,” he said, adding that he speaks from experience, describing his father as “violent.”

“You tend to see this pattern, but it doesn’t have to be a pattern,” he said of despair.

“You can break it, but it takes a conscious effort to stop away from that and change.

“Music helped me, but it wasn’t the only thing. I’m not one to say that music is the only answer … Get outside. We know that it really does something to sustain your spirit to get out in nature.

It’s been a week of spirit. Liza Brown

“If it’s art for you, writing for you, sports for you – you have to find the things that feed your spirit to counter the things that are hard in life, because life throws some tough stuff.”

Reflecting on the week, Winnipeg-based mandolin player Donovan Locken said his key takeaway was in seeing how receptive northern youth were to music.

“The arts are so underutilized,” Brown summarized. “They’re not valued as much as they should be, because really it’s such a beautiful expression of learning, and people love music.”

The youth along the tour were a breath of fresh air, Brown said, adding that everywhere they stopped youngsters were keen on picking up an instrument and joining the band.

“They feel that they’re part of something great,” Winnipeg-based violinist Christine Mazur said.

“These kids just blew us away with the musical talent they have.”

Also part of the five-piece “Tour of Empowerment” band was local singer/songwriter Violet Naytowhow.

Simon said that the weeklong tour was even better than he could have imagined and that he hopes to do it again next year. 

Organizations: Prince Albert

Geographic location: Northern Saskatchewan, Winnipeg

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