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Discipline, Action, Responsibility, Excellence

Heart of the Volcano – DAREarts sets down roots in Winnipeg

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In January 2015, DAREarts was invited to Southeast Collegiate in Winnipeg by the principal Sheryl McCorrister after conversations with DAREarts Founder Marilyn Field. DAREarts artist Cathy Elliott guided 8 secondary school students through two evening-long workshops of lyrics and song writing, with the support of local community members. Their focused work resulted in a striking song called ‘Heart Of The Volcano’ that voices these Indigenous youths’ reality in today’s world. It also speaks to their culture and their immense talent, energy and potential.

January 16, 2014 

DAREarts Winnipeg Day 2-sm

Karina Walker, recreation director of Southeast Collegiate and I (DAREarts First Roots Program Associate, Cathy Elliott) sat in the cafeteria, surrounded by a hungry crowd of teens and looked around. Music was blaring from the speakers, peppered with walkie-talkie chatter (all the teachers had them) and slamming doors. Remembering the kids from Northern Ontario in Sioux Lookout and Thunder Bay schools, I asked Karina where the youth in this school come from. “God’s Lake, Manto Sipi Cree Nation, Garden Hill First Nation…” We ate our chicken and rice and looked at the kids.

I wondered if they had cliques. “They pretty much stick to the kids from their own communities.” Karina said, “I guess it’s because they feel more secure.” I can well imagine: fifteen year old kids so far from home.

I could say it’s the same as my high school where a lot of kids were bussed in from farming communities outside of town. But they all got to go home at night. This wasn’t your highschool usual division of geeks, nerds and jocks. This was different. When I saw the names and places that went down on our sign up sheet, I wondered if they’d mix it up once they started collaborating on one song together. I wondered if they’d bother coming at all.

“Don’t worry. They want to be here. You’ll see.” We took our trays back and headed downstairs to the recreation room.

When we got into our starting circle, I shared with them a song about my grandfather’s journey. They listened, respectfully. “Thank you for singing with such passion,” one of them said later, her voice barely above a whisper. ”I like to sing, too.” She showed me on her iPhone a video of herself, playing guitar and singing like an angel. Her shyness was evident by the cropping of the shot – only her guitar was showing. She contributed lyrics in a quiet, shy voice. They were great ideas and she became bolder as the two evenings progressed.

Another boy never did speak. But his written words were loud and clear. His handwriting was neat, deliberate, illuminating. His passions are opera. Theatre. Music. The bush. Hunting. Guitar music. His eyes darted about and he only spoke to his friend. He nodded or shook his head. I thought he’d disappear after the first session. He didn’t. He returned and stayed until the song was completed. He wrote down lyrics and his friend handed them to me.

The students started to see the similarities that they shared. The loneliness. Lack of privacy. The yearning for quiet. Feelings of frustration and anxiety. Here we were, dark winter snow howling outside, looking for heat and light.

What started as a whisper ended with a bang. The idea of a volcano as a central image emerged out of the words they brainstormed together. Rocks, rock climbing, fear of heights, letting go of fear, frustration and grief, allowing oneself to not be in control, exploding into creativity, as the feelings rise like lava and leave you in a song and become ashes. Or cries. Or whispers, which can be just as powerful as a scream.

DAREarts Winnipeg Day 1-sm

The girls picked up a guitar and started playing random chords. One of them came up with a riff that became the backbone of the song.

They sang about the lack of sleep, due to loneliness and fear. And how tired they are during the day. How this leads to depression. They started to see that there are diverging streams of feelings. Good and bad. And that sometimes, the toughest thing you can do is to just get out of bed.

They worked hard. They demonstrated so many strengths. Honesty. Humour. Listening. Speaking from the heart. And they rose to the technical challenges of writing a good lyric and music: Song structure. Logical yet surprising harmony and chord progressions. Rhythm and words and how they fit together. The discipline of writing a song that sticks and a good hook plus the satisfaction of finding that perfect rhyme. Here’s their song:

Volcano
by Renee Harper, Marcia McKay, Charnel Yellowback, Roger Keno, Jonas C. Yellowback, Collin Clarke, Angela Linklater and Angel Flett

Getting out of bed
Feeling guilty cause I’m still in bed
Praying for sleep
Pushing everyone away
Feeling worthless
Cause I’ve got no soul to keep

I’m gonna blow blow blow
Like a volcano
And watch the ashes fly away
But from the ashes that land on the ground below
Something good will come from this some day

I’m letting go
I’m breaking free
I’ll keep my head up high
Never too low
To find the best in me
I’m gonna say good bye

Getting out of bed
I’m feeling empty cause the demons in my head
Won’t let me sleep
Try to make if through the day
Put on a big great big smile and
Trying not to go too deep
I’m gonna blow blow blow
Like a volcano
And watch the ashes fly away
But like the ashes that are landing on the ground I know
Something good will come from this some day

I’m letting go
I’m breaking free
I’ll keep my head up high
Never too low
To find the best in me
I’m gonn say good bye

Volcano, volcano, volcano…

Getting out of bed
I’m feeling lighter cause the pressure of the lead –
The heaviness is gone
Gonna take a breath
Breathe a little lighter now that
I can see a brighter dawn

I’m gonna blow blow blow
Like a volcano
And watch the pain fly away
But like the ashes that are landing on the ground I know
Something good will come from this some day

(Volcano, volcano, volcano…)
I’m letting go
I’m breaking free
I’ll keep my head up high
Never too low
To find the best in me
I’m gonna say good bye

We would like to extend our deepest thanks to our local supporters, Federated Insurance and Northbridge Insurance!

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