Hope for summer songbirds

Singer Tea Gonzales performs for students and staff at Chief Sunrise Education Centre April 4. Photo by Sarah Ladik NNSL

Singer Tea Gonzales performs for students and staff at Chief Sunrise Education Centre April 4.
Photo by Sarah Ladik

He may be visiting schools for performances and the occasional workshop now, but Jack Cooper has bigger plans for his vocal development school in Hay River this summer, and maybe even after.

“We’ve been thinking a lot about it, and if this visit goes well, we’ll definitely be planning for a summer camp,” he said.

Cooper worked as a teacher at Diamond Jenness Secondary School before moving to Alberta and starting his own vocal performance development school. He said that for seven years he has been coming back once a year to tour the Deh Cho with singers, but that his heart truly remains in Hay River.

Last week, he and four singers visited Chief Sunrise Education Centre for a quick show before heading to Ecole Boreale for a performance on the afternoon of April 4, workshops April 5, followed by a final show on the night of April 5.

He said that his plan was to come up and check out the few people who had put their name forward, but that with parents forwarding e-mails to each other, that group grew.

“I was supposed to have two girls come out Saturday morning,” he said. “Instead we have kids coming in three at a time from 10 to noon.”

Although he would still be looking for a location, Cooper said he would like to teach some basic guitar skills and the foundations of composition – along with some of his own original music – at the proposed week-long summer camp. He said the cost would be around $300 for the week and that the spots available were not capped at a certain number.

“It’s open to as many people who want to come,” he said, adding that while this camp would be focused on young people, his studio in Alberta plays host to a wide variety of ages and abilities.

“We’re talking to people about opening a branch of Cooper Studios here in Hay River and so far the response has been very positive.”

Christina Steen, Chief Sunrise principal, said it’s always exciting to have performers coming into the school for the students.

“We have limited access to the arts programming in our school,” she said. “So it’s always good to expose the kids to more of it in a fun way.”

Steen said that she expects there to be a fair amount of interest in the summer camp if it happens, citing the popularity of the Kole Crook Fiddle Association Fiddle Camp held on the reserve every summer as a strong indicator of the demand for arts programming.

“The more access they have to the arts, the better,” she said.

-Sarah Ladik