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How COVID-19 has affected the new Applied Music program’s Indigenous culture initiative

The COVID-19 pandemic has made Mohawk College change the way it delivers its programs for the past two years. With restrictions still not fully lifted, Mohawk inevitably had to change the way the Music program could undertake the Musical Sharing: Indigenous Artists and Mohawk College Student Cultural Engagement and Exchange Initiative.

The initiative was designed to focus on cultural engagement and exchange between Indigenous artists and Mohawk College students. Students involved in the initiative will receive artist-led mentorships from two Indigenous artist groups. The first mentorship sessions have already been held online. However, the upcoming ones are scheduled to take place in-person, COVID restrictions pending.

COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way the initiative is being run and performed

“When I envisioned this creative space, I envisioned us going to the Six Nations community and doing the actual event day there,” Bob Shields, the coordinator of the initiative said. “But COVID restrictions, being fluid, demand we’ve prepared more than a single plan so as to align with whatever external venue we might have.”

With COVID-19 restrictions being fluid, they have two plans in place, Shields explained. Plan A is to have the event in Six Nations Community if restrictions allow, and plan B is to have the event livestreamed from the Arnie on campus,  which Shields described as “not ideal but better than nothing.”

The Arnie
The performance may be held at the Arnie if COVID-19 guidelines won’t allow for the event to be held in the Six Nations Community.

COVID-19 restrictions not only forced changes to the way that the initiative is being performed, but how it is being taught as well. The Music program was one of the programs that Mohawk had to move online, causing issues for students taking part in the initiative. 

“The switch of in-person classes to online came with a lot of scheduling conflicts,” Shields said. “Some of my initial students in this group within the initiative all of a sudden had these conflicts and couldn’t resolve them. So what we had to do is get a new bass player and a new piano player.”

Calvin Mulder, a Mohawk College music student and guitarist for the initiative, says he has felt the pressure that COVID has placed on the initiative. 

“The initiative is supposed to be an act of reconciliation,” Mulder said. “A lot of healing comes from being creative, and being creative with other people, and the sort of subconscious relationships that you develop with those people and you can’t have that online.”

Mulder says he is grateful that even though his program has moved to online delivery, he gets to come to campus for the ensemble practices for the performance.

“There is still that connection of playing together,” Mulder said. “That’s an important piece of the project.”

The team behind the project is hoping that with enough time and with restrictions being lifted, that the project can be performed on Six Nations land as originally planned.

The initiative runs from January to April, with the final performance being held in the first week of April.

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