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Mohawk College music students bond with Indigenous artists through shared experiences

This spring, Mohawk College music students are working on a collaborative initiative with Indigenous artists called the Cultural Sharing: Indigenous Artists and Mohawk College student cultural engagement project. The initiative involves a concert performance using unconditioned creative spaces both at Mohawk College and on Indigenous territory.

Educator, musician and leader of the initiative, Bob Shields, says learning from first-hand experiences with cultures other than your own can be extremely beneficial and expand your understanding of other ways of life.

“Students should know creative intelligence should not be limited to the actualization of products tied to capital,” Shields said. “But to the actualization and transcendence of the self as something interconnected and interdependent with all other life.”

Bob Shields playing his guitar in black and white.
Bob Shields has been in the music industry for over 30 years and has toured Canada, Europe and Japan. (Bob Shields)

Shields says shared spaces for cultural engagement are spaces of community building.

“Music students, readers, educators and administrators may find value in this initiative for the same reason journalists may find value in reporting on this initiative,” Shields said. “Shared creative spaces facilitate a safe space to discuss differences and provide access to and appreciation for unfamiliar ideas.”

Mohawk College music student and drummer for the initiative, Jadon Haughton, says the path to complete reconciliation can be tough and for the most part is portrayed as bleak, but he’s excited to take another step in the right direction with this opportunity.

“Music, historically, socially, and at its core is a collective experience which is always best shared together,” Haughton said. “That is where true, organic growth and development happens. This can also be summed up by one of my favourite quotes ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to far, go together’.”

Mohawk College Fennell campus from the parking lot.
Mohawk College is the closest community college to the most-populated Indigenous reserve in Canada. (Jarrett Matthews)

Calvin Mulder, a guitar player and Mohawk College music student participating in the initiative, says he would like the initiative to involve more programs within the college.

“Creativity is a healing act,” Mulder said. “What’s so great about this ensemble is that through creativity we get to form bonds with members of the First Nations community by simply letting the music do the talking. Music is the universal form of communication that transcends language and bias. It heals and connects people.”

Shields says there is more than one way to exist and thrive in the world and more than one way to be of value to others.

“Western society tends to over-deliberate before acting,” Shields said. “This initiative shows us that an intuitive or improvised approach to life in general provides the balance we need for holistic wellness. This initiative shows us that life is pretty much improvised, as opposed to a linear, determined process.”

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