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Students and Indigenous musicians learn and share the music

Mohawk College music students are teaming up with Indigenous musicians to share, create and hone their skills as part of Musical Sharing: An Indigenous Artists and Mohawk College Student Cultural Engagement and Exchange Initiative.

The collaboration will see the Indigenous musicians working with a student ensemble from January until April.

Calvin Mulder is the student ensemble’s guitarist. He says he’s been expanding his musical horizons during his time at the college. The Music program motivated Mulder to explore genres such as country and jazz.

Mulder said he considers himself a songwriter first. This extends to his love of music theory and a desire to understand music on a deeper level. For Mulder, learning to appreciate jazz has been key to this deeper understanding.

“The art in jazz is how absolutely complex it is,” Mulder said. “If you can really, really know that, you can pick up anything else relatively quickly.”

Mulder said the chance for cultural exchange excites him most about the initiative. He said he hopes to learn about Indigenous cultures through the initiative. This includes discovering more about how Indigenous music paved the way for genres such as rock, pop and hip hop.

A rock band performs live on stage
Rick McLean has fronted many bands throughout his career. This includes portraying Mick Jagger in the Rolling Stones cover band Painted Black.

“Rick [McLean, one of the Indigenous mentors] is a primarily a rock musician, which is perfect because that’s kind of where my home is, too,” Mulder said. “I’m actually really excited to learn like what is it in rock music that came from Indigenous music? I think that is going to come through with Rick.”

Crooked Trail front man Rick McLean began performing live at 12 years old. McLean’s career encompasses playing in local punk bands, playing for other musicians and fronting his own band.

McLean’s interest in the initiative came from a desire to play music with others again. He said he’s also interested in how the initiative can create improve relations between non-Indigenous Canada and Indigenous communities.

A man plays guitar outside
Crooked Trail front man Rick McLean say the chance to perform live again was one reason for joining the initiative.

“This is an opportunity to educate the college, the community of Hamilton, anybody who gets involved that way, about what needs to get done for Canada to reconcile,” McLean said.

McLean said his approach to the initiative is one of sharing culture rather than teaching. He said he hopes the students appreciate what he shares with them.

“I love sharing my culture,” McLean said. “But I don’t have anything prescribed. We’ll sit down and together and I think all our spirits together will figure out what gifts we have to give to each other.”

Mulder said he hopes to incorporate Indigenous influences into his guitar playing and songwriting.

“I would absolutely love to do that,” Mulder said. “That’s kind of one of the things I’m really hoping for, is to be able to absorb enough that that influence clearly can be shown.”

For Mulder, respect is key when pulling from these influences. He said he doesn’t aim to appropriate the Indigenous influence. His goal is to highlight what makes Indigenous music so interesting and influential.

The student ensemble, along with McLean and the Six Nations Women Singers will perform together in April.

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