Rooted in the Anishinaabe aural/oral traditions of singing, drumming and the pipigwan/bbigon (cedar flute) from a young age, I am also classically-trained in piano and other European instruments, Western music theory and composition technique. Over many years I have also worked closely and collaboratively with musicians of diverse ethnicities who are the grassroots knowledge-keepers of their cultures.
I studied music composition formally at the University of Toronto, Royal Conservatory of Music/Glenn Gould School, Musikhochschule in München (Germany), and Centre Acanthes (France). My foremost teachers in the Western Classical tradition are Grace Vandendool, Dr. Samuel Dolin, Art Levine, Sasha Rapaport, Edward Laufer, Robert Saxton, Sir Peter Maxwell-Davies and Helmut Lachenmann.
As the child and grandchild of residential school survivors, I carry responsibility to my family and elders, and this is woven into my ongoing creative and teaching work according to the 94 Calls to Action recommended through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission inquiry. As the direct descendant of hereditary chiefs who were signatories of treaties in Ontario, I follow the responsibilities of my dodem and acknowledge that learning is a life journey. Research—seeking to know—is a kind of ceremony and process, and Indigenous protocols stem from mino bimaadiziwin, passed down from our ancestors.
As an Anishinaabekwe my life work—as a composer, musician, singer, performer, educator and environmentalist—is rooted in traditional Anishinaabeg teachings and draws on the wisdoms that the non-human beings teach us. Teaching and learning embodies dialogue—respecting, listening, guiding and humility. Every person has a creative inner-voice that is unique and which holds a wider purpose beyond the self.
My teaching experience in music composition draws on decades of work as a composer/performer with soloists, chamber musicians, orchestras, opera/theatre and film directors, conductors, choreographers, dancers, actors and visual artists of diverse cultural backgrounds. The bulk of my work involves collaborations with fellow Indigenous artists, educators, scholars, community leaders and elders.
I have served on the Indigenous Research Ethics Review Advisory Board at York University, served on the Advisory Board of FNCI (First Nations Composers Initiative), and I lead a working group for the IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility) initiative as a board member of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra.
My work in outdoor environmental education rooted in Anishinaabeg teachings over the span of two decades continues to inform my earth-waters-and-skies protectorship concerns and purpose that infuses my teaching, creativity and interactions with everyone. Taking part in traditional ceremonies and as a Shkaabewis with elders continues to be an important of my life work and purpose.