Dear donors, supporters, friends, and students,

I am so pleased to share with you details, photos, and stories from our very successful first ever Yukon Cello Project. We have all finally returned home to Vancouver, the cellos have been returned to Long & McQuade, and our dear truck has been given back to Driving Force.

I would like to start by thanking all of you for your support of our vision for social enrichment through music education. I am happy to say that we were able to introduce more than 45 new cellists (aged 5-65) to this special form of music making, all thanks to your support. I would also like to give special recognition to both Isidora Nojkovic and Roland Gjernes for their endless enthusiasm and commitment. Whether they were faced with 7000km of driving or 12-hour teaching days, their passion for teaching and sharing music never ceased to amaze me.

I’ve included some highlights from our time in the Yukon to share with you what a special experience it was. Thank you again for your help in making this vision come to life.

Our Dawson Day Camp students in their lovely YCP shirts after our final performance at Yukon School of Visual Art

Our Camps in Communities:
Ross River, Dawson, and Mayo are very different communities from each other, which resulted in different-looking day camps. In Ross River, we set up with snacks and cellos at the school and opened our doors to kids for four hours each day. It was inspirational for us to see these students so driven by curiosity, so determined to get better, take their learning into their own hands. Ross River in the summer is a place where kids choose what they want to do with their days and are not often told to participate in anything they don’t want to do. Because of this, we can take it as a huge success that we were able to show over a dozen students what it feels like to play cello, and even more so that we had a core group of 10-to-13-year old boys come practice and learn every day. They were so ready to try something new and so motivated to do well. I’m incredibly happy that we were able to run lessons in Ross, to reach kids that fully benefitted from what we were offering.

After Ross River, we set up camps in Dawson. Thanks to generous help from Matt Sarty and the Klondike Institute of Arts and Culture, we were able to use the Yukon School of Visual Art in downtown Dawson as our home base. We had 10 students attend our day camp, in which we mixed formal cello lessons with games, crafts, and field trips (mostly to the park to give our cello hands a rest). Our senior group of students (aged 9-12) were able to learn over half a dozen pieces in their five days, through which they explored the concepts of intonation, harmony, tone, and dynamics. Our junior students (aged 6-8) learned 4 pieces, collaborated with the seniors, and invented their own variations on pieces. Thanks to Peter Menzies, with the North Klondike Music Association, we were able to play with our Dawson kids on local radio and at the Dawson City Music Festival, a testament to the community’s commitment to celebrating and supporting arts education. In the evenings, we had a class of 7 adult students who caught on incredibly quickly to every new concept we threw at them. Within a week, we had learned folk songs and two-part harmonies. Amazing. Very different from Ross, but no less rewarding an experience to share cello playing in Dawson.

Our last week in Mayo was unique in its own way. Our day camp group of 11 students was substantially younger than either Dawson or Ross River, but no less enthusiastic to learn. Although our musical material was less piece heavy and more song and game oriented, our students were still able to learn an enormous amount in a short time. Our adult class in Mayo, consisting of 5 students, blew us away with their ability to learn quickly. After 5 lessons, they were able to play melodies and harmonies together without teachers playing at all. An inspiring group of lifelong learners who took what we offered and ran with it.

Nico showing Jael how this thing makes sound in Ross River

A Rewarding Experience:
Our most rewarding moments were of course whenever our students were able to share what they were able to do and feel proud of their accomplishments, whether it was showing non-cellist friends how they can play Star Wars in Ross River, decorating the hall and performing for parents in Mayo, or busking for ice cream money on the main street in Dawson (totally successful), seeing our students’ pride in their work was amazing for us. A 13-year-old boy told me, “I really like playing cello”, after a week of working hard to learn a couple pieces. A 5-year-old girl spent her breaks practicing her pieces. These kids had fun playing music, and showed an incredible appetite for learning more. As teachers, we couldn’t ask for more.

What Comes Next:
We have spoken with members of each community, and are definitely going to do everything we can to come back to the Yukon next year. Thanks to the support of our donors, we have proof that this project visibly enriches the lives of kids in Yukon communities. We want to return to Ross River, Dawson, and Mayo, and would like to expand the program so that we can run lessons in Teslin and Whitehorse as well. In addition, we’ll be looking to include more students and expand camps to two weeks instead of one. Ambitious growth for sure, but our reception in the Yukon was so incredibly positive that we want to share our project with as many people as we possibly can. We’ll keep you posted as things come together for the second instalment of the Yukon Cello Project!

Mikayla and Ava are goofballs. Here they are being goofballs with cellos in Mayo

I would like to thank our donors again for their belief in our vision for social change through music education.
Your tax receipts will be sent out within the next month.

Special Thanks to

Fran Etzel
Steve Gedrose
Klondike Institute of Art and Culture
Long & McQuade Musical Instruments
Mayo Arts Society
Peter Menzies
Verna Nukon
Janet Patterson
Ross River Recreation Board
Matt Sarty
Steve Slade
Esther Winter
Colin Wood

for all their help in organizing the project,

and thank you again to Whitehorse Concerts for their administrative assistance and to Yukon Energy for their generous financial support.

​Please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or comments about the project. We will never stop looking for ways to improve, and your input is important to us.

Here’s to more cello-ing in years to come,