A Shared Rhythm

A Shared Rhythm

A Shared Rhythm

Creating Cross-Cultural Experiences for Students with Innovative Percussion Musicians

Last spring, artsPlace partnered with Prairie Debut to facilitate a unique performance and workshop experience for the kids at Exshaw and Elizabeth Rummel Schools featuring the Eya-Hay Nakoda drum group and multi-instrumental music duo, Farhad Khosravi and Daniel Stadnicki.

The collaboration was a space for cultural and intergenerational sharing between the performers and the students—and between the musicians. Students were introduced to a range of music styles that both broadened their horizons and deepened their sense of connection to their home in the Bow Valley.

The Eya-Hay Nakoda drum group was founded by Rod Hunter and his son, Anders, from the Bearspaw First Nation here in the Bow Valley. For the performances, they were joined by Anders’ brother-in-law Chris Pegram, who hails from the Shinnecock First Nation in Long Island, New York. Together, they sing and drum, using traditional powwow techniques to create their own modern compositions.

Daniel and Farhad are both Edmonton-based musicians with eclectic musical backgrounds. Farhad is an Iranian composer and musician who plays the santur, an ancient instrument also known as the Persian dulcimer. He teamed up with Daniel to tour with Prairie Debut in 2023. Daniel, who is a Japanese-Canadian percussionist and music scholar, plays a variety of percussion instruments— including the drums, cymbals, bells, and tambourines—which he compiled into a customized drum kit in his performances with Farhad.

“Music is universal. People open their hearts and minds to different music. Kids feel that opening and they can learn something.” CHRIS PEGRAM

Though the musicians come from very different musical and cultural lineages, the collaborative performances gave them the space to find common ground— showing the kids the power that music has to connect people across space and time.

Many of the students at Exshaw School identify as Indigenous. Chris sees traditional music as a way to support and demonstrate resilience for kids in his community as they grow up. “For our grandparents and parents, their experiences in school were vastly different than for these kids; we all know about that,” he told the audience during a Cultural Learning Circle at artsPlace back in 2022. “We are bringing the kids back to the drum; back to our traditions.”

The drumming performances also created impactful moments of cultural sharing for kids who may not be familiar with Indigenous culture. “When you open the eyes of students to what the truth is about Indigenous people, and you give them a firsthand experience with Indigenous people—not something from a movie or a book, but a real experience—it helps them better understand Indigenous ways of being and knowing,” Chris says.

While the drumming rooted the students in the cultural heritage of the Bow Valley, the performances also gave them the chance to hear songs influenced by global musical traditions. “My instrument is unique, so the kids have never seen it before and they get really excited,” Farhad says. The combination of Farhad’s modern take on classical Persian music and Daniel’s innovative approach to percussion offered a completely new sonic experience the students might not have been exposed to anywhere else.

Through the performances, the musicians also got an inside look at one another’s craft. “I like to share the music with different instruments,” Farhad says. “You can find a lot of common ground with instruments that are seemingly very different.” For Chris, it was invigorating to perform alongside such an unexpected style of music. “The performances had a lot of diversity to them,” he says. “For us to add in our experience, with the big drum and the hand drum, it was a reciprocal sharing.”

These moments of creative and cultural expression are formative for young students as they find their own place in the world. Being exposed to diverse artistic influences helps kids open their hearts and minds to new perspectives, making them more engaged, curious, and kind members of our community today and tomorrow.

This outreach program was made possible by funding from the Government of Canada

Special thanks to our programming partners, Prairie Debut and Canadian Rockies Public Schools.