Passing Music on to Alaska's Youth

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April 2014 NEWSLETTER by Belle Mickelson

We've had a really fun year building connections between elders and students. In late August, I went to Cruikshank School in Beaver to finish up an all Gwich'in CD that the students recorded there last spring. Look forward to its release later this month!   After an evening church service in Beaver, we had a hot dog roast along the Yukon River enjoying the fall colors and the smell of the campfire. Then in November my son Mike Mickelson and I traveled down the coast to Yakutat for a great week singing, dancing, and playing with their students.  Later, Josephine Malemute and I headed to Chalkyitsik for a few days of music and a community potluck and dance.  The following week, I went to Hughes with the Rev. Trimble Gilbert and his wife Mary.  The students really loved getting to know Trimble and his wife---and dancing to his fiddle music.  

In December, Josephine Malemute and Mike Mickelson went to Tanana.  The kids so love the music and really look forward to our visits!  Mike and I continued on to Manley Hot Springs.  In the evening, we soaked in the hot springs set in a greenhouse.  Outside was snow and 20 below weather--and inside they were growing tomatoes!  Later in the week, Mike and I traveled on to Beaver and Stevens Village with the Rev. Helen Peters, a much beloved elder from Tanana.  Mike and I spent the week before Christmas in Arctic Village.   We hadn't been there in a couple years, so it was really fun to spend time with the kids and the community.  The Rev. Trimble Gilbert taught with us every day at the school--helping the kids learn Gwich'in Christmas carols.  It was so great to see everyone's smiles and all the kids playing music, singing, dancing, and laughing!  We celebrated with a student concert, a delicious Christmas dinner at the school, and a community dance afterward.  On Sunday, some of the kids helped Trimble play carols during the church service--and then Mike and I headed back for Christmas in Cordova.

In January, Trimble and his wife Mary and Mike and I traveled to Fort Yukon where we met up with Willie and Audrey Fields for a week of teaching music and dancing.  It was 40 below when we arrived--but it was hardly noticeable when we had lots of music to enjoy!

In February, Mike and I and Willie Fields were in Eagle to teach music at the school and help entertain all the folks coming through for the Yukon Quest dog race!  Then Josephine Malemute and Mike traveled to Grayling and to Huslia for some memorable times with those kids and communities.   The Rev. Helen Peters joined them in Huslia for a few days.

In March, Mike, Josephine, and I joined musicians from the Anchorage Native community in a weekend Dancing with the Spirit camp that began with an Athabascan Fiddle Dance on Friday, classes and a student dance on Saturday afternoon and evening, more classes on Saturday afternoon and a short concert.  Then as a finale, the 25 campers played for the patients and parents at the Alaska Native Medical Center as part of a church service organized by the Episcopal Native Ministry.  Thanks to St. Mary's Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Native Ministry for sponsoring this camp!

Dancing with the Spirit is now getting ready for spring camps--so contact us about coming to your community!  As Ed Alexander in Fort Yukon said, " I feel like the whole community is lifted up when Dancing With The Spirit comes to town."

PHOTO: Hughes student musicians with Hughes elders Rita Koyukuk and Madeline Williams; Arctic Village elders the Rev. Trimble and Mary Gilbert; teachers Dawn Pomrening and Tommy Dahill plus Dancing with the Spirit staff Josh Koyukuk from Grayling and Rev. Belle Mickelson of Cordova.

PHOTO: Fort Yukon students thank the Rev. Trimble Gilbert for being there with them--teaching fiddle and telling stories.

Click here for the Yukon River Culture Camp Registration Form

These are the students (Eagle Community and correspondence students) who participated in our Yukon Quest Fest Music Camp.  Thanks to all who made it possible.

Love and blessings,
Rev. Belle Mickelson
Dancing with the Spirit Director

View previous newsletters:

January 12, 2012
November 1, 2011 
February 11, 2009
November 25, 2008
August 14, 2008
May 25, 2008

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