A Martin with 50 Fenders

IN 2017.10 Guitar story pic IMG_0305
Tim Cofield, my musician friend from Tennessee, called me this summer with an amazing question. I could hardly believe my ears. Something like this had never happened to me before. He told me that someone from Nashville had fifty new Fender guitars to give away and asked if I could help him find a home for them. Fifty new guitars! Unbelievable! I love guitars and I know the beauty they can bring into a life and so did Tim. He wanted to start gifting these guitars in Muskrat Dam, Ontario, which is Linda’s home Cree community.

The idea behind the guitars was to encourage young people to get involved with something inspiring and to bring hope to youth of isolated First Nations communities. There is a lot of pain, turmoil, depression and of course, suicide in so many of these places. Muskrat Dam is no exception. Music is a tool that can help change things. It is a healing tool for the mind and soul. In fact, that is Tim’s story and, in many ways, mine too. Through music and worship we can “push back the darkness and bring in the light and hope of God.”

Of course the organization Linda and I work with, “My People,” under “Indigenous Pathways,” is all about encouraging First Nations young people to embrace who they are, to learn about their own culture and even learn about their own cultural music. Yet, all across the north and in almost all the First Nations communities I have lived in or visited, young people also love the guitar. So many of them have such natural talent, And they learn quickly. But in these isolated places there are no guitar shops and many have little money to buy a guitar even if there was a shop close by.

This guitar story really started about seven years ago. Tim was with me in Muskrat Dam. He was there to do a concert. He inspired everyone with his music and guitar playing. Before he left, though, we came up with the idea to do a music and guitar workshop. We invited anyone who was interested in learning to play guitar to come down to the community hall. We focused on the youth and sure enough about seven or eight came. The problem was we didn’t have guitars. Somehow we ended up getting a few old beat-up guitars together, (plus our own). We then hosted a guitar clinic. We both remembered that one boy, in particular, took great interest that day and later went on to become a gifted guitar player and singer. We are in touch with that young man to this day.

Most of the kids at that time, however, were young boys around ten or eleven. Tim remembered this. So now, with new resources, we thought we should do it again. This time we could actually use brand new Fender guitars. On top of all that we could actually gift as many kids as possible with these beautiful guitars! What an inspiring opportunity! It was not easy getting this all arranged.

Then another wonderful thing happened. That very same week I Emergence, our partner ministry, was doing a Culture Camp in Mish (Mishkeegogamang), a more southern First Nations community. We were able to do a clinic there as well. Mish is just out side of Pickle Lake, Ontario and this is where my friend in ministry, Dan, happened to have his plane and was willing to fly some of us up from there. Another ministry plane flew me up, along with several guitars, from Beaver Lake, Ont. They, too, just happened to be going in Muskrat Dam’s direction. Wasaya airlines also flew up the rest of the guitars at no cost.

Muskrat Dam is very isolated, about 500 miles north of Thunder Bay, Ontario, and so it was no easy task to make this happen. We did not, however, give all the guitars away on this trip. We are now going again this November the 14th, 2017. The chief from Muskrat Dam, Stan Beardy, would like for the donated guitars to go to the school in order to help set up a music program. This is really another story in itself. I’ll do my best to help make this happen.

What a joy to see the faces of those who received guitars! It was not easy to decide how we would gift them. Those who came to our guitar clinics were either given one or had their names put into a draw to get a chance at receiving one of the Fender guitars.

Finally, our heartfelt thanks goes out to the TN Center for Civic Learning and Engagement This is the organization from Tennessee, along with the Fender Guitar Company, that was behind sponsoring these fifty guitars. This is all about inspiring music and to help bring more hope and aspirations to First Nations youth.

- Rick Martin