Douglas Burden  

Performing for Aboriginal Children: An Interview with Douglas Burden

Douglas Burden
June 15, 2019

Editor's Abstract (Click to Hide)

When Yvonne Caruthers asked Claire Speed, Education Director of the National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO), to write an article about the many educational outreach programs developed by the orchestra, under the direction of Music Director Pinchas Zukerman, Claire suggested that Yvonne contact Doug Burden, NACO's bass trombonist, who participated in a program designed for First Nations children in Kispiox, British Columbia.

Yvonne interviewed Doug about the 2004 tour, which involved a educational kit about Vivaldi's Four Seasons that NACO sent to every elementary school in B.C. Doug describes how, upon arriving at the Kispiox school, where students from four First Nations schools were gathered, the members of NACO's 7-piece brass group were greeted "as if we were rock stars" because of all the preparation done by the teachers with a recorder specialist working with the kids.

Doug goes on to explain how the brass group integrated Aboriginal customs with western customs in their presentation to the kids - they were greeted by a welcome song and welcome dance, with the students wearing traditional dress. Best to let Doug tell the story in his own words, which he does in very heart-warming terms.

Be sure to read Claire Speed's companion article, On Tour with Canada's National Arts Centre Orchestra: Reaching Out to Aboriginal Children, where she describes all the educational outreach programs developed by the orchestra.

- Ann Drinan

Q: Where did you go on tour?

In November 2004, we visited 13 cities and communities including Vancouver, Burnaby, Kelowna, Vernon, Terrace, Smithers, Kispiox, Nelson, Comox, and Victoria, in British Columbia. The tour concluded with educational events and a concert in Toronto Ontario. The orchestra performed over 95 education events involving 67 musicians, plus regular evening concerts that featured the Brahms First Symphony. On our tour to Alberta and Saskatchewan last fall (2005), there were over 90 educational events.

On the day that seven brass players went to Kispiox, a string quintet, woodwind quintet and the string orchestra played in other places in BC.

Q: Where is Kispiox, BC?

It is 1,000 miles north of Vancouver, and probably halfway between Prince George and Prince Rupert. We left from Nelson on a charter flight, dropped off the woodwind quintet (Principals) in Terrace, BC, and flew on to Smithers, BC. We took a van from Smithers to Kispiox. (During a pre-tour in May of 2004 by Claire Speed, NACO’s Director of Music Education, and myself, Kispiox was chosen as the best location for the event.) In November they get a lot of rain, and (because of it) there was a mud and rock slide that covered about half the highway. The whole side of a mountain had come down – we had to slow down and work our way around it. For a while we weren’t sure we could get to the school for our performance.

The schools in that area are run by the First Nations. Students from three other schools (Gitsegukla, Gitanyow, and Moricetown) were sent to meet us in Kispiox.

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