When a homophobic attack in Nova Scotia left Scott Jones a paraplegic, the story made headlines across Canada and devastated the Winnipeg music community where he'd studied.
"Horror and shock" is what Elroy Friesen felt when he heard Jones had been stabbed in the back. Jones was one of his students at the University of Manitoba.
'He's such a well-liked person -- he is so enthusiastic and full of life'
"He came here to work on his master's in choral conducting," said Friesen, who is helping to organize a Winnipeg fundraising concert Feb. 4 to help the 27-year-old Nova Scotian in his recovery. When the choral community heard what happened to Jones Oct. 12, choirs here rallied to support him.
"He's such a well-liked person -- he is so enthusiastic and full of life," Friesen said. "Here he spent a fair amount of time conducting the University of Manitoba's Women's Chorus." The chorus is performing Tuesday night with several other choirs at Knox United Church to raise money to support Jones.
"He was really well-liked as a conductor -- his personality is so cheerful," said Friesen.
Jones was a choral director in New Glasgow, N.S. when the attack happened while he was walking down the street late at night with two friends. A 19-year-old man was charged with attempted murder in the stabbing that's been labelled a hate crime in the small community where Jones is openly gay.
"It just devastated me," said Winnipeg's Carolyn Boyes who, in 2008, was the only other master's student in choral conducting with Jones at the U of M.
"He was very engaging, very warm and had very positive energy," said Boyes, who directs the Winnipeg Boys' Choir and the Sisler High School choir. Both will perform at the concert to help Jones. She said the Sisler students decided to swap their black concert attire for colours of the rainbow in support of Jones.
Friesen said it's a perfect fit for Tuesday's event.
"Scott has been saying he really would like this focus to be turned around." Instead of focusing on the attack that left him paralyzed from the waist down, Jones launched the "Don't be afraid" Facebook campaign against homophobia, said Friesen. Tuesday's 7 p.m. concert at Knox United Church downtown is free with donations accepted to the Support Scott Jones Fund. (See supportscottjones.com) It has raised closed to $200,000 so far but Friesen said Jones will need more.
"When something like this happens, it's a major life change with huge financial implications."