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From Headingley to the Junos

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When the Juno awards are presented, Headingley residents should take note of the best roots and traditional album group category.

Former Headingley resident, trumpet player Jimmie James McKee, is a member of the Winnipeg Five — the band that plays with Little Miss Higgins (Jolene Higgins) on Bison Ranch Recording Sessions, one of five albums nominated in the category.

"My mom and two brothers still live in Headingley," McKee said.

McKee credits his teachers at Phoenix School with first encouraging his musical talent as he performed in the school choir, at concerts and in plays.

"The music program there was so great," he said.

The 27 year old now lives in Winnipeg and is trying to balance his musical career and education.

"I’m about halfway through my degree (in music)," he said, adding he plans to transfer into education, since teaching music is his Plan B.

He has played trumpet in a range of musical groups, including the Royal Canadian Navy Band and the University of Manitoba’s jazz band. He even resurrected the University of Manitoba’s Engineering Marching Band after receiving an engineering scholarship when he graduated from Winnipeg’s Silver Heights Collegiate.

He first heard Little Miss Higgins play at Winnipeg’s Time Change(d) High and Lonesome Club on a Friday night about five years ago. He gathered up his nerve and approached her, offering to join her onstage.

"I was convincing enough that she invited me to play the next night," he laughed.

He ended up bumping into Higgins, as musicians often do, at another musical event. This time he was on the road, playing with Winnipeggers Eric Lemoine, Blake Thomson, Patrick Alexandre and Evan Friesen in the F-Holes at a festival in Fredericton when they found that Little Miss Higgins was also on the bill.

"I envisioned that the F-Holes would be a perfect fit for her," he said.

The two groups merged as Little Miss Higgins and the Winnipeg Five, and performed for the first time at Festival du Voyageur in 2012.

McKee said Bison Ranch Recording Sessions is less blues-sounding than Jolene’s previous recordings, hence its nomination in the roots and traditional category.

"It’s definitely a different flavour," he said.

The group plays at Times Change(d) on Fri., March 28 at 10 p.m. as part of JunoFest. If you miss them there, watch for them at this year’s Winnipeg Folk Festival, uly 9 to 13 at Birds Hill Park

The 43rd Annual Juno Awards broadcast will air Sun., March 30, from the MTS Centre. Most of the awards, though, will be handed out at a gala dinner on Saturday night at the RBC Convention Centre.

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