More time for tunes at music workshops

Ila Barker holding 10-session music workshop at IFM


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This article was published 11/03/2019 (1470 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.


Ila Barker has wanted to hold a longer series of music workshops for a while.

Ila Barker has wanted to hold a longer series of music workshops for a while.


Since Feb. 7, Barker has been facilitating #AIRSessions, or Artist in Residence Sessions, a free 10-session music-based workshop for youth in the North End. The drop-in workshops take place twice a month, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Indigenous Family Centre (470 Selkirk Ave.), and welcome youth 13 to 25 years old to join and learn more about songwriting, instruments, the industry, and production.

Each session features a different guest who shares their talent with the youth. 

As an artist, Barker had previously been involved in other music workshops, lending her skills as a guest mentor. She soon realized many were one-offs or only offered for short durations. She said the lessons welcome youth who are often shy or uncomfortable about performing in front of others, but shorter workshops didn’t offer enough time for the young musicians to get comfortable enough to share their art.

“I wanted to create something that was consistent, reliable and reoccurring that developed a comfortable space so that these young artists or young people were in a position where they felt they could be creative, they could open up, they are used to it, it’s a familiar space for them,” she said.

The artists in residence provide the youth with hands-on interaction with the artists and Barker has been bringing in cool mentors each week such Don Amero, Joanne Pollock, and JC Campbell. The sessions are mostly participant-led. 

Once the mentors introduce themselves and their skills, they let the participants decide how to spend their time at the workshop, be it writing, jamming, or talking about the industry. 

“I try to leave it open and broad, so we can do exactly what the youth that happens to be there at the time…to do exactly what they want to do and get the most out of it that they want,” she added.

Barker, a folk and soul singer-songwriter and guitar player, said they’ve had a great turnout at the first three sessions and she was happy the youth were telling her they wanted to come back.

Barker said as an Indigenous person herself, her primary focus has been on Indigenous youth but said anyone who shares the love for music is invited to participate in the sessions.

“Music is such a uniting tool. Music is a really great thing that crosses all sorts of different bridges,” she added. “Music is a great tool that goes beyond just songwriting. I think it’s key to mental health, it’s a therapy tool, it’s something that brings together the community.”

Although #AIRSessions is curated and facilitated by Barker, she said she couldn’t have done it without her sponsors and partners. The co-presenting partners are the Indigenous Music Development Program at Manitoba Music, the National Art Centre in Ottawa, and the Indigenous Family Centre. Her other sponsors are the sakihiwe festival and Food Fare. 

The next session takes place on March 21, starting at 6 p.m. at the Indigenous Family Centre. At the end of the workshop, participants and artists share a meal together.

For more information or to pre-register, contact Barker at

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