Singer, songwriter brings his artist in residency program to Eastbrook

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BRUCE PARKER
Brooks Bulletin

An artist in residency program dealing with African music and drumming recently culminated with a concert in front of a packed Eastbrook Elementary gymnasium.
Singer/songwriter Garth Prince and all grades one to six students took part in the Feb. 2 concert that was filmed by a documentary crew. Eastbrook was chosen to be part of the footage on his Canadian residency program.
The idea behind the residency program was to give the children an idea of what it would be like to film a nice concert with a band, he said.
“I have been doing the residency for about three years now and it is very successful. It always gets a good turnout and it is great experience for the kids.”
In addition, the children also get to learn about the country of Namibia.
A native of Namibia, located north of South Africa, Prince got his start as a youth singing in a choir that toured all over the world. It was through the choir that he learned all the traditional songs.
He was introduced to Canadian life when he toured the country in 2006. He moved to Edmonton in 2008 with a goal of resuming his career as a banker. But things did not work out because of the market crash. This led him to a career change where he performed across the province with a band he taught how to play African music.
Prince wrote many of the songs that he not only performed but taught to his young daughter.
It was during this time that he started getting booked at festivals for children. He said he could not see his connection at the time between his music and children until teachers asked him to teach students African songs.
“It just sort of took off from there,” he said.
He ended up spending 90 per cent of his time in Edmonton teaching students songs which worked out for his family.
Prince took two levels of courses specifically for children at the University of Alberta where he learned about xylophones and how they could be used for his songs.
It was the University of Alberta that suggested Prince be contacted when it was asked who could provide cultural programming.
It was an email sent out to schools in smaller communities that connected him with Eastbrook.
He came to Eastbrook on January 25 and worked with the students until the Feb. 2 concert.
A film crew for a documentary joined him at Eastbrook after he approached a director about having his lessons made into film versions people could watch. This would eliminate some of his travel demands, he thought.
After learning that he would be going home for the first time in nine years to Namibia to do a residency program, it was suggested a documentary “Music of the Motherland” be filmed.
The trip home to Namibia for the residency program was filmed last summer. While there, teachers brought up there was no music curriculum.
There was also a focus on how rural students in Namibia were losing their cultural identity when moving to the city.
Eastbrook Elementary entered the picture when the film crew wanted to show the context of what it is like to teach the songs in Canada, said Prince.