Harmonica Virtuoso Mike Stevens, recent recipient of Canada’s Medal of Honor for his healing work in Canadian villages (20 years), will share healing music and dance events in Alaska’s western, interior and North Slope communities April 28 through May 10, 2019.
Part of the Healing Music and Dance program of the Bethel Community Services Foundation, the purpose is to share and enable the creation of music and dance in remote Alaskan villages, clearing a path for artistic expression of feelings, giving voice to the otherwise inexpressible, starting recovery from trauma. The program promotes mental wellness by building lasting relationships, listening and returning regularly. Stevens teaches new skills, promotes self-esteem and creative self-expression.
Stevens has been visiting the Y-K Delta region and villages in Interior Alaska since 2013 – performing, teaching and inspiring young people to express their feelings in healthy ways. Through music, drumming, song, dance, beat-boxing and composing, indigenous youth find suppressed voices and express themselves in a safe and nurturing environment, starting to heal from trauma.
He has performed at the Grand Ole Opry more than 300 times, continues to win international awards for his innovative work and recordings. He is the founder of ArtsCanCircle. https://artscancircle.ca/about/our-story/
Stevens and Panuk Agimuk, drummer/singer, (a young Yupik man from Chevak who builds drums) will tour Western AK schools and community centers, including Bethel, Akiak, Newtok and Chevak, April 27- May 2, performing, and encouraging local singers and dancers to join in.
Mike will visit Barrow schools on May 3. May 6-10, 2019, Mike Stevens will tour Interior Alaskan communities including Huslia, Tanana, Nenana, Anderson, Arctic Village and Venetie. Minto Elder and drummer Luke Titus will join Mike in the workshops with Nenana and Anderson students.
With guidance from school personnel and community leaders, Stevens shows how his harmonica is a tool for self-expression, even without being able to read music. He demonstrates how to use a looper to create compositions, incorporating traditional and beat-boxing techniques. After telling his own story of struggles in school, Stevens shares how he/they can express feelings thru the harmonica. Each participant receives a harmonica to keep. They learn basic techniques but quickly Stevens turns the leading over to the youth to create their own compositions, as sound engineer, using the mic, recording vocals, harmonica, guitar and soundscapes.
Research shows that involvement in simultaneous movement and acoustic music accesses and develops both hemispheres of the brain. The program’s empirical experience indicates that entraining with music and movement, where individuals gradually fall into synchrony with another or others, creates a sense of safety and connects individuals into a community while expressing individuality. The repetition of this practice builds a safe community and supports healing from trauma, which ultimately prevents suicide.
Collaboration with community leaders and youth drives the effectiveness of this program. Many continue to play music and compose with the looper long after Stevens leaves. Teachers often continue to gather youth to create.
Generous businesses, foundations and individuals make this work possible. A special thank you goes out to Tanana Chiefs Conference, Alaska Community Foundation/GCI, Bilista Corporation, Arctic Slope Community Foundation, Saltchuk, City of Bethel Community Action Grant program, Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, GVEA’s GoodCents, Goldstream Engineering, Bethel Lions Club, Alaska Airlines, Grant Air, Yute Air, Wright Air, Sophie’s Station, and countless individuals who donate their dollars, use of their homes, goods, and services.
*Mike Stevens’ website shows samples of his latest and ongoing work. https://www.mikestevensmusic.com/