Giving Youth the Tools They Need to Create

October, 2010

Ramses Calderon is a busy man. The El Salvadorn-born resident of Regina is a writer, musical scholar and innovative musician who incorporates traditional instruments and rhythms into his compositions. Aided in part by the pARTnership Innovations Program which received funding from the Culture Section of the Saskatchewan Lotteries Trust Fund, Calderon embarked on a series of projects as the artist in residence at Sâkêwewak Artist Collective.

During Ramses' residency from September of 2009 to August, 2010, he worked with artist Jeff Morton to create an audio installation for Regina's Fire & Ice Festival. Morton and Calderon created a piece called “Winter Concert,” a series of sounds recorded from nature and carefully arranged and manipulated to produce a meditative experience for festival-goers.

“We wanted to explore the way that sounds affect your emotions and thoughts,” explains Calderon. “When you live in the city you rarely hear the sounds of nature in winter. It was a very positive experience for adults and children”.

One of the projects he is proudest of is a concert produced in collaboration with the Regina Conservatory's Amadeus Youth Orchestra and Scott Collegiate. Working with both groups, Calderon wrote a piece that combined classical and pop instruments and styles. Members of the Youth Orchestra and students from the school played two concerts in May of 2010, both at Scott Collegiate and at Piapot First Nation.

“It was a great experience for all the students,” Calderon said. “They were able to explore their creativity and develop their talent”.

Calderon's outreach work was certainly not limited to urban and southern Saskatchewan. In April, Ramses traveled to Sandy Bay with artist Gabriel Yahkahkeekoot to work with youth in the northern community. Ramses and Gabriel helped a group of young men and women develop a song and create a music video. According to Ramses, the experience was eye-opening.

“We sat down with these youth and it turned out that they already had a beat and some really strong lyrics,” Calderon said. “They were ready to start recording almost right way. I was so impressed by them. We helped them record the music and film the music video, but they had a very clear idea about what they wanted to do”.

The youth performed the song for the community, which was an emotional experience for the performers and the audience.

“They were singing about issues such as depression, racism, and hope for the community,” Calderon said. “People were crying. They were amazed that there was so much talent.” The music video went up on YouTube, where it has garnered over 3,000 views in just a few months.

Calderon is hoping to build on these projects and go back to Sandy Bay next year, but the goal is ultimately to give youth the tools they need to mentor others. This would be his real reward. “Life is short,” Calderon says. “When you start a project, you don't know if you'll see the harvest come in …. But if you don't start, nothing will ever happen.”

The pARTnership Innovations Program is part of the Creative pARTnerships initiative developed by SaskCulture and Saskatchewan Arts Board, to highlight programs supported by both organizations.