Yellowknife Music Festival ‘starts it all’ for some young musicians

This year’s Yellowknife Music Festival will welcome back two performers who went all the way to the inaugural Canada West Performing Arts Festival in 2022.

Choralists, vocalists and string players will play at Yellowknife’s Calvary Church when the festival’s first weekend of performances takes place from March 3-5.

The second week-long segment of the festival will see bands, pianists, guitarists and other instrumentalists perform between April 23 and April 30 at a location still to be confirmed.


Sadee Mitchell, a young Yellowknifer who says she has been singing her whole life, entered last year’s Yellowknife Music Festival with three songs. She then qualified for Alberta provincials – which were held online as the pandemic continued – and was ultimately chosen to go to Canada West in Saskatoon.

“Provincials would have been a lot more fun if they were in person, but they were still really cool to see all these different people from different places,” she told Cabin Radio.

“Saskatoon was even cooler because it wasn’t just people from Alberta, but also people from BC and Saskatchewan.”

Mitchell says she is entering the festival this year with the same goal of going to provincials, but is also looking forward to the community-building that the festival brings.

“You don’t necessarily have to love music or be really good at it, it’s just cool to have performances and practise in front of people,” she said.


“It’s also fun to have a little bit of competition, even in a small city. And it shows that just because you live in Yellowknife, it doesn’t mean you can’t make it to Saskatoon. There are opportunities there.”

Yellowknife pianist Joseph Curran was also invited to the Alberta Music Festival, which qualified him for Canada West. He says playing in front of top performers from across western Canada was unlike anything he’d experienced before.

“There was a bit less adjudication and more performance, so you did your performance, listened to the other performers, and then that was that, you got a grade,” he said.

“It really opened my eyes to this high level of piano performance that I’ve never really experienced before.”


Joseph Curran at a Yellowknife Music Festival concert in 2023. Photo: Supplied

Curran hopes to play his best in April and says the rest is “all an extra” for him. The young pianist says he is grateful to the festival, claiming it plays a vital role in his success.

“This festival is still right up there with all these other cool experiences,” he said.

“It’s a fun experience with all my colleagues, and yeah, it would be nice to go to Alberta and it’d be nice to go back to nationals, but really I hope to play my best at the festival that kind-of started it all for me.”

Having added some new pieces on his roster, Curran says he’s most looking forward to friendly competition with his friends, as well as the opportunity to hear pieces from other musicians in town.

“A lot of people will say that piano performance is a bit of a lost art,” he said, discussing the importance of having a competitive music festival in Yellowknife.

“I think when you add the competition factor into it, it attracts more kids, the same way it attracted me when I was a kid, and it’s just a great way to spread the joy of music.”

Yellowknife’s youth fiddlers, the Fiddle Cats, will also compete at this year’s festival. Andrea Bettger, the conductor of the group, says the festival will be the first big performance for many of them.

“We’re going to have some short little fun tunes that we’ve learned by ear,” she told Cabin Radio.

“They’re fun to listen to and some of the first-time players are as young as five years old, so it can be really special to watch.”

Alongside the festival, the Aurora Fiddle Society will host workshops with fiddlers from out of town. Bettger says the workshops will give the city’s small community of fiddlers the opportunity to learn from someone other than her.

More information about the Yellowknife Music Festival can be sound on the event’s website. Registration for fiddle workshops can be found on the Aurora Fiddle Society’s website.