Music can embody the spirit of Good Friday, says B.C. musician

Twin Bandit's Hannah Walker discusses how her family gives music to those in need.

Art can help give voice to those on the fringes of society, says Twin Bandit's Hannah Walker

The St. James Music Academy in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside currently provides free classical music training to more than 500 children. (Saint James Music Academy/Vimeo)

When Vancouver musician Hannah Walker was growing up, her parents decided to move into Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

The Christian couple felt challenged by ideas they had read in the scripture — the timeless concepts of loving thy neighbour and giving to the poor.

"They decided they were going to move into [the DTES] and really try to be present there and raise a family," Walker told Khari McClelland on CBC's Good Friday special, Walk With Me.

Walker's mother, Kathryn, since went on to open the St. James Music Academy — a non-profit organization that offers classical music training to hundreds of children in the community.

Her determination helped inspire Walker to begin her own career as an artist — a platform she now uses to express similar themes of respect and justice.

Hannah Walker and Jamie Elliot form the Vancouver folk duo Twin Bandit. (Tom Tom Terrell)

The gift of music

The St. James Music Academy was born from a lack of access to music and music education for children on the DTES.

"I have four younger sisters and one brother and when we were growing up, we were all very musically inclined — but unfortunately we weren't able to afford music lessons for everybody in our family," Walker said.

"It was just too expensive. [My mom] just looked at that and said 'Well, that's not good enough.'"

The academy opened in 2007, and currently offers free classical music lessons to more than 500 children in the community. It holds music therapy sessions, and even nutrition programs.

Walker says the school is meant to bring inner city kids together and build bridges within the community.

"There's really nothing like that kind of social change," said Walker.

The St. James Music Academy was founded in 2007 by Kathryn Walker. (Saint James Music Academy/Vimeo)

Twin Bandit

Walker is humbled by her mother mother's hard work and sacrifice, and has since gone off to make a music career in her own right.

She now forms one half of Vancouver-based folk duo Twin Bandit, alongside Jamie Elliott.

The singer says the themes of respect and responsibility for others that encapsulate the spirt of Good Friday often seep into her music.

"There's so much depravity and so much suffering go on," she said. "[Musicians often wonder] how can we make a difference?"

Walker says the role of the musician can serve to give voice to those who are marginalized or vulnerable. As one of Twin Bandit's songs so emphatically proclaims, "even the smallest voice has its place."

"If your art is a reflection of who you are as a person, your art will also begin to speak about truth and justice in a very organic way."

With files from CBC's Walk With Me