One woman, one tuba: Yellowknifer on quest to reunite with favourite instrument amid pandemic

It’s been about a decade since Yellowknifer Chrissie Carrigan picked up the tuba. But with the pandemic raging on, she’s on the hunt to be reunited with the instrument again.

The pandemic inspired Chrissie Carrigan to revive her musical skills — but first, she needs a tuba

Chrissie Carrigan and the beloved horn, in 2008. She first picked up the instrument in seventh grade, but lost touch with it over the years. Now, she's hoping to find one in the N.W.T. so she can revive her skills amid the pandemic. (Submitted by Chrissie Carrigan)

Just how far will one N.W.T. resident go to get their hands on a tuba during a pandemic?

Well, geographically speaking, probably not that far, given the territorial government's travel restrictions.

But Yellowknifer Chrissie Carrigan says she is willing to exchange almost anything — including some of her handcrafted art — if someone in the N.W.T. can sell her the instrument.

"It's probably been about a decade. I'm not great with dates, but the last time I picked one up was for my grandma's, I think it was her 80th birthday party," said Carrigan.

"I was kind of trying to think of activities that I could pursue [during the pandemic] that would keep me occupied and give me a chance to socialize, and I thought about, you know, picking that back up again."

Carrigan first went in search of a tuba a few years ago at Yellowknife's local music store, Fiddles & Stix, but said she was told the store doesn't carry instruments that size.

Inspired to pursue tuba once again when the pandemic struck, Carrigan took to Salvagers Unite to call for help. The Facebook group, which was created at the onset of the COVID-19 health crisis, is helping make one person's trash another person's treasure.

"I would say I'm in the initial phases of a search," she said. "But now I'm feeling, like, invigorated, because it seems like a lot of people are engaged in it."

Carrigan is on the hunt to find a tuba somewhere in the N.W.T., as the pandemic drags on. (Submitted by Chrissie Carrigan)

Carrigan first picked up the tuba in seventh grade, after a stint playing the oboe.

"But I decided very quickly that that did not match my personality, and so then the next year I moved to the tuba," Carrigan explained. "Probably anybody that knows me would say that a tuba matches my personality."

The love affair continued through her junior years, all the way to high school.

"I loved being a part of the band," Carrigan said. "And I really loved making music and the layers that being ... in an orchestra allowed versus, you know, some instruments that are maybe done more in a solo endeavour."

Now, she says she's interested in exploring how she could use the instrument in ska music, jazz, or even pop.

She admits it may take some work to familiarize herself with the brass instrument again, and to get reacquainted with reading sheet music. 

But she's up for the challenge. 

And a road trip.

Some of Carrigan's embroidery work. She says she's willing to exchange some of her art for a tuba. (Submitted by Chrissie Carrigan)

Art for a tuba?

"I'd be willing to travel, you know, within the territory, or hope that I could find one within the territory," Carrigan said.

"If somebody had one in Hay River or somewhere else that I could drive to from Yellowknife that was within the territory, I would totally be into a road trip or meeting halfway and doing a tuba exchange for whatever we needed to exchange."

With a university degree in art, Carrigan dabbles in embroidery, weaving, digital illustration and some painting. And she says she'd be willing to give away some of her work for a chance to hold her favourite instrument again.

"I'm really, really excited about the prospect of potentially finding one," she said. "I think it's kind of a fun endeavour to connect with people over the joys of finding musical instruments, or making music."

Chrissie Carrigan with her embroidered artworks. She says she's willing to trade some of her handcrafted goods if someone can help find her a tuba. (Submitted by Chrissie Carrigan)

With files from Joanne Stassen and Lawrence Nayally