Saskatchewan

High school students learn songwriting from Sask. musicians

Megan Nash, Ryan Hicks and Glenn Sutter shared their songwriting skills with students from all over Saskatchewan. After learning how to write songs and draw inspiration from nature the students wrote a song called Hourglass.

17 students had a weekend of hiking, campfires and songwriting

Students and teachers pose for one final group photo after a weekend of hiking and songwriting. (Alec Salloum/CBC Saskatchewan )

At total of 17 students from all over the province made their way on slippery gravel roads to a building nestled in a belt of trees on the edge of Last Mountain Lake this weekend.

Their journey to the national wildlife area was for a songwriting program led by Saskatchewan songwriters Ryan Hicks, Megan Nash and Glenn Sutter.

After learning how to write songs and draw inspiration from nature the students wrote a song called Hourglass.

After three hours of writing the students and their teachers perform their song 'Hourglass.' 3:43

"The idea was to see if people, given the chance to use their creative energies, would affect how they connect to nature," Sutter said.

Sutter said he felt right at home writing songs in nature. As a biologist, he often uses song as a way to examine his field of work.

"I work in the field of environmental and sustainability education, dealing with climate change. It kind of wears you down," said Sutter. "I often turn to songwriting as a way to explore that stuff on my own." 

Environment Canada, Campion College and the Royal Saskatchewan Museum helped fund the project, which is free to all applicants.

Sutter was the driving force behind the Songs 4 Nature program, and said reconnecting with nature is important for everyone, but especially for the next generation.

Jaxon Lalonde picking the Banjo during a song writers circle. (Alec Salloum/CBC Saskatchewan)

Jaxon Lalonde, a grade 12 student at St. Joseph High School in Saskatoon, had been playing music for most of his life, but had never written a song in full. 

"I've had ideas for the music for songs for a long time. I've written down notes of cool lines. But now, I figured out how to put it together," said Lalonde.

While out in the national wildlife area the group went for hikes and walks in nature to help draw on natural imagery and the metaphors that are present in nature.

Where they're coming from, is they love music. So as soon as they got together, they nerded out on music.- Ryan Hicks

During one trek into the prairie landscape the group decided to lay down in a field and take some time to reflect. 

"I like looking at the sky and the trees. It gives me a lot more inspiration," said participant Cieran Sheard. "I like to sit on a hill, and just looking throughout the city, you get to see a lot."

Sheard and all the students were total strangers at the start of the weekend, and though the focus was on songwriting and nature the students all bonded over a mutual love of music. 

"Where they're coming from, is they love music. So as soon as they got together, they nerded out on music," said Hicks.

Ryan Hicks and Megan Nash leading a song-writing session. (Alec Salloum/CBC Saskatchewan)

Hicks said when the teenagers got to know each other, spontaneous songs and performances became a norm.

"What I really came for was to meet other people who are interested in what I'm interested in," Mackenzie Sproat said. 

Like so many other students this was an opportunity for Sproat to meet like-minded peers she might not otherwise be in contact with. 

"The people in my life aren't really songwriters or interested in music like I am. So I wanted to meet other people and I really connected with the people here as well," she said.

Tools of the trade. (Alec Salloum/CBC Saskatchewan )

When it was time to go on Sunday, every student with a still-charged cellphone was taking selfies with their new friends, exchanging numbers and adding each other on Facebook. At least two group shots were taken.

The group will reunite in early May to see the returning migratory birds and in June the plan is to hold a concert in either Wascana Park or the Royal Saskatchewan Museum.