Guitar giveaway a way for Lenape musician to give back to Indigenous youth

Brock Stonefish of Moraviantown in southwestern Ontario says playing guitar saved his life when he was a teen. Now he's giving away guitars to help Indigenous youth.

Brock Stonefish says playing guitar saved his life when he was a teen

Brock Stonefish with B.B. King, at North Star Mohican Casino Resort in Wisconsin in 2007. (Submitted by Brock Stonefish)

Playing the guitar, singing the blues, or writing songs has been a daily ritual for the past 30 years for Lenape musician Brock Stonefish of Moraviantown in southwestern Ontario.

"It saved my life," said Stonefish.

"When I was about 13 years old, I attempted suicide. That was right around the time when I started playing guitar and it brought me back."

Stonefish's music has taken him across the globe, performing as a solo artist, opening for B.B. King, and touring the United States with Gary Farmer and the Troublemakers.

Now Stonefish is organizing his second Indigenous Youth Guitar Giveaway. He said it's a way to give back, to help First Nations, Métis or Inuit youth that are struggling.

"I just want to provide that avenue for Indigenous youth, that I know that have the same problems I did when I was young on my journey through life."

Damien Kiyoshk, 22, from Walpole Island is one of two recipients to receive a guitar from the first guitar giveaway that was organized last July. He's been playing for two years and is an aspiring blues player.

"I was super appreciative," he said.

"I had one previously, but it got kind of wrecked and wasn't as good as the one that I got from Brock."

Giving away guitars is not new to Stonefish.

"I had a guitar that I took with me when I opened for B.B. King; I gave it away to a 13-year-old about 10 years ago," he said.

"It was a hollow body arch top guitar and I've given away banjos and a lot of guitars have been given to me."

Opportunity to change a life

Stonefish has many supporters for his project, including Arne Vainio, a Native American physician from Duluth, Minn., who donated to the first project.

"He could totally change someone's life," said Vainio.

"I'm a Native in a position at that there really aren't that many in the big scheme of things, and it was because of people giving me a chance and opportunities."

A Guild acoustic guitar that has been restored by a veteran guitar builder/luthier from Toronto. (Brock Stonefish)

Michael McCann, president of Canada South Blues Society, is also behind the project.

"I had searched him out and seen his project that he was doing and thought 'Well, that's a really, really cool thing to attach the Blues Society with,' so I've delivered about four guitars already," said McCann.

According to Stonefish, the second guitar giveaway will be in the new year, and there's a selection of guitars to choose from.

"A 12 string I would give away to a songwriter, you know, because you write songs on 12 strings," he said.

"Or I've got guitars that are for hard rock; I have a guitar for the blues, jazz, folk music or whatever."

Indigenous youth from across North America who are emerging musicians are eligible to apply. Applicants must explain why having a professional level guitar would benefit their career and be willing to share some of their obstacles in acquiring such an instrument. Stonefish is accepting submissions at his email, and links to videos.