Chuck Copenace found his way back to music in the sweat lodge

Trumpet player Chuck Copenace was inspired to combine jazz with ceremonial music after spending time in a sweat lodge.
The Chuck Copenace Group performing live in Winnipeg. (Facebook)

Chuck Copenace is an Ojibway jazz musician, and although he plays trumpet now, it wasn't his first choice. 

"I wasn't really interested in music in Grade 7," he explained.

"But everyone had to do it. So I needed an instrument that was small ... 'cause I was embarrassed to be in music. So I tried the flute and that didn't work out — I couldn't play it," Copenace said.

"So the next day I took the trumpet home, because it was the next smallest case. And then I ended up finishing the Grade 7 book that night."

He went on to excel in music class at school and was encouraged to take private lessons and join a community big band in Kenora, Ontario.

Chuck Copenace (Facebook)
After dipping into his stepdad's record collection, he discovered Freddie Hubbard which led to Miles Davis and deeper into jazz's back catalogue. 

Copenace went on to do some post-secondary training in music before heading out to Vancouver for awhile. After returning to Winnipeg, he joined a group called Moses Mayes. But when that ended, he decided to take a break from music, one that lasted almost five years. 

"I went to my first sweat lodge a few years ago. Ceremonial music, or powwow music, I could never hear it. I could never hear the form of it. I tried to play along with it a few times over the years but after that sweat lodge I started hearing that form," Copenace said. 

"Whatever happened in that lodge, the focus or the prayer ... the form of the music stuck inside where all my music comes from. And from that time on, all my compositions ... seems to be coming from those melodies, seems to be coming from that place."

Click the Listen button above to hear Chuck Copenace's full conversation with Rosanna Deerchild.