Firing up a youthful musical passion in the frozen North

Kole Crook Fiddle Association helps students make ‘great advances through music’

Dec. 31, 2001 was a terrible day for the Northwest Territories music community.

But out of grief came resolve—and out of the sudden silence, a steady stream of harmony continues to this day.

“He was a very dear friend. One of the best fiddlers in the Northwest Territories . . . and a wonderful guy. An unassuming, humble guy—and a real gentleman,” says Lewis Beck, recalling his friend Kole Crook, who died at the age of 27 in a plane crash while en route from Fort Good Hope to Tulita to play a New Year’s Eve dance.

“When we held a memorial for him at Hay River, the tributes poured in from across Canada,” adds Beck. “He touched so many lives.”

The story did not end on that bleak winter day, thanks to the commitment of a great many volunteers. In February 2003, Beck and Stella Pellissey, Crook’s girlfriend, helped establish the Kole Crook Fiddle Association (KCFA)—a society dedicated to passing on that musical passion to Northern youth.

This year alone, the KCFA counts about 300 student fiddlers aged 7 through 19 in a dozen communities, including Wrigley, Tulita, Fort Simpson, Fort Liard, Hay River, Sambaa K’e and Behchoko. The experience has these kids and teens hitting the right notes—and not just with rosin and a bow.

“As a retired teacher, I know how strong an impact music has on children’s lives,” says Gerda Hazenberg, KCFA president. “It gives them self-confidence, discipline, the ability to communicate better with others, a positive self-image. They’ve made such great advances through music.”

The KCFA organizes a number of year-round activities, including:

  • Teaching tours, held four times a year using qualified fiddle instructors, for both youths and adults in all KCFA communities;
  • An annual midwinter jamboree in January, which this year saw students from seven communities getting musical tips from eight instructors; and
  • Special performances at business and government conferences, as the opportunity arises.

Enbridge is committed to enhancing quality of life in the communities near our operations and projects, including the Line 21 (Norman Wells Pipeline) Segment Replacement Project.

In 2017, we invested more than $125,000 in community-strengthening initiatives across the Northwest Territories, and in recent months we made a $2,500 donation to the Pehdzeh Ki First Nation to help support the KCFA’s ongoing operations.

“When we started holding our winter jamborees, the students from the small communities would cluster together and avoid the other students, because they were so isolated,” says Hazenberg. “But now, they look forward to seeing each other at these events. They share tunes together. They’ll get together and collaborate during the talent showcase on the Saturday night.

“This is really building an identity in the communities of the North.”

(TOP PHOTO: The KCFA's 2018 fiddle jamboree took place in Fort Simpson, NT, from Jan. 12 to 14, with students from Tulita, Sombaa K’e, Hay River, Behchoko, Fort Simpson, Yellowknife, and Fort Providence being taught by eight fiddle instructors. Afterward, two KCFA instructors travelled to Fort Resolution for a week of teaching in that community's school.)