Drop In, Turn On and Jam Out

On some days, the wind blows from the north. A Whitehorse legend that drifts down the road is this: music and art are taught with passion and respected for their true value. Are there really open mic nights happening all over town?

Was it true that graffiti doesn’t get covered up after two days?

After living here for a few years, I’m beginning to understand what this means.

The ideas that being classy doesn’t presume wealth and that high culture isn’t inextricably linked to status have been so refreshing. Whitehorse seems to breed down-to-earth sensibility with a wealth of collected know-how from the rest of the country and beyond.

A scenery of natural beauty provides the backdrop for anyone seeking inspiration, and music pours out of people. Naturally, we can’t help getting together.

So, pick a free night: Tuesdays cater to hard blues rockers down at the Boiler Room Bar in the Yukon Inn. On Wednesdays, the local talent convenes at Epic Pizza in Riverdale, for a charming and eclectic assortment of music.

Lighter folk rock sounds purr along Main St., wafting out of the Gold Rush and the Town and Mountain Lounge on Thursdays and Fridays respectively.

And if you can make the drive, the Saturday evening gathering is at the Cut Off Restaurant and Pub, which is located on the Alaska Highway at the Carcross cutoff.

My personal favourite, however, is Sunday Jam at the 98 Hotel. It starts at 4 p.m. and goes until 8 p.m., but if often continues later into the night. Collaborators, improvisors and experienced performers are all welcome.

Music, like magic, transcends the ego. Even if you don’t consider yourself a musician, you might be enticed to pick up an instrument.

I love asking people if they like music because the answer invariably coming back to me is: “What kind of question is that?!” Correct, fellow human. Some perspectives on the topic include the following: “You can know a person, and learn a little bit about yourself;” “We need music to search within ourselves;” “Good music is like lounging in the sun, floating on an inner tube with just enough of your body under the water to keep cool;” and “I’ve been playing since I was 7.”

Many who don’t play an instrument will eventually admit they did learn piano, or guitar or something delightfully irreverent like bassoon in their youth, but without constant pressure from instructors they’ve let it fall by the wayside, assuming adultish duties.

But as anyone who has ever heard a song from their childhood on the radio and felt that thrill of nostalgia will attest, music builds strong memories. They get lost, but never forgotten.

In high school, I hated (almost) every minute of learning to play woodwinds, but with a recent happy accident and a slight push, I picked one up again. I look back at that moment as the turning point. Once you light it yourself, the fire doesn’t easily die.I urge you to dust off the instrument you’ve been neglecting; you won’t regret it. There is a wonderfully supportive community of musicians in Whitehorse who’ll encourage aspiring rock stars at every step.

If you don’t believe me, try coming just once to Arts in the Park for free music and sunshine. This celebration of music and visual arts takes place every weekday from 12 to 1pm at the Lepage Park, in downtown Whitehorse from May through August.

musician rocking the jam night

Nothing brings people together like live music. A choice song makes our brains light up with energy; though they immediately dissolve into the air, no notes are ever wasted. We build close relationships upon similar tastes. An article by Richard Powers entitled: Use It or Lose It: Dancing Makes You Smarter describes how dancing into your golden years staves off Alzheimer’s, unlike any other physical activity.

It has been said that music is the only sensual pleasure without vice. I tend to agree. I have met people struggling with terrible addictions, but whenever we make music together they forget for a moment the gnawing pit of desperation demanding to be filled with whatever substance they choose to abuse. Music can be a wonderful tool to help break unhealthy cycles of consumption.

This positive impact on our community is hard to downplay. Music lets us be ourselves, together. Play on, friends.

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