Music is in the air at APTN. During the month of May, we’ll be featuring some of the best musical talent this country has to offer and some future contenders.

Many of the most talented musicians in Canada are from Aboriginal communities, and while our First Nations, Métis and Inuit artists have toiled in the industry for many years, often with much less recognition than they deserved, the tide is changing.

Take, for example, a longtime guitarist, singer and songwriter from Six Nations of the Grand River, Mohawk Territory, who has performed professionally since the early 90s, having toured with Buffy Sainte-Marie and having performed on and co-produced Keith Secola & the Wild Band’s album Fingermonkey (later earning a Juno for his own debut album no less).

You still may not have known or recognized this standout musician – until you saw him on national television at his blues/rock best, performing high above the crowds during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games closing ceremonies.

Who was that amazing guitarist?

No other than our own Derek Miller.

And, although she has been an incredible talent and accomplished musician from an early age, mainstream Canada is only just beginning to recognize the multiple facets of 20-year-old Métis fiddle virtuoso, singer/songwriter, Sierra Noble.

Having travelled the world and performed with the likes of Bruce Cockburn, Hawksley Workman, Kevin Breit and Ashley MacIsaac, Noble is (finally) stealing the hearts of music lovers across Canada, heralding praise for her debut single, Possibilities.

Thanks to music veterans like these, the road to stardom might not be as long for the many young artists now breaking onto the music scene.

APTN is also doing its part to help these artists gain the recognition they deserve through its Rising Stars concerts. Having taken place in the fall of 2009 and slated for broadcast on APTN May 8 at 8 p.m., Rising Stars is a spectacular two-hour concert, featuring performances and interviews with the best and brightest rising stars in the Aboriginal music community.

Introducing us to the bright stars of tomorrow, Rising Stars features performances by indie rockers Ghostkeeper and The Bastard Fairies; singer-songwriters Blair Goudie, Evan Reeve, Sonia Eidse and Jasmine Netsena; country music’s newest darling, Darrelyne Bickel; the man with the beats, DJ Madeskimo; cellist Cris Derksen; and hip-hop artist Lakota Jonez.

Performances are complemented with interviews and backstage footage, featuring hosts, country music star Crystal Shawanda and blues rocker George Leach.

In keeping with the music theme, APTN will also feature the NCI Jam on May 15 at 8 p.m. This two-hour music special spotlights homegrown amateur talent from all over Manitoba.

Featured in a professional venue, these up-and-coming musicians will showcase their ability to shine. Guest performers include Manitoba Aboriginal Music Hall of Fame inductee Gloria Dejarlais.

Later in the month, classical music aficionados are in for a treat as APTN broadcasts Harbourfront Centre Presents Maestro John Kim Bell, Saturday, May 29 at 8 p.m.

In this 90-minute special presentation, Mohawk symphonic conductor John Kim Bell returns to the podium after 12 years to celebrate Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre’s Planet IndigenUS Festival.

Maestro Bell, the world’s first professionally trained symphonic conductor of First Nations heritage, formerly associated with the Toronto Symphony and New York Philharmonic, features the talents of two sopranos of Aboriginal heritage: Melody Mercredi and Mavis Callihoo, and is accompanied by the 72-member Planet IndigenUS Festival Orchestra.

The concert features the works of Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Bernstein, Johann Strauss, Puccini and one of Maestro Bell’s own compositions.

Make sure to log on to www.aptn.ca to see our full northern schedule and more information on current programming and initiatives, contests and memberships.

For instance, we’re once again launching our annual Aboriginal Day Live Flag Contest. We invite all young people, aged 12 to 17, to design a flag reflecting their perspectives on the richness and diversity of Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples.

The winner will receive $500 and will be flown to Winnipeg to join APTN’s Aboriginal Day Live celebrations and, at the same time, see their flag fly over APTN headquarters.

The deadline is May 14 at midnight, eastern time.

More information is available at www.aboriginaldaylive.com/flagcontest.php .

Next month: Tune in for our country-wide celebration of National Aboriginal Day, Aboriginal Day Live!