Often Whitewater Wednesday Jam Night attracts musicians who are just passing through or are in the Yukon for only a short time, but want to share their talent. Adrienne Levay may only be here until the end of the summer, but her singing and guitar playing is leaving an impression.
Originally from Edmonton, Levay is in Whitehorse for an internship in health promotion, as part of her master’s program in Global Health at University of Alberta. While she’s here, she decided to check out the open mike and perform.
“I was just starting Grade 10 when I started playing and I’ve been hacking away at it ever since,” she tells me, as she sips tea on the sidewalk outside Baked Café.
“I saw Lilith Fair on CBC and I remembered thinking, I have to start learning guitar. Women singers seem so strong; I felt I could play guitar as well as them and be powerful as well. I was an insecure teenage girl and this was how I could stand out and be significant.
“But my parents wouldn’t buy me one for the longest time because I quit everything,” she explains. “But I played all the time. I didn’t even do my schoolwork, at least I don’t remember studying. I was too busy being in a band.”
That first band was called Juno Beach, an established band of older guys, with Levay’s vocals. Later she formed her own band with friends, and left university at 17 to pursue a musical career. “I wanted to be a rock star.”
Inspired by her favourite female singer-songwriters, she learned their songs, like Jewel’s Morning Song and Dolly Parton’s Jolene. She also wrote her own songs, some of which she still plays.
Weren’t Meant for Greatness is a funny, catchy, anti-inspiration song. “We’re told by adults all our lives that we do whatever we want and be great, but I decided I don’t need that kind of pressure,” she says with a huge smile.
But her musical career didn’t take off as she thought it might. “After a few years of not trying that hard, I had a few gigs but I didn’t market myself hard, didn’t do any recordings. I’d given up.” Instead, she decided to return to university and pursue the academic life.
Still, Levay hasn’t given up music entirely. “I’ve picked up the guitar again, when I’m stressed and not sleeping as much and I need something calming and peaceful. It’s inspiring me to say, ‘Hey maybe I’m not too old to give it a shot’. But I have no career goal in music. I want to get a job without homework and pay off my student loans.”
She finishes her internship at the end of the summer, and then goes on to Bangladesh to do research on maternal malnutrition.
After spending the winter in Edmonton, writing her thesis, who knows? She may come back to snowboard or to enjoy the bustle and street fare from the sausage cart on Main Street. Or, if we’re lucky, she’ll form another band and come back and perform.