On the first Saturday of every month, Dawson City residents have the opportunity to come together and enjoy an evening of family-friendly fun.
Coffee houses are events organized by various members of the Dawson City community, which take place at the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture (KIAC) from September to April, with the last show being held next week.
“You bring your creativity with you,” says Nijen Holland, a local musician who plays each month as a solo musician, as well as with his band The Riverbends.
“The appreciation of the audience comes back to you no matter who you are; you’re there to give and share your thing,” Holland says.
The idea for a coffee house started in 2006, when Holland, along with locals Marjorie Logue and Kim Hart decided to organize an alcohol-free evening of fun where anyone could showcase a talent — be it music, storytelling or juggling. They called it a coffee house to indicate that kids could come, too.
“It’s magical,” says Holland. “You never know who’s going to show up or what will happen, but it’s always worth it.”
The premise is simple: anyone who wants to go on stage lets the master of ceremonies know. They are then included in the line-up on a first come, first served basis.
“We usually schedule the kids first, though,” Holland says.
This allows families to get home in plenty of time for bed.
Each performer can play three songs, or have up to 10 minutes on stage.
Peter Menzies, the shop teacher at the Robert Service School and a local musician, brings his fiddle class every month to perform.
“Performing is big part of learning an instrument,” says Menzies. “For the kids, it’s a good motivator to play every month. They usually give their best performance at the coffee house.”
Menzies also helps organize the event by sending out advertising emails, putting together the evening’s line-up, and getting up on stage to host. He insists, however, that there really is no formal organization.
“No one owns the coffee house,” he says. “You show up at 6 p.m. to help set up, and you help take down at 9 p.m.”
Menzies, who is a long-time resident of Dawson, also has his finger on the pulse of the Yukon music scene due to his association with the Dawson City Music Festival, and the local radio station CFYT-FM. He has therefore, on occasion, invited a well-known name to the coffee house to try a song or two.
“I bring in the industry talent,” says Menzies with a chuckle.
But a coffee house evening is not just about fun and performance — it’s also about the spirit of giving.
KIAC donates the hall for free and no one, not even the established musicians, gets paid. There’s a donation jar and each month the contents are given to a different cause in the community.
“Nothing is kept,” Holland says. “Whether it’s music or money, we always share it back.”
For more information contact the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture at