Musician’s concert showcases talent and benefits Creative Kids

Musician’s concert showcases talent and benefits Creative Kids

June 13, 2024

This article was previously published as an advertorial in the Leader-Post here. 

For musician Donny Parenteau, putting on a concert featuring some of the province’s top Indigenous talents is an opportunity to support Creative Kids and help more children and youth facing financial barriers find their artistic passion.   

“I come from a family that couldn’t afford music lessons when I was a kid. Creative Kids didn’t exist then. I had to learn on my own and it took a lot longer,” he says. “All kids should have the opportunity to participate in an arts or cultural activity because it molds them into strong people and builds confidence.”   

Parenteau recognizes the importance of Creative Kids’ support. He and several other high profile Saskatchewan performers will be part of Indigenous Voices from Saskatchewan, on May 30 at Casino Regina, to raise funds to help more children and youth who face financial barriers to participate in arts and cultural activities. “This concert is very important to me because all children need a creative outlet, an opportunity to find their voice and passion.” 

Today, Parenteau is a well-known Métis country music artist, who is a multi-instrumentalist, playing guitar, fiddle and mandolin. Also a recognized singer and songwriter, he went on to become one of the highest nominated independent acts in Canada. “I eat, breathe and sleep music. There’s nothing sweeter than waking up on Monday morning wanting to go to my job, rather than having to go to my job.”  

He came to his passion for music early on and so did his drive to learn many instruments. Unlike his brothers, Parenteau was never very good at sports, so he joined the band program at his school, playing the baritone and then the trombone. Unable to read music, he says he learned by watching how his band mates moved their instruments. “I was extremely shy and I just wanted to do something where I could express myself. Thank God music was there for me, because it really helped mold me to who I am.” 

Even though his family couldn’t afford music lessons, at the age of 12, Parenteau had an opportunity to learn another instrument. “This guitar program came to Queen Mary School in Prince Albert. You had to sign out the guitar, then the music teacher would show you a couple of chords. You got to bring it home and bring it back the next day.” 

Shortly afterwards, the broken fiddle under his parents’ bed called to him. Begging his parents to fix it, they gave in. After Mr. Fergusson repaired it, Parenteau was sent off with the chords of the first part of a song to practice. The next day, he strapped his fiddle to his bike, eager to learn more of the song from Mr. Ferguson. “Basically within a day and a half I had a fiddle tune down. I knew there was something special about that instrument. The world stopped turning because all I did was play fiddle.” 

His aptitude for music didn’t go unnoticed. “My mom came to me and said, ‘Ferguson says you have a gift, but never take it for granted because it can be taken away as fast as you got it.’ And that’s what kept me humble all through my journey.”  

By age 19, Parenteau was in the Grant and Sean Carson band playing for a living. Lucky opportunities continued when he met country music legend Neal McCoy and was asked to try out for his band. Even though McCoy could not afford a fiddle player at the time, the band recognized Parenteau’s talent and took a pay cut to ensure they secured his musical skills.  

“When I look back in time to when I started playing music, it was almost like I was supposed to play this style of music to be ready for when I met Neal McCoy. I didn’t play Canadian-style fiddle. It was always American-style fiddle playing I was drawn to.” 

In 2003, after traveling the world, he started a solo career, staying closer to home after starting a family and teaching music. In 2013, Parenteau became a registered service provider with Creative Kids to help families access funding for lessons. “I had students’ parents that would call me and say, ‘I’m sorry we have to pull them for a couple of months because we just don’t have enough money to pay for the lessons.’ That always broke my heart because the student would want to keep playing and wouldn’t get that opportunity.” 

Ensuring all kids can participate in an artistic activity is one of the reasons why he wanted to do the benefit concert, Indigenous Voices of Saskatchewan, on May 30. The other was to showcase the multi-genre Indigenous artists from the province. Taking place at the Casino Regina Show Lounge, the concert will feature the musical talents of Parenteau, his daughter Julianna (pop), Val Halla (rock), JJ Lavallee (country), Teagan Littlechief (country), Andrew “The Journalist” Russell (hip hop), Krystle Pederson (folk/pop) and Dillon Gazandlare (rock).