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Student plays <em>Voyageur</em> at Studio Theatre presentation. In my old life as a production coordinator at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto, right about now I'd be scrambling to make sure we were all set to welcome crowds to Canada Day events and officially launch the summer season. It was during my years there that I conceived the Six String Nation project and so many aspects of its journey have been entwined with Harbourfront Centre ever since - from the Craft Studio residents who worked on various aspects of the construction and case and strap modifications to the times we were featured on its stages to the artists I came to know there who have since brought Voyageur to life at events across the country. But it's been a while since our last official visit so I was delighted to be invited to play a part in their Celebrate Multiculturalism Day event on Tuesday.

The day was a mix of activities starting with an indigenous sunrise ceremony and breakfast and ending with a huge public concert with Kardinal Offishall (who we shared the stage with last year on Canada Day on Parliament Hill!) but it was aimed also at school groups in the final throes of their school year - and that's where we came in. We did two packed presentations in the Studio Theatre for pre-registered school groups and that too turned into a bit of a nostalgia trip. My friend Jen Stein - who was producing the day - asked if we could do the presentation bilingually. My own French is regrettably poor but in years past we'd done bilingual presentations in New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and BC with our dear friend Gabriel Dube and this gave us a chance to kind of "get the band back together". It felt instantly familiar and went without a hitch.

That's not to say there weren't any hitches at all! Typically, when I do school presentations, there's a lot of communication between myself and the school in advance around tech and other issues including who will play Voyageur in the "performance pocket" at the end of the show. These can be students or teachers or ringers the school might bring in or some combination of the above. We talk it through to make sure the players are comfortable and prepared and that we're going to be able to cover the slide sequence that defines that part of the presentation. In this case that wasn't really possible. Multiple schools were attending each session and we didn't have any direct contact since this was more of a field trip for them. And their busy schedule elsewhere on the site before coming into the Studio Theatre meant that we didn't have time to meet before I'd call them up to the stage. All we had was two names put forward as volunteers to play - one for each session. The first session went pretty well. Student James Hayward (pictured) identified himself when called upon and came up to acquit himself admirably in an instrumental rendition of "Fly By Night" by Rush. It came up a little shorter than expected but he did a great job otherwise and was well received by his classmates and the others in the crowd. The second session didn't go quite so well. Whether it was simple shyness or a change of heart or full on stage fright I'm not sure, but our volunteer for the second session remained firmly in his seat in spite of the raucous encouragement of his classmates. Honestly, I don't need the players at these presentations to be virtuosi - it's really more about having the audience see the guitar that they've just learned the sweeping story of come to life in the hands of someone from their own specific community. It's a way of linking the national to the hyper local - all while faces of those who have done the same at events across the country scroll past on the screen in the form of the portraits - creating a kind of instant community of strangers. We were about to lose the opportunity to make that connection when a call went out and my friend Duncan Morgan - a theatre and sound technician and director recently returned to Harbourfront Centre after a stint at the Mississauga Living Arts Centre - appeared from backstage and stepped up to take Voyageur and play some wicked guitar to take us to the end of the segment. Duncan is a great guy and a great guitar player so that audience was lucky. But they were especially lucky since - and I did not know this - Duncan has his own issues with stage fright. I'm so honoured that by pushing through that curtain he pushed through something else as well and saved the day with music. Thanks a million, my friend, on so many levels.

Thanks to Jen, Duncan, Amanda, Bob, J.P., Laura, Steven and Iris from Harbourfront Centre for welcoming us back. Thanks to all the students, teachers and parents for attending the sessions - especially those who lingered after each session to ask questions, take pictures, tell stories and offer their wonderful feedback. And finally, thanks to David and Catherine for the simultaneous sign language translation.

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