Born in Canada, raised in Africa, and educated in Calgary and Houston, Samantha has been praised for creating truly unique and totally engaging experiences for young audiences. Samantha Whelan Kotkas (M. Music, B. Music) is a teaching artist, trumpet player, storyteller, and producer. She has been a teaching artist for the National Arts Centre of Canada since 2005 and finds the cross-cultural work she has done as part of this program very meaningful. In 2011-12, she co-produced a project in Calgary with high school band director Ross McIntyre, ‘From Blue to Red’ (www.frombluetored.net / www.dubleuaurouge.net) in collaboration with the Canadian Space Agency and the Calgary Board of Education. The resulting book and eBook won the Alberta Book Publishing Award for Best Children and Young Adult Book of the Year in 2013. She is also the Education Advisor for Calgary Pro Musica where she works with the Young Artist Development Program nurturing and promoting young Calgary musicians.
Samantha’s trumpet playing has taken her all over the world. She has performed across Canada as far north as Nunavut as well as Japan, Europe, the United States, and Mexico. A passionate producer and storyteller, she has performed her works with some of Alberta’s finest jazz musicians, the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and Calgary Pro Musica Society. She is a full-time member of the Red Deer Symphony and Altius Brass. In her free time she can be found, with her husband, cheering on her two daughters in gymnastics and hockey.
Sherryl Sewepagaham is of Cree-Dene ancestry from the Little Red River Cree Nation in northern Alberta. She holds a Bachelor of Music Therapy (Capilano University) and a Bachelor of Education (University of Alberta). Having taught elementary music for 14 years in Edmonton, Sherryl is an experienced elementary Music Educator focusing on Indigenous Music Education and drum songs for the classroom. Now as an emerging Music Therapist, she will begin her work in Early Education and Attachment Disorders in the music therapy field.
Sherryl is also a 20-year member of the 2005 Juno-nominated, Edmonton-based trio Asani and composes drum songs in the Cree language. Asani received a 2010 Canadian Folk Music Award, a 2010 Indian Summer Music Award, a 2005 Canadian Aboriginal Music Award, and many other music awards nominations. Asani toured extensively around the world performing at Carnegie Hall in New York, The Kennedy Centre in Washington D.C., and the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver BC.
Sherryl is also a composer of traditional and contemporary First Nations drum songs. Her 2014 debut solo album, Splashing the Water Loudly, received a 2015 Indigenous Music Award nomination and is featured in APTN’s Chaos and Courage series. Sherryl wrote the music and lyrics for the National Arts Centre’s Music Alive Program (MAP) song, “Music Alive”, which has been shared with elementary schools across Canada. Sherryl also created and co-created three teacher resources for the MAP program and continues to develop cultural programs for music teachers.
Walter MacDonald White Bear is a Cree singer-songwriter, educator, and motivational speaker originally from the First Nation of Moose Factory, Ontario. Walter has been performing acoustic and flute music for many years. His music is a reflection of his personal journey as a First Nations person in Canada. Performance highlights include The Edmonton Folk Music Festival, The Chiefs Summit with Tom Jackson, The Dream Speakers Festival, The Mountain Song Native Theater, and the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education. Walter has shared his cultural knowledge with various audiences from correctional services to principals, teachers and students. He has been invited to give keynote speeches on a range of topics, including social services, justice, education, wellness and the environment.