FAIRBANKS — A music program geared toward teaching Athabascan fiddle playing to Native youth is picking up steam around the state and looking for a little support.
The Dancing with the Spirit program teaches guitar, fiddle and singing to students in Bush villages. The program is hosting an Athabascan Fiddle Dance fundraiser from 7:30-11 p.m. Tuesday at Chief David Salmon Tribal Hall with dancing, a silent auction and a cake walk. The first hour of the dance will feature young musicians.
Dancing with the Spirit’s goal is to have more fiddle music camps, young bands and school programs for Alaska youth.
“In the old days, we fought tribal wars with arrowheads. It’s a different type of war now, against drugs and alcohol. I believe we can win with music,” the Rev. Trimble Gilbert of Arctic Village said.
In the past six years, Dancing with the Spirit has traveled to 22 villages, plus reached out to the Native communities in Fairbanks and Anchorage with music camps. Villages included in the program include Allakaket, Anvik, Arctic Village, Beaver, Chalkyitsik, Chenega, Circle, Eagle, Fort Yukon, Grayling, Hughes, Huslia, Kaltag, Koyukuk, McGrath, Manley Hot Springs, Minto, Nuiqsut, Nulato, Stevens Village, Tanana and Venetie. This past school year, the program traveled to 17 villages and Anchorage — including going twice to four of the villages.
Al Strack, the Nuiqsut principal, called the program the best he has eve seen in his 11 years of teaching on the North Slope.
This week, Dancing with the Spirit is in Tanana with staff members Gilbert, his wife, Mary, and the Rev. Belle Mickelson. A few weeks ago, Willie Fields from Circle and Gordon Druck from Chalkyitsik traveled with Mickelson to Beaver to teach students to “play jig.”
“The students have so much fun playing and dancing that we want to keep this traditional music going in all the villages,” Mickelson said.
Donations and silent auction items for the fundraiser can be delivered to The Episcopal Diocese of Alaska office, 1205 Denali Way or to St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, 1029 First Ave. Call Mickelson for more information at 388-3347.
If you go:
What: Fundraiser for Dancing with the Spirit, an Athabascan fiddle music program for Alaska youth
When: 7:30-11 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Chief David Salmon Tribal Hall