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In Conversation With Duke Redbird And Andrew Balfour

Storytelling can take many forms, and music is no exception. Whether it’s a full composition or just one note, music has the power to move and challenge listeners to see (and hear) the world in a different light.

We invited you to join us for this intimate conversation between Elder Duke Redbird and renowned music composer Andrew Balfour, which was be moderated by Kerry Potts.

This conversation explored each of these artists’ careers and the creative collaborations they have undertaken that have united diverse mediums, geographies and cultures, while exploring the ways in which music serves as a vital channel for education, politics, cultural memory, and spirit.

This conversation was part of the Wigwam Chi-Chemung Indigenous Interpretive Learning Centre and Floating Art Installation in partnership with Elder Duke Redbird.


Elder Dr. Duke Redbird is an established Indigenous intellectual, poet, painter, broadcaster, filmmaker and keynote speaker, he brings his breadth of cultural knowledge and artistic practice to the benefit of a global audience.
He works as a multifaceted artist, practicing across a number of disciplines including literature, painting, theatre, cinema and most recently rap poetry. A well-known Canadian broadcaster and television personality, he is in demand as a keynote speaker in corporate, industry, and educational settings. As a poet, essayist and screenwriter, Dr. Redbird has published and performed poetry readings, theatrical productions, video and film, both locally and internationally.
In 2020 the album Refuge was released by the band, Sultans Of String and features the musical version of Elder Redbird’s poem the Power of the Land. Earlier this year Elder Redbird also published, Duke Redbird Poetry.
Since 2014, Dr. Redbird has been the Indigenous Arts Consultant for the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and is the Artist in Residence at the Urban Indigenous Education Centre.

Andrew Balfour, who is of Cree descent, has written a body of more than 30 choral, instrumental and orchestral works, including Take the Indian, Empire Étrange: The Death of Louis Riel, Migiis: A Whiteshell Soundscape, Bawajigaywin, Gregorio’s Nightmare, Wa Wa Tey Wak (Northern Lights), Fantasia on a Poem by Rumi, Missa Brevis and Medieval Inuit. He has been commissioned by the Winnipeg, Regina and Toronto Symphony Orchestras, Ensemble Caprice, the Winnipeg Singers, the Kingston Chamber Choir, Tafelmusik, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Vancouver Chamber Choir, Luminous Voices and Camerata Nova, among many others. His works have been performed and/or broadcast locally, nationally and internationally.
Andrew is also the founder and Artistic Director of the innovative, 14-member vocal group Camerata Nova. Founded in 1996, Winnipeg-based Camerata Nova presents an annual concert series as well as special performances. With CamerataNova,Andrew specializes in creating “concept concerts” (Wa Wa Tey Wak (Northern Lights), Medieval Inuit, Chant!, Tricksters and Troubadours ) exploring a theme through an eclectic array of music, including new works, arrangements and innovative inter-genre and interdisciplinary collaborations.
Andrew is passionate about music education and outreach, particularly in schools located in low-income areas of Winnipeg and northern communities. Since 2008 he has worked on behalf of organizations such as the National Arts Centre, Camerata Nova, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and various Manitoba school divisions, offering young students empowering sessions in the joy and freedom of self-expression through music.
Andrew was Curator and Composer-in-Residence of the WSO’s Indigenous Festivals in 2009 and 2010 and in 2007 received the Mayor of Winnipeg’s Making a Mark Award, sponsored by the Winnipeg Arts Council to recognize the most promising midcareer artist in the City. In 2017, Andrew was awarded the Canadian Senate artistic achievement medal.



Kerry Potts is a professor in the Liberal Studies department at Humber College, and has worked in the Indigenous-led social services and arts sectors in T’karonto for over 20 years. She was a contributing writer to Coach House Book’s recent anthology Indigenous Toronto: Stories That Carry This Place, which highlights the incredible contributions made by leaders like Duke Redbird, Pauline Shirt and Tanya Senk.

Museum of Toronto is made possible with the generous support of Diane Blake and Stephen Smith.

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