Students in Selkirk College’s SOAR Program and Canadian recording artist Shawn Hook connected virtually earlier this month in a shared passion for the power of music.
The Steps to Opportunities, Academics & Readiness (SOAR) Program includes hands-on, experiential education designed to prepare students for success in a variety of workplace, volunteer and community settings. With classes in Trail, Grand Forks, Castlegar and Nelson, one of the weekly activities learners engage in is the SOAR Signing Glee Club.
After recording a video of the club’s sign language interpretation of Hook’s latest single “Take Me Home,” the class reached out to the West Kootenay-born musician to share their work. Impressed, the gracious pop star accepted an invitation to connect via Zoom for a chat about his life growing up in the Slocan Valley and a career that has taken him around the world.
“It was pretty awesome, he made the students feel really special and getting to ask him questions was so great,” says Nelson SOAR Instructor Alison Roy. “The students really felt like he appreciated the work we put into preparing this song for glee club. It really felt like he is also a fan of ours and that is very sweet.”
A talented high school musician, Hook attended Mount Sentinel Secondary and then went on to study in Selkirk College’s School of University Arts & Sciences. Releasing his first album in 2006, Hook has enjoyed a successful career as a singer, songwriter and producer. Currently splitting his time between Los Angeles and Vancouver, he released his latest album Take Me Home in October 2020.
Connecting virtually with students in the first week of March from his place in California, SOAR students from across the region spent more than an hour asking a variety of questions. Topics ranged from who he would most like to tour with, what instruments he plays, how the pandemic has impacted him, his favourite place to perform, how long it takes to produce a music video and how he managed to get his dad’s vintage Firebird for the “Take Me Home” video.
In their time together, SOAR students found out that Hook is a passionate Vancouver Canucks fan, one of his favourite bands is The Beatles, that his most memorable performance was at Red Rocks in Colorado before 9,000 fans, that Yum Son in Nelson is one of his go-to restaurants, and that his hobbies are hockey and cooking. He told SOAR students about the time he and some friends started a boy-band at Mount Sentinel, but after rehearsing were too scared to perform live.
Asking almost as many questions of the students that were asked of him, the Zoom session was bubbling with excitement for all involved.
“I was really impressed by the signing glee club’s performance of my song ‘Take Me Home,’” says Hook. “As a former Selkirk College student, it brought back fond memories of my college days in the Kootenays.”
The SOAR Signing Glee Club is in its fourth year of practicing/performing and prior to the pandemic, it was only the Nelson-based learners who participated. One of the unexpected benefits of the shift to a hybrid model of learning that mixes in-person with online, is that over the last year all campuses have gotten involved.
“The glee club builds a sense of community, we come together in a unified group with a common goal,” says Roy, who leads the club with fellow instructor Lisa Young. “It’s a great outlet for students to just move their bodies, laugh together, smile together and be proud together.”
Though the glee club has performed songs from artists like Ed Sheeran, John Lennon and Sister Sledge, it will be hard to top the experience they had meeting a performer who shared genuine excitement for their efforts.
“Many of the students were big fans of his music and they were pretty stoked, they feel he is a real gem from this area and meeting him was pretty special,” says Roy, adding that the video for Hook’s latest song features locations from around the West Kootenay which really resonated with the class. “After spending that quality time with Shawn, the students who didn’t really know him very well before this are really big fans of his now.”
You can learn more about the Selkirk College SOAR Program at: https://selkirk.ca/program/soar