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The bond between Selkirk College and Rwanda’s Nyundo School of Music

Gilles Parenteau and Jacques Murigande alias Mighty Popo, director of the Nyundo school, share a photo together. — Submitted photo

A visit to Rwanda’s Nyundo School of Music by a group of Selkirk College students has caught the eye of a Canada's only national weekly current affairs magazine.

Maclean's magazine recently published a story of how Selkirk College music instructor Gilles Parenteau brokered a deal between the college, Rwandan government and an arts program at Rwanda’s Nyundo School of Music in Rubavu.

Maclean's story focused on how the Contemporary Music & Technology Program instructor at Selkirk College created the bond between the two  schools, which included the spitballing of muscial ideas between students and staff as well as the sharing of information, studies and cultural tours.

In February 2017, Parenteau and a group of Selkirk College students are heading back to visit Rwanda’s Nyundo School of Music for the second annual collaboration between the schools.

The return trip holds even greater significance, as the Selkirk students will be playing music with the Nyundo school’s first graduating class since the school opened in 2014.

“The big thing is this year is the first graduating class for year three, and they make a big deal out of it and we’ll be there for the graduation ceremony which will be really cool,” said Parenteau the Selkirk College Tenth Street Camp instructor.

This musical journey, which began in September 2015, took flight in March of 2016.

Several Selkirk students and Parenteau traveled to the African nation to make some music with the members of the school, and in September of this year the Rwandans made the trip to Nelson.

Changes for this year’s trip include more of a focus on creating original music and possibly an album.

“This time I’m going to go in and bring some of our curriculum over and teach a little more,” said Parenteau.

"They play a Thursday night gig every week, which is fun, so this time I’d like to bring more of a band or people that already have some repertoire together to have more fun.

“Last year was a blast but it’d be great to go in with more tunes under our belt," he added.

"If we do this album project and tour then it’s going to be bigger groups and a different time of the year, to be able to record things together and so on.”

Selkirk College is currently the only school in Canada that participates in the exchange, which is impressive for a the tiny college in a town of only 10,000 people.

Unfortunately, as with any program that involves this much intercontinental travel, acquiring the required funds is proving to be rather difficult.

Parenteau explained that in order for this dream to continue, the Federal government needs to provide some financial assistance.

“We’re looking at making this last," Parenteau said.

"It’s going to take some outside help from federal grants and stuff to help keep it going, between teachers and students."

“We’ve done some fundraising and the college, there are some grants for traveling students studying abroad while they’re at Selkirk. We look into those as well, and The Federal government has some new grants that we are eligible for because we do have an agreement in place between Rwanda and Selkirk.”

Where the money is really needed involves the Rwandan students coming back to Canada.

Parenteau told The Nelson Daily that because the students are from another country — despite the agreement already in place between the schools — the Rwandans don’t qualify for any of the aforementioned grants.

“We need to find other ways to bring them here. I’m sure hoping they’re going to be here next fall,” said Parenteau.

Parenteau hopes that a video of the two groups singing the national anthemsof both countries will help inspire people to get involved and support the program.

“The one that they’re singing is their new anthem because they re-wrote the anthem after the genocide," Parenteau said.

"There’s really never been any accompaniment done for it so this is all new, and of course having the two anthems on top of each other at the end of the video is a cool part."