Well, it certainly has been a while since I sent out a newsletter, and I hope this letter finds you well. Firstly, let me wish you all a Happy New Year, one that brings health and happiness in its many forms to you and your loved ones. We certainly need it after some of the awful things that have been happening all over the world this past year. Many people have been saying “good riddance” to 2016, and for those reasons, I agree. But, amidst the upsetting news stories and suffering that continues on our planet, I have also found much happiness and joy this year, in which I have been revelling.
As I mentioned above, it’s been a while since I sent out a newsletter. In fact, I just checked back on my website to see exactly when I sent my last newsletter and it was October 2015! So, it’s been over a year since I have written you. Those of you who know me well, are aware that over the past year, and in fact, the last couple of years, I have made some difficult decisions that resulted in big changes in my life. It was not an easy time and I struggled incredibly with the tension between wanting to somehow make other people happy while at the same time, trying to meet my own needs for growth, forward movement, and fulfillment. And, while the journey was fraught with difficulty and pain--both mine and others’--I understood deep inside me that, in the end, I had to follow my own heart’s compass. While these personal challenges were going on, I continued to feel the pull to move back east to Ontario, the land on which I grew up. I had been feeling that draw for quite some time but it was unclear for quite a while how I might make it happen.
Last winter, just before defending my master’s thesis at UBC, I applied for the PhD program at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at University of Toronto, proposing to conduct research on how collaborative songwriting and performance might assist youth in making sense of their identities, and encourage civic engagement and involvement in social justice movements. Then, in the early spring of 2016, I received a personal email from one of the professors at OISE giving me a heads up that they were going to offer me an admission package. This was incredible news for me: I was going to be starting a doctoral program! If someone had told me back in high school that I would be starting a PhD at age 45, in conjunction with living the precarious life of a musician, I never would have believed them…in fact, I never would have believed that I would have done most of the stuff I’ve done over the past decade and a half. This is what I think is so amazing about our lives: we just never know where our dreams and actions will lead us; we never know what the universe has in store for us.
So in July, I packed up my little apartment in Kitsilano, Vancouver, and after an amazing backcountry-hiking-car-camping-combo-roadtrip in the Kootenays, and a gorgeous kayak trip on Lake Huron with some lovely people, I landed in Toronto this past September in a little bachelor apartment four blocks from the OISE campus. A number of years ago, when I was starting out as a singer-songwriter, a longtime publicist in Toronto told me I should move there to immerse myself in the music scene, and I responded with an adamant, “No-freaking-way!” And now, here I am: living in the city I never imagined living in. And what a pleasant surprise—I love Toronto! It’s vibrant, busy (with pockets of quiet), and I have found the people here to be incredibly friendly. As always, I mostly depend on my bike for transportation and I have become one of those people who even rides in the winter!
I just successfully completed the first semester of my PhD and have spent the winter holiday doing some snowshoeing, and getting back on my snowboard at Chicopee Ski Hill, which is the hill I grew up skiing on when I lived in Ontario as a young person. What a trip to go from boarding in the Kootenays, the north shore mountains in Vancouver, and Whistler, to the landfill-turned-ski-hill that is Chicopee! It was surreal riding the chairlift up for the first few times: I kept expecting the lift to continue going after we approached the top of the hill but it didn’t—we had to get off after only a couple minutes on the lift! And, I remember the slopes looking so much bigger and steeper when I was a kid. Regardless, it was a joy to be there again, to be at the top and look out over the sparkling lights of the city of Kitchener. And the cold, snowy wind! I have missed this snow and these blustery Ontario days and nights.
And so, onto a bit of music news…
Over the past year, I have written a ton of songs: many of my own and some, in collaboration with others. At some point, I will work on recording a new album, but for now, I am simply enjoying the process of getting together with people, listening to their stories, and translating them into songs. The process of writing collaboratively with other people is very gratifying for me and feels like an important way to narrate the experiences of others in a celebratory and healing way. I recently began a songwriting project with Benjamin Lee Hicks, whom I met at OISE. Benjamin is a Toronto artist, graduate student, and teacher who writes beautiful poetry and creates stunning visual art, among other things. Here is Benjamin’s website for you to check out their work: http://leehicks.weebly.com .
As well, Dr. Tara Goldstein, a professor at OISE, has commissioned me to write a song based on some research data she collected in the form of interviews with LGBTQ families regarding their experiences related to the public school system. Tara’s research lies in the area of what is termed “performed ethnography” where a play script is created from ethnographic research, the play is then performed, followed by a discussion of the content of the play. I am working with some select interview pieces from Tara’s research that she gave me in order to compose this new song. On Sunday, January 22nd at OISE, Tara, along with her research team and interviewees will be presenting select interview scripts, and I will be performing the new song at this event as well. Here is the website that exemplifies Tara’s current research project on LGBTQ families’ experiences in schools: http://www.lgbtqfamiliesspeakout.ca .
If you or someone you know—maybe even a group of people—might be interested in writing a song with me, I would love to hear from you. Please check out this page on my website for more details on how it works: http://www.katereid.net/our_lives_in_song .
Amidst my graduate studies at OISE, I am doing a few performances here and there. If you would like me to come to your house and give an acoustic concert, we can certainly talk about that, just email me or message me on Facebook.
Saturday, January 7 – 6:30-9pm
95 King St., E.
Admission at the door: free for youth/adults suggested donation: $20
With storyteller and performer, Ivan Coyote (https://www.ivancoyote.com)
Sunday, January 22 – 1:00-4pm
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education - University of Toronto
252 Bloor Street, W., Nexus Lounge - 12th floor
Along with a showcasing of artwork by Toronto artist, Benjamin Lee Hicks, Kate will be performing a short selection of songs in support of a staged reading of excerpts from Dr. Tara Goldstein's verbatim theatre script entitled, Out of School.
Thursday, April 13 – 7:00-10pm
Halton District School Board - Queer Prom
Georgetown District Secondary School
70 Guelph St.
Admission: free with admission to the prom
Kate will be performing a short set for students and staff at Halton District School Board's Queer Prom.
Friday, May 5 – all day
Upper Grand District School Board - Rainbow Coalition Conference
500 Victoria Rd., North
Kate will be delivering a keynote address and facilitating a writing workshop for the Upper Canada District School Board's Rainbow Coalition Conference.
Grants for school performances
If you or anyone would like to invite me to come and give a performance and/or workshops at your schools, I would love to arrange this with you. Several school boards in Ontario have brought me to their schools with grant money they have received from their communities or the Ontario Ministry of Education. For example, the Speak Up Project grant gives money to schools to help students lead projects that make a difference in their schools. The deadline for this grant application is coming up quickly: January 13, 2017 before midnight, EST! Here is the link: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/students/speakup/projects.html .
Well, that’s it from here. The snow is swirling outside and I’m onto tackle some other work at my desk. I hope each of you has a lovely day and that 2017 brings much joy, laughter, inspiration, learning, and love to your lives. Let us all keep working and hoping for peace and positive change out there in the world, in all of the big and small ways that we can. Benjamin Lee Hicks calls us to engage in “increased kindness in general” so I’m going with that.
Yours in music,