Program: Faculty of Music
Bio: Jeremy Allen is an active flautist, saxophonist and pedagogue in the West-man region of Manitoba. Deeply invested in musical excellence, Jeremy dabbles in all facets of music from composition, to performance, to music education, to musicology, living to become the “total musician.” Finding his first home on Mosakahiken Cree Nation, Jeremy is dedicated to honouring his roots as an Inuit artist consistently finding ways to incorporate Indigenous traditions into performances of western classical music. Currently enrolled in the Bachelor of Flute Performance at Brandon University under the tutelage of Professor Nancy Hennen, Jeremy has maintained an active performing career in Manitoba but has also appeared in ensembles or as a soloist in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Ontario, North Dakota, and South Dakota, with his high point being a front row performer with the National Youth Band of Canada, 2021. Coming up Jeremy is auditioning for his Masters in Wind Conducting across Canada with the hopes of someday pursuing a doctorate to become a university band director. Jeremy’s primary teachers for flute have been Nancy Hennen, Dr. Lisa Bost-Sandberg, and Laurel Ridd, Saxophone; Dr. Matthew Steckler, and Dr. Wendy McCallum, and Conducting; Dr. Wendy McCallum and Dr. Andree Dagenais.
Jeremy was raised in Mosakahiken Cree Nation, which is nine hours north of Brandon, Manitoba. He spent the first seven years of his life in Mosakahiken and then lived in The Pas, Manitoba. His mom is Inuit and his dad is white. Jeremy left The Pas to attend Brandon University. Growing up on the reserve, he learned most of the Cree teachings.
One of the hardest things was to climatize myself to social structures in a non-reserve setting. In The Pas, our population of Indigenous people is much higher. Coming to Brandon where there are less people like me was the biggest challenge. People here are great, the faculty are awesome, we have some really great Indigenous role models on Faculty which is great. They really help us.
Why did you choose your program of study?
Jeremy took an unconventional pathway to the Faculty of Music, but there were always supportive Brandon University faculty along the way encouraging him in his journey towards music.
I was enrolled in the Bachelor of Science program when I was first accepted to Brandon University. I applied as a biology major and a chemistry minor. After getting accepted to BU, I went to the Manitoba Senior Honour Concert Band in my Grade 12 year and Dr. Wendy McCallum was conducting. We all know Dr. McCallum is the fabulous conductor of the Symphonic Band at Brandon University. She gave me a scholarship to go to the International Music Camp (a summer concert band program in North Dakota) and that really inspired me to keep going. Dr. McCallum was so supportive the whole time. She really saw my potential, brought it out and she really encouraged me to audition at Brandon University.
Jeremy recounts the day that he auditioned fondly and was greeted afterwards by Greg Gatien (Dean of Music) saying, “welcome to the Faculty of Music”.
I just knew, walking into the Faculty of Music that it was a very supportive group of people based on what I knew of Greg and Wendy. I met with Nancy Hennen, who’s my primary professor (Brandon University Sessional Instructor of Flute). I study flute performance here.
The faculty has provided me with such amazing opportunities!
Jeremy is excited to be working with Cree flautist Jessica McMann and Anishinaabe pianist Beverley McKiver.in an upcoming recording project in Alberta this summer.
What does it mean to be an Indigenous person in Music?
It’s complicated to navigate your way through the field of music. It’s such a culture in Canada for us to study a Western classical style of music. We’re studying the music of Russia, Germany, England, France, Vienna, all those places. We don’t really get to study the music of the Americas.
Trying to navigate my way through Western classical music while being an Indigenous musician has been difficult. There are some great role models to look up to in terms of composers we have Ian Cusson, Sonny Ray Day Rider, Jessica McMann, Melody McKiver [BU Professor of Composition] and that got me into composing myself. I’ve started composing my first suite and it’s a suite of Indigenous folk songs for flute and piano. And those are some of the adaptations that you have to make in order to represent yourself as an Indigenous musician in music. There’s very little repertoire out there written by Indigenous musicians.
In Canada we’re starting to come up with our own identities as Indigenous musicians.
Had I come into this world 5 years ago I would feel very underrepresented, now I just feel a little underrepresented. We have this little light at the end of the tunnel to look forward to as we start building up our own identities as Indigenous classical musicians.
As a Two-Spirit person Jeremy also spoke about the importance of seeing 2SLGBTQ role models in the Faculty of Music and on campus. I’m Two Spirit and Indigenous, so having other LGBT role models on campus has been amazing. They’ve been important in realizing what my potential could be.
What do you hope to do after graduating?
Jeremy spoke about both his educational and teaching goals upon graduating.
After graduating I will be going for my Bachelor of Education in senior years instrumental / biology. Following that I’d like to go for my Masters and Doctorate in Wind Band Conducting.
I never saw Indigenous role models for myself growing up in music. I lived in northern Manitoba, and there were no Indigenous musicians featured. When I came down here and I see people like Melody McKiver and Jessica McMann it inspires me to represent myself as an Indigenous person foremost before I represent myself as anything else. And filling those gaps, we have a great Indigenous flautist, a great Indigenous composer, we don’t have an Indigenous conductor. That’s a gap that needs to be filled. When you look at the top conductors in Canada, none of them are Indigenous. That’s not how it should be.
When I participate in provincial/national honor bands I’ve never come across an Indigenous instructor. It’s very discouraging. That’s a gap that needs to be filled. That’s a gap that I’m hoping to fill. Coming from a reserve it feels like a disadvantage because of the stereotypes that you face. I never thought this was possible.
While continuing my education I would like to teach. Teaching is an art, especially in music. It’s difficult and rewarding and it’s the type of work that really sends you home feeling good about yourself. I love teaching and that’s just as rewarding to me as performing on any stage.
What helped you to be successful as an Indigenous student at Brandon University?
Jeremy had a great list of what helped him to be successful as an Indigenous student at BU.
- Go to the IPC.
Transitioning from the Pas, Manitoba and living on reserve, one of the difficulties Jeremy found initially was the lack of Indigenous community and social settings.
I didn’t take advantage of the IPC in my first or second year. I started getting involved in my third year. One of the things that really helped me transition was getting to know [Anishinaabe Knowledge Keeper] Barb Blind. I spent lots of time with her.
Barb Blind is one of the Knowledge Keepers at the Indigenous Peoples’ Centre on campus. Knowledge Keepers help Indigenous students feel at home and the connection to family that many Indigenous students miss while away from their home communities.
- Talk to your high school teachers about what’s expected of you at the post-secondary level.
When I was leaving high school, that’s when you start talking to your teachers about what’s expected of you at the post-secondary level. They’ve all been there. Especially for the teachers who are in the field you want to go into. If you’re going into science, talk to the biology teacher. They’ll know exactly what will be expected of you. Listen to your teachers. I had a fabulous band director in high school, Heather Gibson, and just listening to the ways she spoke about music and what you have to do, there’s a lot of knowledge passed on.
- Get to know your professors.
Once you get here, get to know your professors. Networking is key, regardless of what field you’re in. If people know who you are, their more likely to help you out than if you’re just another student number or another name on a list.
- Bring home, home.
I have all things that remind me of home around me. A dreamcatcher, pictures of my family. Bring pictures of your family! It’s so important to see the people who are supporting you every morning. Bring home, home. Make your home, your home. Surround yourself in a good environment. These are my tips and tricks. Keep your house clean, make yourself your own food, because getting yourself in a routine and keeping yourself in an environment that is welcoming and happy.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself.
I remember in my first year I broke my back working for As and A+s. My GPA in my first year was phenomenal, but my mental health was not. I needed to find that balance, come third year I was so burnt out that I did terribly. Balance yourself and know that everyone else is going through the same thing. It’s a degree, it’s not a race. If you need an extra year, take an extra year. Looking back I made so many decisions I wish I hadn’t because of how stressed they’ve made me. Don’t overwork yourself.
What were some of your successes while at BU?
Definitely auditioning for my performance degree. I started out in the Bachelor of Science program and then I changed my minor and then I
I started music extremely late. Normally when people come to music school, they’ve already been playing for five to ten years. A lot of them have been taking private lessons for a few years on top of that. I came to school with only two months of private lessons, and I had first picked up the flute in Grade 10. I came in very behind the other flute students. When I came to BU there were six flute majors in the program, and they were all significantly more advanced than me. That was really hard at first, but encouraged me to get better and learn from the people around myself.
Jeremy was honored to have come full circle from his time in honour band, to instructing others like himself.
In my second year I was invited to be the flute clinician at the Manitoba Intermediate Honour Band. I got to go back to where my roots are and be a part of other people’s roots, supporting high school music students.
Now I have flute students of mine who are continuing their music studies at Brandon University, the University of Manitoba, and the University of Saskatchewan. It’s so rewarding to be a part of a music program that made me who I am, and helped me realize what my potential was.
Jeremy teaches flute, saxophone, music theory and history at the Eckhardt-Grammaté Conservatory of Music, a community music school affiliated with the Brandon University School of Music.
If you were to give words of encouragement to an incoming Indigenous student, what would you share?
Get to know your fellow classmates, it will help. Especially speak with classmates in upper years because they’ll have tons of good advice for you about specific professors and classes.
Jeremy shared words of advice he heard while in the Faculty of Music from Greg Gatien that he keeps in a book of words that helped inspire him.
Don’t walk the same way every day. Because think of all the experiences you’re missing. Take a different route every day.