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Music student Mathayus Quill with the new piano at Eenchokay Birchstick School on Pikangikum First Nation, Ontario.Handout

The organizer: Laura Vukson

The pitch: A new piano for Pikangikum First Nation

For the past 20 years, ArtsCan Circle has been providing thousands of harmonicas, violins, keyboards, fiddles, ukuleles, guitars and music workshops to more than a dozen Indigenous communities across Northern Canada. But last month, ArtsCan managed to pull off something unique for children living in Pikangikum First Nation.

The charity sponsors an extensive music program in Pikangikum, which is about 230 kilometres north of Kenora, Ont., and about a dozen students take part. While the community has dozens of keyboards and other instruments, the students have never had a piano.

Last year, ArtsCan’s executive director, Laura Vukson, decided to see if it was possible to find a piano and send it. “I used to play as a kid and I remember going to a recital and playing on a piano with huge excitement,” said Ms. Vukson, who is from Northwestern Ontario. But finding a piano in the middle of a global pandemic wasn’t easy.

Ms. Vukson searched used pianos offered by donors and approached Yamaha and other companies about buying a new one. But pianos had become scarce during COVID-19 as people took up the instrument while enduring lockdowns.

Finally, with the help of TD Bank, a major ArtsCan donor, Ms. Vukson bought a new upright Yamaha for $5,000. It took several months to organize shipping but it finally arrived in Pikangikum in June. Ms. Vukson recently watched a video of a student playing pieces by Chopin and Beethoven. “I have to say, I teared up. It was really beautiful to hear,” she said.

She’s hoping to get to Pikangikum in December with representatives from TD, which has doubled its funding for the music program to $30,000. They will be there for a festive gala which will feature students from the music program, and the piano.

Ms. Vukson recalled how she felt while playing the piano as a child. “It just makes you feel good when you are in that space. And to see another student being in that space, it’s great.”