Tom Jackson, Elisapie, Ferron, Fawn Wood, and Drezus Added to National Music Centre’s Speak Up! Exhibition


In honour of National Indigenous Peoples Day, the National Music Centre (NMC) will open Studio Bell with free admission courtesy of Stantec on June 21, giving the public an opportunity to explore its updated Speak Up! exhibition and a range of activities that honour Indigenous culture and music.

The evolving Speak Up! exhibition, which is supported by TD Bank Group, will now highlight JUNO and Gemini Award-nominated musician-actor Tom Jackson, whose long-running The Huron Carole Benefit Concert Series has been raising money for food banks and social service agencies nationwide for 35 years; Inuk artist and activist Elisapie, known for bringing awareness to the culture, language, and realities of the Northern Arctic Inuit through her music; acclaimed Métis folk singer-songwriter and poet Ferron, who is recognized as one of the most influential writers and performers that rose out of the women’s music movement; Cree and Salish musician Fawn Wood, the recipient of the first JUNO Award for Traditional Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year in 2022; and rapper and youth mentor Drezus, founding member of the influential Indigenous hip-hop group Team Rezofficial.

“We learned to sing and dance before we could walk and talk,” said Tom Jackson, C.C., LL.D. “Music makes us happy. Happy is healthy, and healthy is happy. Such an honour to be with fellow artists who have found their voice. The light shines through.”

A virtual version of the exhibition will be accessible for free at, so music fans can learn more about the latest additions and the past 20 artists included in the exhibition over the years, from Willie Dunn and Tanya Tagaq to Buffy Sainte-Marie and Jeremy Dutcher.

In addition to the updated exhibition, NMC is partnering with Aboriginal Awareness Week Calgary for a full day of activities on June 21 that showcase local Indigenous song, music, and dance. The lineup includes champion hoop dancer Quentin Pipestem, powwow singers and drum group Eya-Hey Nakoda, and singer-songwriter Cynthia Hamar. Check for the day’s schedule at Studio Bell.

For many nations, music is believed to be sacred, primarily for its purpose; songs are gifts for celebration, to honour, to ultimately connect to spirit. In spite of failed colonial attempts (i.e. residential schools) to silence Indigenous voices, traditional music is thriving today. Contemporary artists have also adopted many musical styles to speak up against injustices, dispossession, and have used music as a form of resistance.

Since 2019, the Speak Up! exhibition has showcased an annual selection of Indigenous groundbreakers from across Canada who have left their mark on culture through music. Featuring storytelling, audio, and artifacts, visitors to Speak Up! can learn how Indigenous artists are fostering dialogue and understanding to radically shift the Canadian paradigm of who First Nation, Métis, and Inuit people are.

“We’re always thrilled to reach out to the community with the goal of honouring and recognizing groundbreaking artists on an annual basis. All their contributions are deeply connected to cultural histories, stories, and pathways to change and inspire,” said David McLeod (member of the Pine Creek First Nation), Curator of Speak Up! and NMC Board Member and Chair of NMC’s National Indigenous Programming Advisory Committee. “We know visitors to Studio Bell will be able to connect with the Indigenous experience; there are seeds of reconciliation in understanding the social impact of artists from our communities. Our committee members who select the artists are always challenged by the wealth of artists that need to be recognized; I’m thankful that visitors get to ultimately enjoy the work that’s been done.”

The Speak Up! exhibition is supported by TD who, in 2022, increased its support of NMC’s Indigenous programming through the OHSOTO’KINO initiative, so named after a Blackfoot phrase that means “to recognize a voice of.” OHSOTO’KINO is led by NMC’s Indigenous Programming Advisory Committee, who act as a guiding voice for exhibitions and programs at Studio Bell. The initiative focuses on multiple elements: creation of new music in NMC’s recording studios, artist development through a music incubator program, exhibitions via the annually updated Speak Up! gallery, and digital content on NMC’s Amplify platform at