by Amy Cook
A few years back, Graeme Peters could not imagine he would be where he is today – making money combining the two disciplines he lives for: music and education.
In 2008, alongside his brother Jody Peters, and friend Ian March, Graeme formed a rock band called Speed Control.
The trio came together on a whim, making their first record in two days, then burning CDs and selling them out of Graeme's car. The band is on the road for six to seven months a year, and is known as one of the hardest working groups in the North.
In recent years, they have set themselves apart from other rock bands in the North through an initiative called RAWK Camp. The artists use the camp to pass on their passion for music with children all across Canada.
They held RAWK Camp for the first time at the Atlin Arts and Music Festival this year.
The premise of the camp is to teach participants, aged 8 to 14, that there’s more to music than the top hits you hear on the radio. Music also has to do with making connections.
To Speed Control, music acts as means of bringing people together no matter the circumstance.
Graeme and the other band members say they're invested in showing children how impactful music can be in forming a sense of community.
“As a Northerner, I understand fully what has gone on in our past, and how terrible human beings have been to one another, but what binds us together is love and respect for culture. Music is culture,” says Graeme.
“I’ve heard stories of our past that destroy your heart, but when you come together it’s really something else.”
In addition to providing instrumental skills, Speed Control also provides children with interactional skills they can use down the road.
Yamaha Canada recognized the initiative three years ago, and provided the band with $30,000 worth of equipment to teach children across the country.
“We can show up in any community anywhere – just set up and go. We can get into places other people can’t that way. We’re a one shot deal,” Graeme says. “As an unknown band from the Yukon we get places because we have the outreach.”
Over the course of two days, the children they work with get to know each other well. By the end of the camp, in most cases, the kids can perform one to two rock songs as a band.
Speaking as a former elementary school teacher, Graeme says a lot of the time children learn lessons individually because they don’t interact with each other often enough.
“As soon as you play in a band all of a sudden you’re all friends,” he said.
According to Graeme, participating in the camp does more for children than more mainstream activities.
It takes a load off of parents too.
“When their kids perform at the end of the camp, parents are standing back watching how great they all are together. They’re playing with real instruments as opposed to video games and such.”