Garth Prinsonsky was giving educational music performances and developing African-themed music residency programs, concerts and workshops for elementary schools across the country when COVID-19 hit.
Lockdowns made it impossible to continue his work, so Prinsonsky (who performs under the stage name Garth Prince) knew he had to think creatively to make it through the next year.
He was already at work on a special book/music project, inspired by his childhood growing up in Namibia, when he decided to enhance his career through the MacEwan University's Arts and Cultural Management program.
He also had an idea for a children's book that could accompany a music album, all designed to create a meaningful and practical way for children and families to connect with his music.
"My long-term goal is to create many more similar projects, and build a team with whom I can work with," he says. "I thought this program would be a good place to find like-minded people and learn the necessary skills to make my craft more sustainable."
Just a few months into his first year of Arts and Cultural Management, Prinsonsky has already released Grazing Back Home in collaboration with Tololwa M. Mollel, an award-winning Tanzanian-born Edmonton-based children's author. Grazing Back Home, a picture book for children in Grades 4 to 6, gives a well-rounded perspective of life in southern Africa.
"When I first moved to Canada, I noticed that western media emphasized certain aspects of Africa life, namely wildlife, rural villages and poverty," says Prinsonsky. "Those are certainly components of life back home, but there are also more important things — like our sense of community, resilience and the love of music. Those are the things I share in my music and stories."
Prinsonsky says the book came about as a result of the music album. "The story in the book is the first song on the album. The album then continues with more upbeat and dance-style songs, but also contains other educational, cultural and inspirational tunes."
Prinsonsky put his heart into the work, even travelling halfway across the world to ensure its authenticity. "I didn't want to create an African children's album without the input from African children." He made two trips to Africa to work with students, which he credits for laying the foundation for the album's sound. "When I listen to the album now, I realise that I couldn't have done it any other way. It was hard work but it was well worth it."
The biggest lesson learned from his experience was about collaboration. Prinsonsky says the partnership with Mollel and illustrator Jason Blower elevated the quality of the project and their collaboration made his initial idea so much bigger than he could have imagined.
After the challenge of developing a book/album collaboration, Prinsonsky is grateful for the experience and is already applying what he learned to his studies.
"Looking back now, I can see that with better management skills I could have gotten the project done quicker and with fewer headaches," he says. "Cultural management takes into account the art with all such things, making the best of the opportunities, and even turning challenges into wonderful stories for audiences."
Museums, movies and master’s degrees
Three perspectives on arts and cultural management and the opportunities available in this imaginative field.
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