Local Musician making a name

Greg Ritchie

He's articulate, funny, charming and an accomplished musician who is becoming a representative for aboriginal youth. He's Greg Ritchie of Saugeen First Nations.

"I took the Turtle Concepts workshops," Ritchie explains, "and my outlook on life has changed."

Turtle Concepts' workshops are based on personal empowerment and particularly focused toward youth in the First Nations communities. Founded by David Jones, the workshops "... address issues of having a right to feel good about yourself." They vary from one-day sessions to one-week programs to the highly successful six week, Self-Empowerment Course all focusing on developing leadership skills, communication skills, self-esteem, parenting, at risk youth alternatives and cross-cultural training.

Ritchie recently returned from a week in Toronto, where he spoke at a Turtle Concept workshop, attended the Aboriginal Festival and Music Awards and modelled clothing designed by First Nations designers in a fashion show.

"It was amazing," says Ritchie. "I met so many people like the drummer Stevie Salas who played with Guns 'n' Roses and Dave Jones himself. I also met other kids my age from the Northwest Territories, James Bay and Saskatchewan."

Ritchie, who plays with a local Saugeen Shores band, the Sapsuckers, is a talented self-taught musician who plays the drums, guitar, harmonica and piano. "It's quite strange," Ritchie say. "I know it's a gift (musical ability). One day, I sat down at my cousin Bernitta Owl's piano and just started to play."
 

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Today, he plays with the Sapsuckers and the Saugeen District Secondary School's (SDSS) Jazz Band. "Playing with the Sapsuckers is great because we've become like family. We play together and we talk about anything and everything. I really like blues and rock 'n' roll too but I also like jazz, country and everything else. I listen to Led Zepplin and Stevie Ray Vaughn, Credence Clearwater Revival (CCR) and Johnny Cash. I just like it all. Music does something for me."

Ritchie also composes his own music. "Sometimes, I get a tune in my head and I just have to get it out," he explains. "I've got almost 100 songs that I've recorded and sometimes I'll go back and listen and I think ... 'did I write that'?

He's hoping to pursue a career in music. "So far," he adds, "the Saugeen Band and Administration have given me unbelievable support and without my parents, I would never have been able to learn as much as I have about music. My dad taught me my first guitar chords and really encouraged me to play and my mom is my biggest fan."

Ritchie credits a lot of his love of music to growing up in the Saugeen Full Gospel Pentacostal Church. "That's where I learned to play music and my cousin, Mark Mandawoub, showed me guitar techniques."

An athletic young man, Ritchie likes to run, play pick-up hockey and also played rugby and football on his high school team. He currently attends Saugeen District Secondary School (SDSS) in grade 12. "I really want to study music somewhere," he says, "but I'm not sure where. My first music teacher in school, Kent Boys, was incredible with me and Mr. Burbidge here at high school has also been helping me. I've heard there are some really good music programs and I'd like to get into one of them."

Ritchie has recently been asked to play in Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Mildmay and Hanover within the next few weeks. The Sapsuckers have also played at the Barrie Ribfest and Jazz & Blues Festival as well as playing locally. On December 20th, the group will be playing as part of a charity night at the Wismer House in Port Elgin.
 

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