She’s sung for the Queen and the Dalai Lama and been nominated for a Juno Award. Sherryl Sewepagaham’s latest achievement is receiving a bachelor of Music Therapy degree from Capilano University, June 5, 2017.

After receiving her bachelor’s in Education at the University of Alberta, Sewepagaham taught music in Edmonton elementary schools for 14 years. She was asked to work with at-risk students and knew that music might help. Sewepagaham, a Cree-Dene woman, employed her knowledge of traditional healing in song with the students and then found the Music Therapy program – the first in Canada – at CapU.

“I instantly knew I needed to pursue this [degree],” says Sewepagaham. “It seemed like a calling for me.”

Returning to university wasn’t easy.

“To tell you the truth, it was a big shock to go back to school after 14 years,” says Sewepagaham. “All the technology had changed and I had to re-learn how to research, how to study, how to write papers and how to organize myself.”

But her instructors and younger classmates supported her, as did the staff, students and Elders at CapU’s Kéxwusm-áyakn First Nations Student Centre.

“I immersed myself in the cultural activities at the centre, and [First Nations advisors] Clay [Little] and David [Kirk] became great supporters. When my younger brother passed away a year ago, Elder Ernie George was at the centre and prayed for me and my family.”

Sewepagaham is a founding member of Asani, an Edmonton-based Aboriginal women’s singing trio. The mother of a 14-year-old son, she recently completed two internships, using her music therapy skills with women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and with seniors at a long-term care facility. Sewepagaham also just completed an artist-in-residency at Carisbrooke elementary in North Vancouver. Upon graduation, she plans to pursue certification as a music therapist and work with children with special needs and attachment disorders.

You can see Sewepagaham singing and drumming here.

Submitted by Cheryl Rossi, Communications & Marketing

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