Jonathon Adams grew up surrounded by classical music and now the Cree-Métis baritone will be joining Early Music Vancouver as its first-ever summer artist-in-residence.
"I sort of learned a lot of classical music at the expense, in some ways, of learning in my own traditional music," said Adams.
"So that's something that I'm trying to reconnect to lately."
Adams is two-spirit and uses gender-neutral pronouns. They were raised in Edmonton by adoptive parents who were classical arts enthusiasts.
After spending 10 years studying and performing classical music all over Europe, Adams returned to Canada.
"I just wanted to use the skills that I had that are shaped by Western European art music, but then focus my lens on Indigenous community, resilience and resurgence," they said.
"I knew I could do that because Indigenous people have been singing classical European music since contact, because that's part of the way that white Europeans try to indoctrinate Indigenous folks."
Adams is currently based in Montreal and Edmonton, travelling back and forth between the two cities.
During the residency Adams will be writing a number of essays, teaching a master class and also performing three events for the Vancouver Bach Festival.
Adams said they are honoured to have the opportunity and that being the first artist-in-residence at Early Music Vancouver is moving.
"To get the chance to spread the word a little bit about the amazing Cree and Métis repertoire and then also sing some Bach is really amazing," they said.
Adams said being appointed to this role is a signal that Early Music Vancouver is making an effort to turn toward more diverse voices and stories.
"I feel like I am performing a takeover or an occupation when I'm singing that music, because when it's coming out of my mouth, my body is my instrument."
"An Indigenous body taking up space in a predominantly white space is, I think, really important."
Suzie LeBlanc, Early Music Vancouver's artistic and executive director, met Adams after she posted an advertisement online for singing lessons. Adams reached out for some coaching and they became friends.
She said she believes the residency will be positive for the organization, by adding a diverse perspective when they have mainly presented early classical music from Europe.
"We really need [their] voice and other people's voices . . . to help everybody shift their mind and understand that there's a whole part of history that was just buried."
She said Adams will help people because they're open and not afraid "to talk about real things."