Music is a universal language. For Nicolas Melnychuk, 18, and his younger sister Finley, 12, music was a way to bring light to the dark days of restriction pandemic life. Stuck at home, bored, and needing something to do, the pair turned to music. “I’ve been playing guitar for about five years,” said Nicolas. “A few friends back in seventh grade, when I first picked up the guitar, wanted me to join the band with them in school, so I did. I’ve loved it ever since.” In the last two years, Nicolas added vocals to his act. He said the transition was a bit scary. “Singing and playing for my family was the biggest step and playing and singing for other people was another step. It feels great when I play for people, and they like my music and enjoy hearing me.”
Finley has been singing since she could talk. Her mom, Stacy Crossland, was adamant about that. Though she doesn’t play an instrument yet, Finley said she hopes to play the piano one day. “I like performing for my mom, dad and brothers. When COVID first started, my mom, wanted me to learn to sing Jersey on the Wall by Tenille Townes.” Townes, who hails from Grande Prairie, has made quite the impression on Finley. “I usually only sing country, and I love Tenille Townes and Miranda Lambert songs,” said Finley.
Once Nicolas and Finley started performing together, things got special. “We were in Peace River in our hotel room, and we played a few songs together, and my mom started recording them and sharing them,” said Finley. As her mom’s friends remarked at how good they were together, Finley said it made her feel happy and encouraged her to learn more songs to perform with her brother. “It feels awesome to be able to play with my sister because it grows us closer together. It helps us grow our bond stronger. It makes me feel really happy that I can have that relationship with her,” said Nicolas.
For mom, the site was heartwarming. “Honestly, I love it. We sit out on the back deck most nights, and they play. I just love sitting out there with them and talking about songs that we love and having them play for us. I could do it all day, every day. I just love hearing them play.” Since then, the pair performed while camping, sitting around the campfire with family and friends, and performing lots at home. Their mom also continues to share videos of the performances. On July 22 at 7 pm, they will perform together at Mr. Mikes for the Live in the Lodge event.
Nicolas will be singing and playing twelve songs, and Finley will join him for four songs, making it a 16-song concert. “There’s no cost to watch them, but they are accepting tips,” explained Crossland. Finley chose an exceptional place to donate all the tips towards, the Edson Friendship Centre, for their reconciliation program. Finley said she chose that specific spot to help others. “With the discovery of the kid’s bodies at the residential schools, knowing that there are so many survivors out there from that is sad. I wanted to donate to help them get through that.”
Nicolas said that music makes him feel good and hopes they can share that with those who watch their show. “It relaxes my body and my mind. It takes away all the stress or anxiety I’m having throughout the day. When I play music, I just play. I don’t think of anything else.” Attendees can expect a mix of slow and fast songs with many country vibes and maybe an old rock song thrown in for good measure.
“Right now, my goal is to get somewhere with hockey (as a member of the Chase Heat in the KIJHL), but if that doesn’t pan out the way I want it too then I want to go to school. While I am in school, I still want to pursue making music and hopefully having that as a backup. If I could, I would play music for a living,” said Nicolas. For Finley, music will always be part of who she is. “I do want to keep singing for the rest of my life, but when it comes to getting a job and doing something, I want to open a bakery.” Perhaps with a corner stage designed to display local musical talent?
Crossland, her hubby, and their two other sons, Asher, 17, and Jaxon, 14, will be at Mr. Mikes on Thursday, July 22 at 7 pm to devour delicious food, listen to great music, donate to a fantastic cause, and cheer on Nicolas and Finley. They hope to see lots of community members doing the same.
Serena Lapointe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Whitecourt Press