How this Yukon musician battled through an injury to pursue his dream career

·3 min read

Making it in the music world is tough, but Elijah Bekk has already fought battles that would force a lot of people to give up.

"When I was 19, I got injured really bad," he said. "I actually lost the use of my hands for a couple of years. I was in my second year of school and I ended up having to move home because I couldn't open and close my hands at all and my family had to take care of me."

Bekk says he suffered what is called a non-freezing cold injury, a repetitive stress injury he suffered while working in cold water.

"It affects the way your brain talks to your hands," he said. "When I get tests done, it says that my hands are completely fine, but my brain is telling my arms and hands that they're in pain all the time. It feels like my arms are on fire and I have a hard time feeling a couple of my fingers."

Something like that would have ended the musical dreams of most people, but Bekk grew up wanting to be a musician and wasn't about to let that stop him.

One day I was told if I kept trying to play I would never be able to use my hands again. - Elijah Bekk, Yukon musician

He grew up in Faro, a small, tight-knit community in the central Yukon. Once home to a bustling mine, people in the town have to be resourceful when it comes to making a living and keeping busy.

Bekk is from a large, musical family. They actually had a family band that would play at local music festivals and other events over the years.

After being coerced into backing his older brother on drums, Bekk discovered the joys of playing guitar and singing. He decided that's what he wanted to do.

Forced to put the guitar away

Bekk left home in Grade 12 to finish high school in Alberta and take advantage of scholastic music programs. He was studying music at Selkirk College in B.C. when he was injured a little more than three years ago.

"One day I was told if I kept trying to play I would never be able to use my hands again," he said. "We actually put my guitars in their cases and put them away so I couldn't touch them.

"I never thought about anything else for a minute. I thought, 'This is what I'm going to do. We just have to find a different way to do it.'"

One specialist suggested he could pick up the guitar again, but he had to limit his playing to brief periods.

"That was tough, having to put the guitar down even though it hurt," said Bekk. "But I never thought about doing anything else, and writing songs was a huge part of what helped me emotionally getting through all that."

Photo by Dana Bekk
Photo by Dana Bekk

Now he spends his time rehabilitating his injured hands, playing music when he can, and writing and recording his own songs.

Earlier this year, he decided to submit one of those tunes to the RBC Emerging Musician Program, run by Canada's Walk Of Fame.

Bekk was one of of more than 1,400 people across the country to apply for the program, and was recently named a third-place finalist. That earned him a prize of $4,000 and mentorship sessions with industry professionals.

"[Bekk's] submitted track Be Alright impressed our judging panels with its distinct warmth, heartfelt melodies and a dreamy soundscape that perfectly encapsulates the Yukon," said Griffin Sokal, director of creative, brand marketing and partnerships with Canada's Walk of Fame.

"We couldn't be more thrilled that this ambitious and driven young performer was chosen. We look forward to working with him."

Bekk said the awards and recognition are great, and a good boost for his career. But these days, nothing beats being able to simply play.

"It means more now," he said. "Before I kind of took it for granted.... [Now] it feels so good, you have no idea."