Community remembers Nicole Edwards, musician from the Yukon and ardent advocate for young people

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Although she could no longer play instruments, Nicole Edwards did not let her illness prevent her from creating music, says her friend and collaborator Andrea McColeman.

“She was constantly creating stuff in her head and singing it to me,” McColeman said.

“Not just, here’s the song and here’s the lyrics, but here’s all the parts, and here’s how it should feel, and here’s the beat. She had a clear vision of what she wanted to create and was really good at communicating. “

Edwards, a musician, performer, mentor and youth advocate, died on September 8 at the age of 51, after many years of battling a rare disease called scleroderma.

Edwards began her musical career in the Yukon in 1997 and has grown to become one of the territory’s best-known artists. Her longtime friend, Andrea Coleman, remembers Edward as someone who “wasn’t afraid to be a fool”. (Michelle Peters)

The disease, which causes collagen to build up and harden skin and connective tissue, took away her ability to play instruments, but not her positive attitude and passion for advocacy, McColeman says.

“She was truly a great example of how everything you are up against, see the positives and be grateful for what you have,” McColeman said.

McColeman said Edwards never shied away from being stupid, even in her later years, citing the last song she released in 2020 called “Dos Pantalones,” a song in Spanish about the long johns.

In 2016 Edwards, left, received the Meritorious Service Medal (Civilian Division) from Governor General David Johnston for his youth advocacy work and work in the music industry. (Sgt Johanie Maheu / Rideau Hall)

A successful musical career

Originally from Ontario, Edwards moved to the Yukon in 1997 where she became an integral part of the local music scene. She began her music career singing and playing guitar with The Gathering, and has grown to become one of the territory’s best-known musicians.

Her musical repertoire has spanned many genres and languages ​​over the years: she has performed in jazz, rock and folk styles and has sung in English and French. His songs address the themes of love, peace and gratitude and have often played an important role in his advocacy work.

“Her values ​​of justice and equality, education and advocacy have always been ubiquitous,” said Lucie Desaulniers, longtime friend and colleague musician of Edwards.

“Very thoughtful and inspiring.”

Edwards was a well-known musician in the Yukon. (Courtesy of Nicole Edwards)

In October 2017, Edwards celebrated his two decades in the territory with a benefit concert for Yukon Cares, a voluntary organization that works to resettle and sponsor refugees in the territory.

She created the light … a space to be managed for the young people of the North.– Lucie Desaulniers

Edwards released Yukon Lullaby for Mental Health in January 2020 after spending a year confined to bed as his chronic health worsened. All five songs on the album contain mindfulness tools that Edwards said would help the community at large.

Support the youth of the Yukon

Edwards mentored young musicians throughout his musical career, which Desaulniers said directly contributed to the increase in the number of women recording music in Whitehorse.

“She was so excited to help young people new to the music business,” said McColeman “She was always interacting with her own band [members] and she would hire emerging players, younger players to give them a little experience and mentorship. “

Edwards tried to give young musicians a boost. (Courtesy of Nicole Edwards)

Edwards founded the Bringing Youth Toward Equality (BYTE) organization in 1998, after discovering that there were few services for young people in the North at that time. The non-profit organization offers programs specifically for Yukon youth, creating workshops on issues such as safe parties, dealing with isolation and healthy relationships.

In 2016, she received a Governor General’s Meritorious Service Medal for her youth advocacy and dedication to the music industry.

“She created the light… a space where young people from the North can lead,” Desaulniers said. “Tackle all causes through music, from mental health to grief to mindfulness, in a very thoughtful and provocative way.”

Yukon Community Rally

The local community came together to give back to Edwards in 2019, after her friend Ruth Lera started a fundraising page to help raise funds so Edwards could get private home care.

Edwards’ songs have been featured on local CBC radio shows often, and many CBC employees fondly recall his frequent emails at the station thanking the team for playing their music.

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