Boyd Benjamin is flying pretty high in the media lately, with his recent acclaimed performance at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics only adding to his already impressive reputation as one of the North's most promising musical talents.
From a long line of fine Gwitch'in fiddlers, Boyd was destined to take up the traditions of his home community of Old Crow, Yukon. With an ideal balance of natural talent and formal training, Boyd's repertoire features a staggering gamut of songs, styles, and techniques.
Boyd's captivating and energetic stage presence is infused with charm and grace that forges instant fondness. His lively tunes lift spirits. Of course, the multi-talented young gent can also lift planes and helicopters - he has licenses for both (in addition to his obvious license to musically thrill) and pilots for Alkan Air of Whitehorse, Yukon.
Boyd came to the fiddle naturally. an extension of his roots in Old Crow, Yukon. “My grandfather - Peter Benjamin was a fiddler, my uncle Allan Benjamin is a fiddler. Fiddling is in my blood already, I see myself continuing to pass it on.”
Boyd’s musical history includes studies in Yukon, Alberta and B.C. By grade 6, he was playing guitar and singing in local coffee shops around B.C. Music educators recognized his natural talent and led him to learn trombone and oboe along with music theory and violin. He credits his heritage for imprinting in him the capacity for creating music that captivates his listeners.
Together with his family, Boyd spent his summers in Old Crow. At the end of one summer, 14 year old Boyd discovered the fiddle, believing this to be his way of reconnection with his home. The primarily self-taught fiddler finds the instrument gives him hope.
He watched planes take off and land on a runway visible from the bedroom window or his home in Old Crow, instilling in him a desire to fly. Today he has his commercial fixed wing and rotary wing licenses, works in the north, and at a young age is already living this dream.
His dream of a life with music as well as an aviation career spurred Boyd on to become both a performer and a pilot, achieving a Special Youth Award at the 2008 National Aboriginal Achievement Awards for the goals he has reached to date and his vision for the future.
After graduating high school, Boyd began his journey into aviation by working as a ramp attendant for Air North Airlines. While marshaling and refueling aircrafts and handling baggage and cargo, Boyd managed to complete his first training flight and then, within five weeks, he completed his private pilot license.
As his dream was becoming a reality, Boyd began applying to aviation schools and seeking funding from his band. There was no precedent or policy in place for this type of training, so Boyd had to work closely with the band office, as they learned, together, how to sponsor a First Nations student for Pilot Training.
Their efforts paid off. In 2001, Boyd was the first member of the Vuntut Gwitch’in First Nation to be accepted into the First Nation Technical Institute in Deseronto, Ontario to train as a pilot.
After a successful year of pilot training, Boyd received a scholarship to the renowned aviation program at Mount Royal University (Formerly Mount Royal College). With his aviation diploma in hand, he returned to Whitehorse to train as a flight attendant with Air North, and then furthered his piloting skills with a commercial helicopter pilot license.
Despite a hectic schedule in the air, and on the ground, Boyd continues to travel to communities to share his inspirational message. When talking about getting through the difficult times, he says, “I didn’t want to be left behind. I wanted to have the same opportunity as everybody else. I wanted to be that person who accomplished something almost unimaginable. I thought about my family and I didn’t want to let them down. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel….and that made it worth every minute of hardship.”
“Boyd Benjamin is both a descendant of the Gwitch’in fiddle heritage and a bridge to the world of today.” (Gordon Stobbe, Fiddler Magazine) www.fiddle.com