An image of four family members holding musical instruments
The Denby Family | Photo courtesy of Yvette Denby

Yvette Denby

Keeping a family's Métis heritage alive by passing down a love for music

Cherie McMaster and Sable Sweetgrass

Yvette Denby’s love of music was nurtured by her family going back as far as the late 1800s. It is a gift that she has since passed down to her children, Breann and Kaleena Denby, who themselves have forged a musical path with their fiddle playing.

“My grandma, she comes from a family of 17 kids, so back in the late 1800s… for entertainment… a lot of the Métis back then they just played music,” says Denby, who is a member of Calgary Arts Development’s Indigenous Advisory. “They played fiddle, guitar, but I guess the biggest part of the culture at that time was the music. And everyone back then learned by ear, it wasn’t taught (in schools), … all of it was taught by ear. I always remember the memories of the fiddle and it was very important to me to keep it alive, keep it going in our family.”

Denby’s daughters, Breann and Kaleena, started playing at a very young age, with Breann reflecting that it could have been as early as the age of five. “Initially we started with violin just to get the basics down, and I did get some a limited instruction — kind of like how to hold the fiddle — by a violinist before we started going towards fiddle. I’m mostly self-taught, I’ve kind of gone and flip-flopped between a couple fiddle instructors, but I’ve never really been in one place and most of my stuff I’ve learned from ear.”

According to Yvette Denby, “The journey has always been with me in my heart, it’ll never go away, you’re brought up with a certain thing and you don’t forget.”

The Denby family takes great pride in playing traditional Métis fiddle music, and have performed around the province, and even recording their music for all to enjoy. Listen to this week’s Indigenous Stories podcast to learn more about this talented family.

About The Storytelling Project: Indigenous Stories

Part of The Storytelling Project, this series raises awareness about local Indigenous artists who, by living creative lives, are making Calgary a better city, affecting positive change and enriching others’ lives.

Sharing diverse stories of creativity in our city, The Storytelling Podcast shines a spotlight on artists and projects that connect Calgarians to the arts.

Have a story to share? Email us at submissions@calgaryartsdevelopment.com.

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