I’m an Acadian Canadian, Eh
Growing up in a large Acadian family with music all around her, it seems almost inevitable that Jeanette Arsenault became a musician. Her mother is one of fourteen children, her father one of thirteen. Arsenault spent her childhood visiting with her seventy-five cousins. Her family is from the East Coast, living in an Acadian community on Prince Edward Island.
She remembers her summers spent at family gatherings where everyone would dance and sing. They would come together, sit in a big circle with people playing the spoons, harmonicas or accordions and together created music.
“We’d go down for the summer for five weeks and a lot of parties. That’s where I got my love of music. Acadians are big time musicians, or music appreciators.”
Her mother was a music appreciator and would tell Arsenault that the musicians needed someone to clap for them. She never learned an instrument but encouraged Arsenault to learn instruments as well as singing. Arsenault can play the spoons, the piano and the guitar. They were a large family, so often her mother would listen as she did housework – but she always listened.
“I wanted to be at the piano all the time. I would put a chair beside my piano for my mom to come and sit to listen to what I was learning.”
Arsenault was born in Hamilton, Ontario where she attended a French language school before her family moved to northern Ontario. She feels blessed that she was able to attend a French language school in Capreol. Arsenault is fully bilingual. She finds this opens her world up by giving her access to another culture.
“I have two doors that are opened up and I can understand the language, listen to their music, and watch their movies. It’s a broader base.”
Arsenault is passionate about making sure the world learns about Acadian culture. She was inspired after releasing her song “I’m an Acadian Canadian, Eh.” People would come up to her and ask her about being Acadian, they didn’t realize Acadians are real.
Arsenault has partnered with Evva Massey to bring Acadian history to schools the the program Young Imaginations which tours schools in Ontario to bring history to life through the arts. Evva’s first program partnered with Indigenous people to teach students about Indigenous culture. She is now looking to bring Acadian culture to schools. Evva believes that Young Imaginations needs to partner with leaders in the cultures in order to more effectively communicate with students.
Arsenault has spent more than 30 years as a singer/songwriter and is excited to be bringing Acadian culture to school children so they can step inside history and learn through the arts.
“Tell your story, what’s your story? Companies are encouraged to tell their story. This is people telling their stories and how better to share information then you have the authentic artist from each of the cultures telling their stories, sharing their stories. So it’s a different approach using the arts whether it’s painting or dancing or theatre, engaging the children. It’s very interactive”
To hear more, check out the Quinte Arts Council Podcast Makin’ Stuff Up: The Power of the Voice available on Amazon, Audible, Youtube and Spotify.