It always intrigues me how sometimes things so obviously align... like they are meant to be.
I’ve known Sonia Roy for years, but not the full extent of her reach within our community, especially when it comes to music. One day as I was leaving Freshies, ruminating on content for our upcoming edition, an individual got my attention to recommend we feature Sonia. Just a week or two later while I was reading through our 200th issue survey results, again she was recommended. “Well,” I thought. “I guess I should have coffee with Sonia!”
Sonia grew up in Quebec, “just on the other side of the river from Ottawa in Gatineau,” she tells me. “I left as soon as possible, moving to Montreal when I was 17 as it was more my scene, more inspiring to me,” she adds. Once in Montreal, Sonia immersed herself in music. She grew up playing piano and being part of a musical family. “My dad is a country singer who has been with the same band for 50 years!” she says.
Sonia received her first degree in music at college and went to Montreal for her Bachelors. During the summers, Sonia travelled to Jasper to work. “I wanted to see the mountains,” she admits. Once graduating, she ‘got a gig’ in Mount Tremblant so lived there, until the west called to her again. “I moved to Canmore first, but visited Fernie for a ski trip and loved it. I went back in summer to bike and I was like, this is where I am going to live. It was the smell of the Cottonwood that did it.”
Sonia’s first job in town was at Island Lake Lodge. “I would sing acapella to my tables while serving, just loved it. Then I was hired by the Fernie Academy the following year and taught music there for seven years, as well as running the choir and musicals,” she tells me. Additionally, she taught private piano and singing lessons. “It was full-on those seven years!” she adds.
Then, Sonia needed a change. She had just ended a four-year relationship and started realizing that there were so many things she wanted to do. “So, I went to Africa. I think I was drawn there by their amazing drumming while humanitarian work was in the back of my mind,” Sonia says. But things don’t always go as planned. Sonia ended up meeting her husband. “That first trip was all about falling in love. Now, we support thousands of people there, and I eventually did the drumming!”
Sonia continued teaching once back in Canada but struggled with balancing work and raising a family. “Both needed so much energy,” she says. She stepped back to focus on her three children, and when her kids were at a more independent age, she began teaching within the community, contracting to schools offering music programs, participating in local jam sessions, and recently she met an individual keen to partner with her on a bigger picture idea.
“I found the person – Chris David, willing to do the administration role I didn’t want to do!” she says. “Everything I do is so scattered, and I want to bring it all under one umbrella – one school. Both of our kids need this type of programming, and both adults and kids have been asking for help. The dream is School of Rock. Kids learn to play music alone, they practice alone, play in a concert alone and never get to know what it is like to be a part of a bigger sound, part of a group.”
Chris and Sonia have secured the Pentecostal Church in the Annex for this venture, which they have called Creative Bridges Workshops.
Additionally, Sonia is now the director of the Fernie Community Choir.
“I used to be the director for the choir until I stepped away from everything. I’m happy to be back, as music is therapy. I also have been offering singing therapy and am slowly building my practice, alongside healing chants at Mantra.”
Sonia has been seeing a demand for live music since COVID. Since she, Chris, Kylie Walker and others have been hosting jam sessions and open mic weekly at Freshies, there has been requests for them to play private functions.
“It’s happening organically and it’s soul-filling. We’re the bridge between people who want to play music and feel like it’s so inaccessible and it doesn’t have to be that way.”
Sonia says she wants to keep on creating music and bringing it to the community. “It’s a great way to teach and learn anything, and music brings people together. It’s the one thing I could do every day, all-day long.”
Thank you for sharing your passion and bringing music to Fernie, Sonia.
1. When did you first arrive in the Fernie and what brought you here?
2001, and adventure brought me here. That would be the word! The peace and the smell and the vibe back then, sold!
2. Who do you remember first meeting?
Jay Bourne, it was at the Eldorado.
3. Do you remember your first general impression of Fernie?
Ease. Definitely coming from Quebec, there is more flow and it’s light.
4. What keeps you here?
The beauty and the diverse community.
5. Do you have a favourite pastime?
My favourite pastime would be learning!
6. What time of the year do you love most and why?
Cottonwood tree season. When that smell is super strong, I am elated and in heaven. That season when the organized schedule is less organized and you feel more free.
7. Where do you see or hope to see Fernie in five years?
A lot of live music everywhere, especially in the streets. A lot of backyard / alley concerts. A lot of options in the arts for kids outside of school, and way more music into schools.
8. How do you start your day or what is one of your daily rituals?
I start my day with meditation and sitting in nature alone.
9. Tell us something people might be surprised to learn about you.
I’m just getting into emotional release therapy and am really into spirituality… connecting with my tribe. I have been doing it with people and also with animals.
10. Quote to live by: “If it’s in your heart it’s yours to claim.” My own quote. Our desires are not random, they are our journey. This life is about finding out what makes us tick!