Nicole Edwards, left, works with Andrea McColeman at the keyboard to create her new album Yukon Lullaby for Mental Health while living at Copper Ridge Place in 2019. (Submitted)

Musician aims to help others with release of Yukon Lullaby for Mental Health

Community rallies to release Nicole Edwards’ latest work

Nicole Edwards’ latest release goes beyond the music the Yukon singer/songwriter is so well-known for.

Edwards’ released Yukon Lullaby for Mental Health in January following what she described as “the hardest year of my life” as a chronic health condition has kept her confined to a bed or couch and at one point in 2019 living at Copper Ridge Place care facility.

Her latest work features the title song along with a suite of mindfulness tools teaching methods to deal with difficult situations.

“I wrote the Yukon Lullaby for Mental Health in Jan. 2019 in the hospital when I was desperate for support. I was in crisis when I dug deep for resources, and put my focus on a song with a soothing message as my way of coping,” she said in a Feb. 3 email.

Edwards has scleroderma, a rare disease that causes collagen build-up resulting in the hardening of skin and connective tissue.

At the time Edwards wrote the Yukon Lullaby, she had had some negative interactions with health care workers. The song came to her following that and helped her cope.

What followed was a community effort to get the song and mindfulness tools out to the broader community in the hopes of also helping others.

Her friend Ruth Lera started a Patreon page to help raise money so Edwards would be able to get private home care.

Wanting to share the song with her Patreon supporters, Edwards got in touch with Andrea McColeman to play keyboard while she sang the song over the phone so it could be added to the Patreon page.

It wasn’t long before Edwards started getting requests from those who visited her page to use the song for things like teaching nursing students or in trauma workshops.

“Unsolicited, Fawn Fritzen created a lyric-image poster and music-lyric poster, which are perfect workshop material,” Edwards wrote. “These steps encouraged me to see that maybe my experience, and this song can be useful to others — patients and care-givers alike.”

Fritzen, a well-known performer in the territory who also works as a facilitator and marketing specialist for the Learning Disabilities Association of the Yukon (LDAY), said the process happened “organically.”

She said she viewed it as not only an opportunity to help her friend Edwards reach more people with her song, but also to share important information.

Mindfulness focuses on the practice of being present in the moment and focusing on deliberate ways of regulating attention through actions like meditation and breathing exercises.

Along with the song, Edwards’ release offers PDFs of lyrics, music and mindfulness lesson plans to be used in classrooms.

Mindfulness is something that continues to come up in programs offered through LDAY, particularly when it comes to learning how to manage emotional reactions, Fritzen said.

It’s also part of her daily life.

“Mindfulness, for myself, has become an important idea,” she said.

Using a variety of ways to deliver information can make all the difference when it comes to teaching, Fritzen said.

While some learn more from images, others might learn more from the printed word and so on. Her work on the posters to reinforce the lyrics using icons and images are aimed at making it easier for children to learn the concepts of mindfulness.

As word spread about Edwards’ Yukon Lullaby for Mental Health, more people in the community came on board to be part of the effort to get the song and resources out to others.

Jeanne Kitayma, a teacher in Haines, Alaska, reached out to Edwards about using Yukon Lullaby as part of a lesson plan.

“At some point I realized: if I want to share this, I’d like to have a better recording,” Edwards wrote. “Andrea McColeman got the recording ball rolling and took the initiative to discuss the project with Scott Maynard…… which became the ‘Copper Ridge Sessions’.”

At the time, Edwards was staying at the Copper Ridge Place care facility while her husband recovered from knee surgery.

The best part of Edwards’ week during the two months she lived there was the “music therapy” sessions she had with McColeman every Friday, she said.

“Scott (Maynard) transformed my little room into a recording studio, setting up portable professional recording gear. I only had stamina for a couple hours of company at a time, so we added layers and special guests one Friday afternoon at a time. It started with Andrea and I, then Scott came to record our parts, Andrea played a few other layers another Friday.”

A group of local youth came in one afternoon to record their voices for the song along with performer Kevin Barr another Friday.

While Edwards remained in bed, Maynard and McColeman worked around her during the recording sessions.

After Edwards was back home, she began the work to add more mindfulness tools to the recording with Christine Lassen-St Pierre adapting Kitayma’s lesson plan to reach an adult audience.

“Over the months, when I had a bit of gumption, I’d work on editing the materials bit by bit and asking for editing feedback from a few other friends,” Edwards wrote. “It was empowering for me to use my voice, at a time when I feel so vulnerable and institutionalized.”

Among others who worked on the project, Edwards said Jim Holland mastered the song, Carolyn Sabourin collaborated with her to create a visual image that’s been adapted to a colouring page available with the mindfulness lesson plans, and Edwards’ nephew Morgan Edwards helped to make the material available online.

“It gave me something positive to focus on…. at my own slow pace,” she wrote. “Each person who contributed (not everyone is named) included some special connecting time with me. Fun is an important ingredient when you feel crappy all the time. Working on the Yukon Lullaby project brought me fun, meaning and it gives me an opportunity to advocate for patient-centred, trauma-informed care, which has become super important to me.”

While Edwards was quick to highlight the work of so many people on the project, Fritzen made it clear it was Edwards leading the charge.

“It’s been her (Edwards’) project; her spearheading it.”

Yukon Lullaby for Mental Health is available on Edwards’ website as well as through her Patreon page.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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