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Meet Jenica Hagan: A Koko from Day One!

In the last two stories we have featured a Kokopelli alumnae and a long-time volunteer.  This time we feature a singer who has been with the Kokopelli Choir Association for 25 years - Jenica Hagan!

With the exception of Scott Leithead, Kokopelli’s most constant face has probably been Jenica Hagan. A founding Kokopelli member, Jenica has sung with one of our choirs (and often more than one) for all 25 years of our association’s existence. (Okay, there was that one year when she worked in Newfoundland, but let’s not get picky.)

photo credit: Blake Loates

Tell us about your earliest involvement in Kokopelli.

I went to Victoria School, and when I was in Grade 11 Scott Leithead started teaching there. I worked with him a little bit in my musical theatre class, but I didn’t really know who he was. But then I saw his choir, Vic Singers, perform, and I was like, okay, I’ve got to be a part of that.

So I was in Vic Singers for my Grade 12 year. And then, the year after that, we started Kokopelli. At that point, it was all Vic students except for two people from Scona. But it was awesome. And then, over the next year or so, it started to evolve into a wider community. But, yeah, I was in it from the very beginning.

And how has your involvement with Kokopelli impacted your life? What keeps you around?
All my best friends are from choir. It’s been my social circle, my community, for years and years and years. It’s easy to stay “in,” because everyone was doing it.

The reason I’ve stayed so long is, it has been a constant in my life when a lot of things weren’t. I may have been changing jobs, or dealing with some mental health issues—life has been a bit tumultuous, but choir was always there. We’d meet every week, or twice a week, and all my friends were there. It just naturally supported me through a lot of things in my life.

And that’s not even saying what it did for me musically. The music is at such a high scale, but so approachable for so many different types of people. I just love that about the choir.

And it keeps me challenged. There are a lot of things I don’t do because I don’t want to venture out of my comfort zone. But, with choir, I’m learning a new language, or a new dance move, or something about a different culture. It’s always exciting. That’s why I’ve stuck around for 25 years now.

What do you wish people knew about Kokopelli?
I wish people knew just how hard everybody works. They’ve got jobs, and in Òran and up they’ve got kids, and lots of things happening in their lives. And yet they set aside the time to learn music, and to perform it at such a high level. It’s a lot of commitment. I hope people know how much time and effort is involved.

Do you have any favourite memories? I bet it’s hard to think of just one.
I’ve been trying to think, what’s the one critical memory. The ones that keep popping into my head are anything with tours.

Speaking of life-changing, and why I stay in it: I would never have travelled, I don’t think, before I joined choir. I was too sheltered, too, “Oh, what would I eat?” (laughs) But, going on a choir tour, all that was set out for you. Somebody else would plan the agenda, and I’d be, “Okay, sweet.”

I’ve seen so many amazing things, and experienced so much. One amazing one was singing in the catacombs under the Frauenkirche, the church in Dresden. It was just a small group of us who had travelled to Europe, from Òran and Nuf Sed. We performed up in the church, and then we went for a tour of the catacombs. And we sang down there, and it was really cool. But, there are so many other memories too.

And this time of year, I always get a lot of memories of Banff, and singing at Rolston Hall. Those concerts were the epitome, my favourite performances. The choir has a view of the mountains through the window at the back, the audience has the view at the front. It’s just such a magical place, and so many memories were made there. I really miss doing that every year.

And all the tours, really. It didn’t matter if you were sleeping in a five-star hotel or on a gym floor. It was all about being together, and getting to share our music.