By Cameron Bell
If you’ve ever questioned the value of parents and their children playing music together, just ask Sonya Black how she got into music.
“Dad was always the number one person who would be there” she says, fondly remembering the late Reg Bruneau. He was always there to help set up and sound check for Sonya’s performances, or even pick up a djembe to add some rhythm to the show.
Well-known as a talented multi-instrumentalist, Reg started playing music in public when he was only 14 years old, in a live band at the Terrace Legion.
He played at a wide variety of festivals, shows, and fireside jam sessions right up until he passed away from ALS two years ago, even putting rubber bands on his hands to continue playing as he lost mobility due to the disease.
After helping to organize a fundraiser show at the Legion in remembrance of her father, Sonya took a year-long break from playing music.
The whole experience has given their family an opportunity to embark on a journey of spirituality, and Sonya now finds strength and support in the healing process through music.
Support from other musicians and the local music community has been instrumental, and she’s noticed that “people open up about how music helps with confidence and healing ourselves” in challenging times.
Sonya’s musical journey started when she was young, playing music with her dad and her sisters.
As a teenager, being involved in musical theatre at school and playing at coffee shops and open mics gave her a solid foundation to start performing when she moved to the big city.
For five years she played regularly at the Anza Club, a popular hub for live music and socializing in Vancouver’s Mt Pleasant neighbourhood.
After being part of such an active scene, she admits that there were some challenges being a female musician when she first moved back home.
However, she’s also noticed some improvements over the past four years, including more lead female vocalists in local bands.
As for her own repertoire, “I pretty much know every Jewel song you can think of” she laughs, reflecting on her early influences.
These days she pulls cover songs from a wide variety of genres but makes them into her own, incorporating her own soulful, folky sound into the music.
That sound has changed over time too, and she explains her current style as “writing not just about how I’m feeling, but about the things around me”.
With enough material for two albums already, Sonya hopes to work on some recordings in the coming months and years for local listeners to enjoy.
Solo performances, drum circles, and full moon ceremonies will always be part of her musical endeavours, but she hopes to be part of a band in the future too, similar to her father. “Dad always had a band but collaborated with everyone,” she recalls.
Keep an ear out for Sonya’s smooth guitar playing and captivating voice at local open mic nights, or head to Sherwood on March 14 where she will be opening the Counterfeit Saint Paddy’s show.
Music Matters is one of four columns by local writers that explore Northwest food, music, art and mental wellness.