Legendary singer and songwriter Sylvia Tyson won the Estelle Klein Award for lifetime contributions to Canadian folk music in 2004.

Her acceptance speech at the annual conference of the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals was a passionate, inspiring reflection on the state of the world, and the the role musicians play in it.

We post it here because it inspires us and explains a little bit about what we’re doing.

We hope it will inspire you too.
Sylvia Tyson 2004 Gala EKA Speech 001
Sylvia Tyson 2004 Gala EKA Speech 002

Text copyright Sylvia Tyson, 2004. Used by permission.


  1. avatar
    Jason Fryer 2 January, 2010 at 18:00

    Lyrics have always been the deal maker/breaker with me for artists & bands that I like. The music can be brilliantly orchestrated, but if the lyrics are not intelligent, compelling & heartfelt, there is no real point to the song in my opinion. (except in the case of instrumentals obviously) I wish more artists would take responsibility for their work & understand that they are contributing to our culture with their music. Just as our bodies are built out of the food we put in them, so is our culture built collectively on our contributions as musicians, writers & artists. It’s a huge responsibility that sadly many neglect to even acknowledge. Thankfully there always have been & hopefully always will be those who feel compelled to say something meaningful through the medium of their works.

  2. avatar
    Peter Lenton 20 November, 2010 at 02:17

    Thanks again to Sylvia for such an eloquent call to action… for all you given as a life-long passion, up to, and since your words of 2004.

    I am humbly working on an album of songs that helps kids (and grown-ups!) find their talents, so they can be developed to help with investing in healthy relationships, peace-making and community-building. Music is one of those universal talents that we all have (especially as youngsters), that can be cultivated as one of the best (gently offered) bridges to a better world!

    Just heard that a tribute album to Guy Clark is in the-the-works. There’s an artist who has also dedicated his life to crafting songs of distilled simple truths that resonate with so many of our hearts!

    I often sing the praises of Canadian as well as International artists for kids… of examples of how you can stay creative all your life and have fun at the same time. Keep musing… respectfully, Peter

  3. avatar
    Jay Sewall 28 January, 2011 at 17:35

    I also saw The Weavers in the 50’s. My first revelation to the world of folk music. Soon I was attending The Montreal Folk Worshops featuring artists like The McGarrigle Sisters and friends, Jesse Winchester, and Penny Lang. I still have my Weavers Songbook, some of their vinyl discs, and of course they heped me to know about Woodie Gutherie, Cisco Houston, and many others.
    Did you know that Pete Seeger, 91+ years is still recording and and performing. I particularly like his humoresque “English is Cuh-ray-zee” on the CD Tomorrow’s Children.

  4. avatar
    Carmel Mikol 21 March, 2011 at 12:04

    Three cheers for songwriters who leave their bedrooms, read the newspaper and care. Can’t tell you how great it was to read this on a busy Monday morning. Thanks Sylvia.

  5. avatar
    Clara Halfpenny 22 March, 2011 at 12:41

    Songwriting plays a major part in music. Words mean so much to me as an individual, and no matter how spectacular the surround instrumental backup is, I’m sure to dislike the song when the words are nasty or even if they are meaningless. I agree that the music young people fill their head with can change a generation by changing the way society things.

  6. avatar
    Bill Houston 4 February, 2012 at 01:33

    I was there when Sylvia made that meaningful speech, and was especially moved by her statement that we had come full circle. In the early fifties, Alan Mills was my first introduction to what was then known as Folk Music. Later, I also discovered Pete Seeger and the Weavers as well as those singers and songwriters Sylvia listed, plus a whole host more, too numerous to mention. Those performers really did have a profound and positive impact on so many lives. I remember the feeling I had just before that cultural tsunami hit. And lately, I’ve been feeling that same feeling. The circle really is unbroken, after all.

  7. avatar
    this Little garden 17 January, 2013 at 19:53

    Wow this was posted years ago, and it reads like being in love and walking together in a soft warm breeze…Thanks Sylvia, this is truly what music is about. Hooray!

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