This Pride Month, Atwood Magazine has invited artists to participate in a series of short essays in observance and celebration of the month’s significance. Today’s submission comes from Anchorage, Alaska-based singer/songwriter Quinn Christopherson.
an essay by Quinn Christopherson
In our Native culture, when introducing yourself, it’s customary to introduce your parents, and their parents.
They are all part of who you are. My mother is Tawny Leblanc, My Grandmother is Mary Alee Levshakoff, and my great grandfather is Frank Hobson.
My Great Grandfather Frank Hobson was well known as The Eskimo Violinmaker. He made over 50 violins, plus cellos, violas, guitars, and mandolins – each of the highest craftsmanship. He was interviewed by National Geographic, the Smithsonian, as well as National and local newspapers. Some referred to his house as the ‘local music emergency room’
He told a reporter in 1971, “A block of wood has a tone to it, I rub my hands over it after it is cured to see if the wood is alive. If it isn’t, there’s no point in going further with it.”
My Grandma Mary told me how much I reminded her of her dad. “He was a musician too, he could play anything with strings.”
I sat across from my Grandma Mary at her breakfast nook. She played solitaire and I sang. We did this everyday.
In between songs she would tell me stories about her life, our family members, old friends, & some about me when I was too young to remember. She once told me about her 12th birthday. She had been asking for her own pair of knitting needles after watching her mom knit everyone hats and gloves alike. She really wanted to learn how. She said her dad presented her with hand carved knitting needles he made special for her. Wrapped in a bow. She knew how much love he put into them. She said that was the best gift she had ever been given.
Mary told me Frank also built the family home from the ground up. 45 miles from Nelchina by the Tazlina River, south of Glennallen, Alaska. It’s still there today.
Music was a big part of this house. Mary told me people would come from far away villages just to join in on living room jam sessions with her dad. She always told me how much she loved listening to live music and how big of a role it played in her life.
She passed this down to me, because grandmas house was the foundation for my music. She had a small piano in the living room with a water color painting of a fruit basket over it. It was definitely one of us grandkids middle school art, it wasn’t pretty. She liked that about it. She would look over at it, laugh a little, and remind me who made it and how old they were. She showed me there is value in things that aren’t perfect. This is where I brought my guitar everyday, ate good food, and just sang my songs. She would come in and out of naps, we would have a little homemade chili, “graze a bit” she would say. She never told me to stop playing.
I wrote a song about my grandma when she was still alive and I couldn’t wait to share it with her. It was about how she was so deliberate with her words, and storytelling. I wanted to show her that I took after her. “She says a lot without saying much at all” was one lyric I remember. I played it for her one day and in the most earnest, grandma-voice you could imagine, she said “I love it. I couldn’t hear any of the words, but it sounded really good sweeter.”
I think that was the best gift I have ever been given. – Quinn Christopherson
Stream: “Evelene” – Quinn Christopherson
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