Monday, 22 August 2016 08:00

Musician who had his formative years in Medicine Hat pleased to be nominated for Canadian Country Music Awards again

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Denis Dufresne, originally from Medicine Hat, returned to the city earlier this spring to play with Gord Bamford at the Canalta Centre. Dufresne is up for two CCMA awards this year, fiddle player of the year and specialty instrument player of the year. Denis Dufresne, originally from Medicine Hat, returned to the city earlier this spring to play with Gord Bamford at the Canalta Centre. Dufresne is up for two CCMA awards this year, fiddle player of the year and specialty instrument player of the year. Southern Alberta Newspapers photo by Charles Lefebvre

The Medicine Hat Conservatory is proving to be a place where talent thrives as past users of its services continue to be recognized on a national stage.


Both Denis Dufresne, who was raised in Medicine Hat, and Mackenzie Porter, from the Irvine area, have found themselves on the list of nominees for Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) awards again this year. This isn’t the first time either have been nominated for their efforts in country music — and Dufresne has even taken home some of the hardware — but it makes the nod no less sweet.
Dufresne has been able to make a career out of music with a focus on playing the fiddle and mandolin as well as taking the vocals when he can.
“I’ve been playing the violin since I was four,” he says. “I took lessons at the Medicine Hat Conservatory from the time I was four until I was 17.”
Although he was raised in Medicine Hat, he has lived in Calgary since 1997, but heads back to the Hat often to visit with family.
Dufresne has turned his fiddle playing into a career by, not only working on his own musical projects, but playing for many others in the industry, including recording sessions. Most recently, he has been touring with Gord Bamford, and was in Medicine Hat for a concert earlier this year.
When it comes to his two nods this year for the CCMAs, Dufresne is just as honoured as when it happened to him the first time. He has been winning the coveted trophies since 2011, earning five awards, and been nominated 15 times. He has three fiddle player of the year awards and two specialty instrument player of the year awards for his work with the mandolin.
“Because I play and record for virtually everyone, it’s always a great honour to make the top five,” he says, about the nominations. “It’s an award voted on by your peers, so it shows the level of respect from others in the industry.”
Dufresne humbly admits he doesn’t think about winning awards for his music skills.
“As musicians, you never think about the win. You just want to do the best you can and be the best players we can. (An award) is icing on the cake at the end of a hardworking year.”
The love of the craft is what has kept Dufresne involved in music his whole life and why he intended on turning it into a career.
“It has always been a passion for me, even at four years old. I always loved music and I wanted to play music. By Grade 5 or 6, I knew it would be my career ... It made it that much more important to work hard and try to get accomplished ... To me I thought, ‘Why can’t I make this a real job?’ It’s my passion and enjoyable. For what I do in the studio and live, it’s always different. There’s different styles of music and levels of improvisation and technique.”
Dufresne works hard in not just mastering the fiddle, but also plays guitar and mandolin as well as sings and writes songs.
“It’s definitely a passion so it doesn’t feel like hard work,” he adds.
In the past year, Dufresne has started a new project with three other musicians, Aaron Young, Craig Bignell and Travis Switzer, called GhostBoy. They have been playing at many Calgary venues including the Ironwood Stage and Grill, as well as releasing some videos on YouTube. An album is in the works.
Dufresne explains the band started because Aaron Young and he live only two blocks away from each other in Calgary. Young focuses on Jazz and Dufresne on country.
“We both wanted to explore (different sounds). We played some live shows to see what people thought.”
The response was positive, so work on building the band’s reputation has been underway with logo development, writing and performances at various venues.
“We’re going to be recording in the fall and doing a small city tour in the fall as well.”
Tour stops in October will include places such as Red Deer, Edmonton and a return for Dufresne to Medicine Hat.
More information on GhostBoy and possible fall tour dates is available on Facebook by searching for GhostBoy and on Twitter @GhostBoy_Band. Videos of GhostBoy can be seen on the band’s channel on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/ UCfNIHpfdlcb4wabWrYMEx3Q.

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor

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