Door to Possibility: Meet Hugh Beresford

Unlike most students who make their way to Cape Breton from Ontario, Hugh Beresford didn’t have the big-city-to-small-town experience when he decided to come to CBU. Originally from a rural community in Ontario, Hugh says transitioning to life in Sydney was easier than expected and he jumped at the chance to explore a new part of the world while meeting new people. 

Hugh is a transfer student in the Bachelor of Arts Community Studies Program (BACS), with plans to graduate in the fall of 2022. While completing a three-year, liberal arts degree back at home, Hugh fell in love with guitar, and started playing music. When an amazing opportunity offered him the chance to teach music in Australia, Hugh was eager to take the adventure. After making his way back to Canada, Hugh was connected to Dr. Heather Sparling, Canada Research Chair and Professor of Ethnomusicology, by his sister, who thought Dr. Sparling would be the perfect person to help Hugh further his interests in music and education. 

Because the BACS program at CBU allowed Hugh to major in music while earning a degree in research, it was a natural choice. “This degree will open the door to possibilities in various fields,” says Hugh. “This way, I can take music and apply it to different areas instead of being locked into one path in the music industry.” 

Hugh says arriving to Cape Breton in the wake of the first COVID-19 lock down was an interesting experience, as there weren’t many musical performances or events being held. But that didn’t stop the new arrival from making the most of his time. “I was living with two friends whose family members would come over to jam together and hang out,” Hugh explains. “We started getting together regularly and when things started opening up again I also got the opportunity to play for some of the elderly in our communities, who are hit the hardest by the isolation of the pandemic.” 

Hugh says music was a large part of his life growing up, and transitioning to the kitchen-party lifestyle of Cape Breton came naturally to him. It is this passion for music that led Hugh to his thesis topic. “I’ve always been interested in the way people ask musicians how they stay so dedicated, or how they make time for practice,” says Hugh. “To me, one thing that stands out is making sure your instrument is out in the open and becomes part of the home. This got me thinking what advice or practices other musicians might have to offer.” 

After chatting with Dr. Sparling, Hugh narrowed down his subject area to Gaelic musicians on the Island and their practices. Since then, he has been working on a piece that highlights a list of things musicians or parents of musicians could do to rearrange their households, lifestyle and habits to help incorporate music into their lives. Hugh describes the project as getting to the heart of igniting music in the home. “I’m a huge believer in the home as the foundation of community and the place where everything needs to start,” says Hugh. “I think the best way to turn a house into a home is through live music.”  

After completing his thesis and graduating from CBU, Hugh  is interested in a career focused on music education and music experience at the grassroots level. He says whether he is teaching or organizing festivals, any career that enables him to play more music would be a success. He says the hands on learning he has experienced at CBU along with the kindness of the community have made his time on the Island unforgettable.