Vermont Arts Council

I am a Vermont Artist: Bryan Blanchette

Bryan is a singer-songwriter who brings more than ten thousand years of Abenaki tradition to his contemporary compositions. He began powwow drumming more than two decades ago and soon after began writing Abenaki language songs. Bryan also studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Recently, Bryan shared his thoughts about being a Vermont artist.   
How has living as an artist in Vermont affected your creative process?

Living in Vermont has allowed me to experience things that I could not have seen simply by visiting. The natural beauty of Vermont is incredible. I often take trips to the Warren cascades and while there can easily draw inspiration for new thoughts on music or anything. It’s where I go to become grounded. I’m far more relaxed and able to focus on my music up here.

Singing in Abenaki in Vermont is so much more meaningful, and being in Abenaki territory has allowed me to spend more time with my extended and supportive native family. Living in Graniteville and seeing the trees growing up out of the grout piles has given me the inspiration to write a powwow song about how the forest is reclaiming our land.  But most important of all is that I can feel the presence of the ancestors.

What is something about your art that has changed over time?

For the Black Hawk Singers, a group I started in 2004, I try to keep the songs as traditional as possible. I believe and have been instructed that our culture lies within the language. It’s with that in mind that I write new songs, because our culture is alive and I want people to understand that. I started writing and performing contemporary music a few years ago to bring the beauty of our language to a wider audience and more attention to our language and culture.

What is your vision for the next several years?

Recently, I started playing guitar again and feel as though I’m just starting to wake up musically as an acoustic singer-songwriter. For my upcoming CD, I’ve been fortunate enough to have some extremely talented Vermont musicians add some incredible tracks. Moving forward, I want to push the envelope and produce music that is more jam based but with both traditional and contemporary instrumentation along with Abenaki lyrics. Perhaps the most important of all my music goals is to see people dancing to songs with Abenaki lyrics in Vermont clubs.  
Learn more about Bryan.
Hear Bryan’s music.

The “I am a Vermont Artist” series explores how artists’ creative expressions reflect their experiences of ethnicity, gender identity, religion, disability, or age. Covering all artistic disciplines, and a range of backgrounds—from New Americans to the state’s first residents—we hope to amplify voices that deepen our understanding of what it means to be a Vermont artist.

Visit the series archive.