Jay Bodner is a 3rd year nursing student at the Faculty of Nursing, University of Manitoba with an unique role in his “other” life. In May, 2009 the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (WSO) launched the First Indigenous Festival, a celebration of Indigenous cultures from around the world. This 4 day event culminated in an innovative concert at the Burton Cummings Theatre which featured the WSO playing with the Juno award winning Aboriginal rock band, Eagle and Hawk. Nursing students were in the audience cheering on their fellow student, Jay Bodner, the lead singer and as he refers to himself, the “grandpa” of his nursing student cohort!
Jay Bodner first joined Eagle and Hawk when band leader Vince Fontaine approached him at a musicians’ hockey league event. The band was looking for a lead singer to accompany them on a European tour. That was 11 years ago and Jay is still singing, playing and composing with the band. Jay describes the cultural composition of Eagle and Hawk as representative of the diversity of the Canadian cultural mosaic. Vince, a proud Ojibwa leads the band which is composed of Marty Chapman an English drummer, Caribbean keyboard player, Italian Irish Mi’kmaq bass player and Jay who describes himself as a Canadian mutt with Lebanese heritage and a little bit of the unkown.
Originally the band’s music was primarily about the Native experience but over the past 3 – 4 years has now blossomed to something larger which Jay describes as the human experience. Over the last 11 years Jay has been submerged in the Aboriginal culture, learned much and developed an affinity to the Aboriginal people. Besides playing for northern communities, the band undertakes mainstream trade shows and festivals. The main message of their music is positive, priding itself on good melody and lyrical content that does not include swearing or negative lyrical content. The live shows aim to be friendly and positive, described by Jay as “an all round feel good rock and roll show”.
Jay has also had a career within health care for at least as many years as he has been a musician.
Over the past 17 years, he has worked as a ward clerk and health care aide in the
emergency ward of Concordia Hospital. Currently he is on the casual list at Misericordia and Concordia. He describes his experience with his family as “winning the lottery of life”. He credits his mother, who is a nurse as influencing him to enter health care. With the band, he assumed the role of “House Mom”, advising other band members about ailments that occurred on the road. Advice was generally given after a telephone consultation with Nurse Mom! At various points in his life, Jay has found his work in health care to be sustaining particularly after experiencing the death of his brother. Jay found himself often comforting families in the ER as they awaited news of their loved ones. His ability to stay calm with the families has been helpful. His mother’s example and passion for nursing inspired him to enter the Faculty of Nursing and work towards his dream of becoming a university prepared registered nurse.
Balancing studies, family and band responsibilities is challenging, particularly when the other band members depend on you to contribute to the band for their living. Some of the band members have been his best cheerleaders. Last year was the band’s most successful year with Eagle and Hawk winning six awards out of ten nominations at music award shows in Canada, and a ground breaking concert with the WSO. While a long time coming and inherently joyful, it was difficult to meet all the diverse demands placed upon him. Three important children are also in Jay’s life. He tries to be “Dad” to them and spend time with them. Some nights that means opening the nursing text books late at night and trying to stay awake!
The dual worlds of music and nursing while initially seeming far apart do influence each other. As the lead singer Jay has had to learn how to connect to his audience whether it be in a small intimate group or a large audience with a language barrier. Through these experiences, he has had to learn new ways to communicate. This has stood him in good stead in nursing practice where he sees communication issues being key, with patients, families and the health care team. Working with band members has similarities to working with a health care team; everyone has a common goal, performs different jobs and needs to get along. His music life has also taught him to be flexible, a quality that the nurse of the future will need. Rapid changes in society will require nurses to be open to change. Jay’s mother has illustrated flexibility in her nursing career having been a nursing supervisor, ward nurse, and community nurse. His father has taught him staying power and with that Jay is committed to completing his degree. While not sure where he will eventually practice nursing, Jay feels that he will both contribute to nursing with his life experiences and be challenged by his nursing career.