People in Profile
A lifelong musician and man of many talents, Jerry is sharing his passion for performance in region and cross-country.
I was born in Lac La Biche, but raised here in Conklin – mostly. My birth language was Cree. I didn’t learn to speak English until I was seven years old.”
In the weeks before his first day of school, Jerry Quintal’s mother prepared him with a handful of questions he might get asked, then had him practice the answers in English.
"That first day, the teacher went around asking everyone ‘What’s your name?’ and ‘How old are you?’”
Moving down the row of students in her class, the teach finally comes to Jerry:
“What’s your name?” She asks patiently.
“Jerry Quintal,” he replies.
“How old are you?”
“Then the class just burst into laughter!” Jerry said, chuckling warmly at the memory of that cramped, energetic classroom. “I was so nervous I forgot all the other answers my mom taught me!”
This was just the first of many different schools, classmates, and teachers he’d see in his early life. Jerry’s father worked for Northern Alberta Railways (NAR) and would bid on jobs that would take his family up and down the railway circuit throughout the years.
“My mom and dad would never separate, so every time he’d get a new job placement, our whole family would move together. We’ve probably lived in every little town between Lac La Biche and Fort McMurray at some point. Some of his jobs were so short, we didn’t even have time to make friends. Some places didn’t even have schools, so my mother would have to teach us herself.”
So, the family moved along together – Jerry, his parents, and all his other siblings. Family was about the only constant Jerry had in his life at this point – that and their shared love of music.
My mom taught us all guitar, my siblings and me. And she taught us how to sing. I used to listen to my dad’s records over and over, teaching myself how to write songs and form the chords based on what I was hearing. I got into the fiddle later, around 13 years old – my uncle got me started on that.”
Jerry grew up and got older, but the strong bond he felt to both his family and music has remained with him for life.
“I’ll still get together with my brother Ron, and we’ll play together in different places.”
This dynamic brotherly duo of “Jerry Q” and “Ronnie Guitar” do a lot of travelling of their own, having performed gigs across Alberta and other points east and west. “Ron’s the main guy as far as scheduling goes. They’ll call him up, then he’ll call me and we’ll go. I’ve always got my gear packed and ready to hit the road.
“We were there, performing at the grand opening of the hotel at Metis Crossing – where they had an assembly of Metis leaders from all across Canada. All of a sudden we’d made new friendships with all these people from other provinces we’d met there.”
Though they usually stick to playing live, two years ago, a pair of enthusiastic fans invited them to an all-expenses-paid trip to a recording studio, trying to capture a little quintessential Quintal music in an album.
They called us up and said we should make a quick CD, so we did. Why not? We didn’t have to pay for anything. I sang the first six songs, then my brother did six after me, and we did the last song as a duet.”
Jerry and Ron were given an equal share of CDs to distribute as they pleased. “We mostly gave them away to friends and family, but some people bought them, too. I guess word got around about ‘The Quintal Brothers’ album, because even two years on people are still calling for copies – people from as far as BC are out there looking for it!”
These days, when the Quintals aren’t singing or strumming, they’re out and about sharing their knowledge and culture with inquiring minds across Alberta.
“We’ll travel around and set up culture camps to share our traditions and way of life. We'll see all kinds of people – young kids, university students, anybody who’s curious. We’ll go out into the bush, set up tents and then just show them our way of life. Show them how to forage in wilderness, teach them about the medicine we make and use. We show them how we operate the traplines. We’d take animal furs with us, show how to trap and skin a beaver or how to prepare moose meat for drying into jerky.
“And then at night we’ll sing and play for them!”
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