While Donna Durand calls herself “a late bloomer,” others credit her for finally realizing a long-held dream.
At age 50, the Red Deer resident is launching the music career she was shooting for in her younger days — long before she became a single mother who needed a more secure job in order to raise her now-grown children.
Durand, who by day works as a regional manager with the Alzheimer Society, is getting a big break as a performer by opening for Ian Tyson at his sold-out concert on Friday at Red Deer’s Memorial Centre.
She’s also finally recording a first album of her original roots music, which is due out in May.
It’s being produced by the award-winning Barry Allen of Edmonton’s Homestead Records. He has also worked with Tyson, Tim Hus and k.d. lang in her early days.
Working with Allen is like getting a university degree in music, said Durand, who is originally from Camrose. The multi-talented guitar, piano, ukulele and banjo player counts herself among the many musicians Tyson has inspired.
Opening for him is a dream gig, said Durand, who has been hearing as much from fellow musicians around Alberta. “They’ve been telling me ‘nice spot!’ and I’ve said, ‘Yeah, we’re pretty happy to be there.’ ”
She first had the pleasure of performing with Tyson last year when he accepted her invitation to come to Red Deer and be part of a songwriters’ circle. Her feat, of talking the reclusive Tyson into performing at the 110-seat The Matchbox venue, impressed promoter Mike Bradford, who rewarded Durand’s nerve as much as her talent when he chose her to open the upcoming Tyson concert.
Bradford, who’s president of the Second Storey Group Inc., credits Durand’s skills as a singer and a writer of poetic lyrics.
“But what I especially admire are musicians who have persistence and luck. Put them together and that’s what I call ‘pluck,’ ” said Bradford, who believes Durand has this in droves.
For instance, a lot of people would have given up on early dreams when life pulled them in an opposite direction — but not Durand, who jokes that her kids wouldn’t let her: “My son tells me, ‘Mom, get up off the couch!’ ”
Her 25-year-old son has also said, “Mom, you never really packed music in, you gave it to us,” in the form of piano and fiddle lessons.
While neither he nor Durand’s 21-year-old daughter have any desire to become performers, she believes they are her biggest supporters.
The local songwriter is conscious of making the most of whatever time she has left because of her work with people with memory-wasting Alzheimer’s disease (including her own grandmother). “I want to catch my feelings, my stories, and other people’s as well, while I can,” said Durand, who sometimes wonders if she will also “lose her words” someday.
“One day, I just decided it’s now or never. I need to go with this because I still have things to say.”
Fortunately, life experience counts in songwriting — and Durand has lots to draw from.