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Including artists and audiences with disabilities into all facets of the arts community.

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Young musician headed for Jazz Fest

by Alana Trachenko.

A Charleswood musician is headed for one of the city’s favourite stages at the Winnipeg Jazz Festival.

Connor Derraugh, with his band, Ability, will be playing in Old Market Square the cube on Thurs., June 21 at 5 p.m. Derraugh plays saxophone and piano and recently graduated from the University of Manitoba’s jazz program. He’s no stranger to playing local gigs, but this will be his first time at Jazz Fest.

“It’s maybe more challenging getting in when you’re younger, because everyone knows the people that have been around for a while,” Derraugh said. “It’s like, well, do we take a chance on this kid or just get someone we know?”

Derraugh has pursued music for most of his life, despite a major setback as a young teen. In Grade 9, Derraugh went for a routine septum surgery and suffered a brain injury, which caused a severe weakening on the right side of his body.

It took him years of disciplined work to get back to where he was before, but since then Derraugh hasn’t looked back. Nowadays, he considers music through the lens of disability, which he chooses to see in a positive light.


“The reason I wanted to call the band Ability is because we’re playing music written by musicians who had disabilities, but when you hear that word, you picture someone in a wheelchair and can’t do anything for themselves,” Derraugh said. “Disability carries a negative connotation… so I prefer ability, because we all have ability, even if we’re slightly different.”

Derraugh says they’ll be playing tunes by Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield and David Sanborn, among others.

Derraugh has played with the other four musicians in Ability before, and he says they have good chemistry onstage.

“When I put a band together, especially playing for other people, I always try to get the best players in town, because they will elevate my play, and make me sound better than I do,” Derraugh said. “When I’m playing with these guys, it’s more of a comfort onstage because I don’t have to worry about them.”

As for performing for a large audience at a popular music festival, Derraugh isn’t feeling nervous.

“I’ve been performing for other people since I was five years old at the Charleswood talent show, so I love being onstage while performing for people. I always say I’d rather be playing in front of people than sitting in a practice room,” he said.

For more information on the Winnipeg Jazz Festival, visit

Read more by Alana Trachenko.

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