Mike Sanyshyn (centre) with his band, Jackson Hollow. They perform modern bluegrass with classic country roots and offer listeners a break from contemporary country music. Lead vocalist Tianna Lefebvre, and Shanyshyn’s wife, is pictured on the truck. Eric Reed (left) and Charlie Frie (right) round out the band. Submitted Photo.
Nicholas L. M. Allen
Nov 1, 2023
Jackson Hollow nominated for Ensemble of the Year and Traditional Singer at the Canadian Folk Music Awards.
Mike Sanyshyn, an acclaimed fiddler and native of Coleman in the Crowsnest Pass, recently opened up about his cherished childhood experiences and how they set the stage for his successful music career.
Sanyshyn reminisced about growing up in Crowsnest Pass, describing his early years as wonderful, with a strong connection to the outdoors. He recalled adventures with his father and grandfather, enjoying fly fishing, hunting for game, and even berry picking. These experiences provided a unique appreciation for the region’s natural beauty.
“I had a great childhood in the Crowsnest Pass,” Sanyshyn said. “I couldn’t imagine growing up anywhere else.”
Crowsnest Pass offered more than just outdoor adventures for Sanyshyn. It was in this close-knit community that he first discovered his love for music. He mentions that his family has a long tradition of fiddlers, with his grandfather and father being accomplished players. Sanyshyn’s musical journey began with classical music lessons and instilled a strong foundation. He also became a member of the Mountain Fiddlers, a local fiddle club.
At the age of eight, Sanyshyn started playing the violin and even joined the Crowsnest Symphony Orchestra as the third violinist when he was just nine years old. His early classical music training was further complemented by his growing interest in fiddle music, which he learned to play by ear. These experiences helped him develop his musical skills and set the stage for his future career.
In 1985, Sanyshyn’s family relocated to B.C. due to his father’s job transfer, leaving the Crowsnest Pass behind. However, this change in location provided new opportunities for his musical career. He continued to play classical music for a while but eventually rekindled his passion for fiddling.
Speaking about his journey, Sanyshyn says, “I was inspired early on as a young boy listening to my dad and my grandfather play, and to learn how to play the fiddle. I also was inspired by the great Al Cherney, who was the fiddle player on The Tommy Hunter Show. So, a combination of those things made me decide early on that I wanted to make this a career path.”
Sanyshyn’s dedication to his craft has paid off in recent years, as he and his wife have been receiving national recognition and nominations for their music, particularly in the folk and bluegrass genres. Their band, Jackson Hollow, has been nominated for Ensemble of the Year and Traditional Singer at the Canadian Folk Music Awards.
Reflecting on their achievements, Sanyshyn emphasizes their commitment to Jackson Hollow and their desire to focus on it as their primary musical project. He notes that their music has gained momentum and international recognition, opening up new avenues for their career.
As for their unique style, Sanyshyn describes it as “modern bluegrass with classic country roots,” offering listeners a refreshing break from contemporary country music trends. He invites music enthusiasts to explore their sound, which features fiddles, mandolins, and powerful vocals, all led by his wife’s singing.
For Sanyshyn, his roots in the Crowsnest Pass remain a source of pride and inspiration. He encourages others not to forget where they come from and to promote their hometowns. While he has traveled far and wide, he always proudly acknowledges his connection to the Crowsnest Pass, hoping to one day return to share his music with the community that helped shape his extraordinary musical journey.
“We hope to actually come and do some performing for you guys at some point If you’ll have us,” said Sanyshyn.
Visit mikesanyshyn.com to learn more about Sanyshyn and his music.