Artist in Business Leadership fellow goes back to the classroom

It wasn’t only technical skills that Wade Fernandez gained during his time at a recent master recording workshop.

“It gave me permission to be me,” he said, an epiphany he experienced when one of the professors complimented his work.

Fernandez, an enrolled member of the Menominee Tribe in Wisconsin and an accomplished musician, music and video producer, completed several music classes as a fellow of the First Peoples Fund Artist in Business Leadership program and a recipient of the Rural Business Enterprise grant.

Fernandez, who was a 2010 Community Spirit Award recipient and 2011 Cultural Capital grantee, has spent several years working to preserve the Menominee language by incorporating it in his music. The classes he took—lyric writing, master recording and music marketing—were insightful and exciting, Fernandez said, and especially helpful for a boost of confidence.

The recording class gave him an opportunity to work directly with producers who have worked alongside musicians including Sting, Steely Dan, and Vince Gill. He was familiar with several of the skills the producers taught.

“It’s helped me to not be so critical of myself,” he said. “Perfectionism has slowed me down. You get more critical as your ear becomes better and the vision of what you want becomes clearer.”

During the lyric writing class, Fernandez worked on strengthening his skills in the side of music production that challenges him.

“My strength has always been the melodies,” he said. “Marrying that with writing has always been a mystery. It was nice to focus on the lyrics.”

Fernandez draws inspiration not only from his culture, but also from his family. Raising five children between the ages of six and 13 keeps him busy—and focused.

“Kids have given me inspiration and made me more grounded,” he said. One of his most recent music videos includes his son. The production was completed as a result of the classes he took.

“First Peoples Fund has helped support my music and my art and helps me support my community,” he said.

In addition to the classes supported by First Peoples Fund, Fernandez has been able to purchase equipment that he has used to create documentaries for his community about health, nutrition, pollution and diabetes.

“It’s been a great, and important, part of my work,” he said.