McMaster students, community members to attend Tom Wilson’s musical ‘Beautiful Scars’

Tom Wilson sitting backward in a chair, wearing denim clothes and a hat and half-smiling

Beautiful Scars, a musical co-created by Canadian music legend and artist Tom Wilson, made its world premiere at Theatre Aquarius this week. (José Crespo photo)

It’s a story of loss, love, forgiveness and the search for identity — and a story that a group of McMaster students and community members will get to explore, thanks to Indigenous Student Services.

The story belongs to Hamilton-raised musician and visual artist Tom Wilson.

A musical Wilson co-created, Beautiful Scars, inspired by his 2019 memoir, Beautiful Scars: Steeltown Secrets, Mohawk Skywalkers and the Road Home, made its world premiere at Theatre Aquarius this week.

Indigenous students, staff and faculty will be in the crowd to experience the show, which tells the story of how the renowned singer, while he was in his early 50s, learned he was adopted and that his ancestry is Mohawk.

Since the discovery, Wilson has been dedicated to learning as much as he can about his background, and his work in recent years has been heavily influenced by his exploration of his Indigeneity.

“Having our students there marks a continuation of a tradition of celebrating Indigenous stories and supporting local communities,” says Chrissy Doolittle, director, Indigenous Student Services.

“We have been fortunate to have Tom visit campus and connect with students through Indigenous Student Services. He is a champion of empowering the next generation of Indigenous students.”

The music legend and frontman of a number of acclaimed Canadian bands like Junkhouse and Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, has several ties to McMaster.

In 2022, Wilson donated his archive of music, photos, drawings, two paintings, notebooks and other items to the William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections at McMaster University Library.

Two of Wilson’s pieces of art are now displayed in Mills Memorial Library.

He also established the Tom Wilson Indigenous Scholarship Award in Honour of Bunny Wilson. The scholarship, established in 2020, supports students entering McMaster who identify as Indigenous and demonstrate financial need.

The scholarship bears the name of Wilson’s presumptive mother, Bunny, who Wilson has said, “brought honour, love, respect, and light back on the culture he was introduced to later in life.”

In 2022, Tom hosted two concerts at McMaster to raise funds for the bursary. He was joined by guests including Terra Lightfoot, Colin Linden and Darcy Hepner.

Wilson is planning future concerts for Fall 2024.

To learn more about Beautiful Scars, click here

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