Q: What inspired you to write and produce The Pioneer Spirit Trilogy youth musicals?
A: The seeds for these musicals were planted at an early age… One day, when I was 4 years old, my parents told me that they were thinking about moving from St. Paul to the country and that we were going to go look at an old homestead that was for sale in North Branch. The year was 1981 and NB was still a small country town. We arrived at a very long driveway that looked like a wagon trail I’d seen in a movie – 2 ruts for the wheels and tall grass and wildflowers running down the center. It was a bumpy ride even though my Dad was driving slowly.
My parents got out of the car and I gingerly followed them. The grass in the yard was taller than me and I had to spread it with my hands in order to make it through. In the distance to the left was a very old 2 story red barn and in front of me was a white farmhouse. The owner had told my parents to just feel free to have a look around, as the house had only partially been renovated and no one was living there. They also said that the door would be locked but that we could go in through the basement window. I watched nervously as my Mom opened the cobweb-covered window and disappeared through. With wide eyes I followed close behind. Once inside, I looked around in awe - dim light coming through the dusty windows glowed on the interior, which had been gutted down to the notched oak beams. My parents fell in love with it right then and there and that summer our pioneer adventures began.
We started renovating the house, explored the woods and prairie, got ‘lost’ in nature, dug a large garden plot, planted vegetables of every kind, pumped water by hand from the well to water them and cooked our food over a campfire…
Q: Are the musicals autobiographical?
A: The youth musicals are historical fiction based upon the Midwest pioneer experience, however I don’t think that I could’ve written them without having had the first hand experience of growing up on an 1880’s homestead.
Q: When and where did your 1st musical have its debut?
A: In 2008 for Minnesota’s Sesquicentennial, Traveling Down the Wagon Trail – Beneath the Big Blue Sky, was performed by a cast of 18 youth at three of the State Park amphitheaters along the St. Croix River.
Q: Tell us about North Star Theater Company’s beginnings.
A: In 1996 I founded North Star Theater Company to provide performing arts experiences for youth and families - one-man plays, music and storytelling performances, music and theater lessons and original youth musicals. These areas continue to this day.
Photos from NSTC Youth Musicals
Scripts, Lyrics & Music by Pierre Jacques Pleau
The adventure is about to begin!
Pumping water to the rhythm of the music!
Transplanting blueberry bushes!
Photos from the NSTC Youth Musical
Traveling Down The Wagon Trail -
Beneath the Big Blue Sky
Script, Lyrics & Music by Pierre Jacques Pleau
© 2008 North Star Theater Company
Q: You went on to write and direct 2 more youth musicals set in the mid 1800’s and then followed these 3 musicals with 2 set in the early 1900’s. How does your last musical, Land, Air & Water tie into these?
A: Land, Air & Water, in a sense, is a culmination of the 5 previous musicals. The youth musical series weaves three centuries together through traditions and values that are carried on by descendants. The final musical, Land, Air & Water is set in the present times and is focused on our environment.
Q: From 2008-2011 you wrote these 6 youth musicals including the music and lyrics. How many songs in all and where were they originally performed?
A: The musicals were performed at NBAHS Edelstein Auditorium in North Branch... The 6 musicals include 69 songs and 18 instrumental pieces, many of which I now sing &/or play in my music & storytelling performances.
Q: As a speaker, musician and Minnesota Master Naturalist you’ve been giving musical theater environmental education presentations for children and families. What themes do you currently offer?
A: Since 2011, I've been giving interactive presentations based upon the Musical Land, Air & Water, which cover many environmental topics. Presentations can be catered to a group’s needs. For example, I’ve been giving annual interactive performances on water education for 5th graders at Chisago County Children’s Water Fest.
2 min. Music Video from the Youth Musical
Chisago County Press - Thursday March 17, 2011
Pierre Jacques Pleau
Singer/songwriter & musician –
fiddle/violin, mandolin, ukulele & guitar
Playwright, performer and teaching artist,
North Star Theater Company Artistic Director
avid gardener and Minnesota Master Naturalist
A native of Minnesota,
a long time resident of Chisago County,
with French-Canadian, Irish & Swedish Roots
Pleau, began his musical journey at an early age...
Live Performance Q&A
Q: When did you develop an interest in playing music?
A: One of my earliest influences was my Great, Great Aunty Vee, who was born in the mid 1890’s. She told me many of her adventures - including when she drove her horse drawn wagon to the next town to learn how to play the fiddle. She also reminisced about the good old days when her neighbors gathered at a farmhouse and played music late into the evening...
Q: How old were you when you started learning how to play the violin?
A: That depends on how you look at it! One day, when I was 5 years old and was walking through the mall past a music store with my parents – I saw it – a small violin in the shop window. We went in to look at it but it turned out to be a soprano ukulele. I still thought it looked a lot like a violin though and much to my delight my parents bought it for me.
When we arrived home, I hurried out to the backyard, found a bendy stick and tied a string on it. Then putting my ukulele on my shoulder like I had seen violinists do, I tried playing it with my makeshift bow! Even though it didn’t make very good sound, I didn’t give up on my dream of learning to play a real violin and three years later I started taking lessons…
After 10 years of private Suzuki classical violin lessons, I felt a deep calling from the past when I saw a fiddler playing at an old time country festival…
In the years that followed, I was fortunate to have inspiring mentors who helped me discover a whole new side to my instrument...
I started experimenting with composing music that reflected the sounds of nature and country living and slowly my violin magically turned into a fiddle! And now I have 2 instruments that are rolled into one!
Music Performances & Workshops
Festivals, Celebrations, Events,
Schools, Childcare Centers, Youth Groups…
Serving the Twin Cities Metro Area,
East Central Minnesota and Western WI since 1996
for Ages 5-Adult – Beginners Welcome!
Private &/or Family Duo 30 min.
weekly lessons are held year round
Traditional Fiddle/Violin, Classical Violin,
Mandolin, Ukulele, Guitar, Piano, Singing/Voice
Q: You’ve also been involved in playing music for folk dancers – can you tell us a little more about that?
A: In 1999 I started playing fiddle accompaniment for the Ki-Chi Saga Swedish Jr. Folk Dancers, a group my sister Karlynna performed in for 10 years. Then in 2004 we went on to form the North Star Jr. Folk Dance Group to help carry on traditions of cultures in our region… Currently, we teach fun traditional dances, such as the Virginia Reel as well as play fiddle music together at festivals and events.
Isanti/Chisago County Star 9/1/04:
‘The Jr. Folk Dancers performed at their first Festival, held at Gammelgarden in Scandia (an historic Swedish immigrant site not that unlike one from the era of Little House on the Prairie where Laura Ingalls Wilder grew up).’
Pierre & Karlynna
Q: "Could you tell us about the nature programs you offer for youth & families?"
A: "Recently I developed a Plant Id Interpretive presentation; a flower head wreath activity with native Minnesota plants; as well as a Tree Id Game that I’ve presented at local festivals and events.
Nature Songs & Stories
as well as Garden Songs & Stories are two additional musical performances that I offer for youth and families."
Q: What role do you see the performing arts playing in our communities?
A: The performing arts are a universal language and a vital component of any community. They provide multiple ways for people to express themselves, their heritage, beliefs, struggles, accomplishments, goals and dreams. They provide a reason for people to gather together and are a way to build bridges between people, communities and cultures.