After completing his first year in the Contemporary Music & Technology Program in 2018, Selkirk College student Nick Morgan fell off a cliff. Not in the figurative sense, but an actual cliff on the outskirts of Castlegar.
“It was a stupid mistake that nearly cost me my life and everything that I love doing, I’m fortunate to be where I am right now,” the 21-year-old says.
Selkirk College Contemporary Music & Technology Program second-year student Nick Morgan with his cherished Epiphone Les Paul guitar that he won in a raffle when he was 11. The guitar is one of only 1,500 in the world and helps provide the fuel he needs to carve out a future in the music industry.
Morgan was leaving a party near the Castlegar Golf Course when he took the wrong turn and got lost, ending up alone in a forested area. Scrambling to find his way in the dark, he went the wrong way and straight off a cliff that saw him bounce down the face 40 metres. Morgan shattered his shoulder, snapped his ankle and busted his nose in the fall. Lying alone in the dark, all he could do was scream for help. A nearby neighbour heard his calls and dialed the police, but his eventual rescue by helicopter took seven hours due to the darkness.
When he regained full consciousness in the hospital and the scope of his injuries became clear, the Robson native could only think about how his mistake would impact the second year of his studies on Nelson’s Tenth Street Campus.
“I felt broken beyond what happened to me physically, I was torn apart inside,” Morgan says. “I was panicked because there was that feeling that I didn’t know how to get better without being in the atmosphere of the program that I started.”
Overcoming Nerves to Find Right Pathway
Morgan’s love for music was discovered early courtesy of a home life that always included a song spinning in the background and dad who played bass guitar. By the time he was 11, Morgan was a student at Castlegar’s Supercat Studios where he was mentored by Yanive Feiner. When the music teacher raffled off his old Epiphone Les Paul guitar and Morgan was lucky enough to have his name drawn, he scored a prized instrument and his passion for playing guitar was cemented.
“The guitar is an expressive instrument and the instrument that I connect with,” says Morgan. “You can make it as beautiful and pretty or filthy and disgusting as you want it to be. It’s always interesting what kind of sounds you can get out of it.”
After high school, Morgan decided to work rather than attend post-secondary. When the time came to expand his education, he enroled in the School of Academic Upgrading at Selkirk College to boost his high school marks in physics, calculus and biology. Still unsure of his future and his love for music not waning, he took a chance and auditioned for the Contemporary Music & Technology Program.
“The reason I didn’t go right away is because I didn’t think I was good enough,” says Morgan, who was encouraged to audition by former music program faculty member Paul Landsberg. “I was so nervous that morning… the milk curdled in my stomach. When I found out that I got in, I was over the moon.”
Morgan’s first year at Selkirk College was everything he hoped for: talented faculty as mentors, classmates with the same interest, expansion of his musical knowledge and ever-improving skills on his instrument of choice. Then came the accident and his momentum for a future in music was crushed.
Looking Out for Learners a Priority
While he was recovering both physically and mentally, Morgan received word that Selkirk College had his back. When he was ready to come back, he would be welcomed with open arms.
“When I was told to just get better and my place in the program would be waiting for me when I returned, it was such a relief,” he says. “I wanted to complete my schooling because it makes me feel smart and feel good about being here. It makes me emotional just to think about the kind of support I received from everybody at the school. It’s really amazing.”
As he was preparing to return, the hurdles he faced were significant. Along with the ten screws in his shoulder holding together a plate and the continued rehabilitation regime, came the financial pressure of completing his second year in the program. Just prior to the Fall Semester starting in September, Morgan was told that the college’s Financial Aid Department was offering an emergency bursary to make up for the scholarships he lost when his education was interrupted.
“When you talk to somebody at Selkirk College, they talk to you by name,” Morgan says. “I’m not just some faceless student, they care and they want to know how I’m doing. People notice and they adjust.”
As he works to complete his second year, Morgan is energized by what he has been able to accomplish. Along with his regular studies and practice, he has started to work with clients on film scoring and video game music, something he plans to continue upon graduation in April.
Not surprisingly, Morgan gets emotional when talking about his journey and how Selkirk College has helped both in recovery and his future.
“Even this past summer, I was lethargic. Something about this place, it’s spiked my energy right up. It feels amazing to be here,” he says. “I work harder now than ever because I almost had it all ripped away due to a dumb mistake. What I am doing to further myself in a career and as a musician are better for all aspects of my life.”