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A Not-So Prodigal Son Comes Home for Christmas

Timmy's Happy Christmas 1974 takes place at Red Deer Polytechnic on December 2

Tim Tamashiro, Bright Boy of Blackfalds and one of Red Deer Polytechnic’s (1988) favourite grads, is coming home this December. 

Since graduating from then-RDC’s Music Merchandising program, Tamashiro has had a varied career as a recording artist, broadcaster, author, speaker, performer, and part-time Buddhist monk. 

He owes his adventures to a moment of clarity and a nearby opportunity. Early in 1986, at twenty years old, Tamashiro was working in Red Deer for the Government of Alberta as a survey technician: “making bank” at $8 an hour, happy enough in his occupation and in the company he kept, but knowing he wanted something else, something more in tune with his own private hopes and joys. 

“Was it possible,” he wondered, “to make a living doing something you love?”

And he loved music.

So: musical but without much formal training and next to no theory, Tamashiro auditioned for the program at RDC. Two instructors in the music program—Keith Mann, whom Tamashiro describes as having “Tommy Banks-like energy” (yes, I had to look him up, too), and Ken Mallett—saw potential. 

“Go learn some theory over the summer,” young Tim was told, “and we’ll let you in.”

He did. And they kept their word.

Tamashiro recalls with fondness the sound of music in the newly-built Arts Centre, its smells, its airs, and its energy. He learned how to make music and how to make it available, writing, producing, and marketing for “The Noon Show,” a variety show performed on Mainstage or in the Far Side lounge. When he wasn’t performing, he pushed and pulled bands around on a makeshift mobile bandstand, filling the halls with joyful noise and a gentle mirth that’s become a currency of his performance.

RDC was a boon. “The environment allowed us to think like real-world musicians and business people” at the same time, he remembers. He left college understanding what he wanted to be and do and how to bring that future about.

His mentors helped. Keith Mann in particular, he says, “walked into a room and was the leader” and “made things happen”: a difficult proposition in the arts when budgets are strained or government priorities have shifted. 

Informed by Mann’s example and the encouragement of other mentors and peers, Tamashiro decided there and then “not to be a gun for hire.” 

“I’m going to be a leader,” he determined, “and make things happen, too.” 

He kept his word. He’s doing it still.

Tamashiro’s life philosophy of “doing what you love,” seeded and nourished in his experiences at RDC and informed by his heritage and culture as a Japanese-Canadian, finds its best expression in the concept of ikigai (EEH-KEEH-guy), a subject he has now published on in a recent book, and an approach that has led him to tour as a storyteller and musician.

As luck (and the real behind-the-scenes work of some wonderful people at RDP) would have it, he’s bringing one of those shows to RDP for a one-night-only performance. 

“Timmy’s Happy Christmas, 1974”—a nostalgic treat for those of us who remember the seventies and a delightful primer on the weird and woolly (and the weirdly woolly) for those that don’t—will be on Red Deer Polytechnic’s Arts Centre Mainstage on Saturday, December 2 at 7:30 p.m.

Buy your tickets now for this festive event.

Come join us in welcoming Timmy home. It’ll be weird, but it will also be wonderful. 

For more on Tamashiro’s ideas, career, and infectious spirit, visit

Written by Dr. Jonathon Penny, Dean of Arts and Education at Red Deer Polytechnic


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