What We Do

Big Water Creative Arts

On April 7, 2016, BWCA, Inc. (a 501c3 not for profit corporation) was born. BWCA’s initial programs were songwriting classes for elementary and middle school students.

Since then, we’ve partnered with and brought music programs to elementary, middle and high schools such as Petoskey Montessori Children’s House, Mackinac Island Public Schools, Mancelona Public Schools, Wolverine Public Schools, Pellston Public Schools, Gaylord Public Schools & Cheboygan Public Schools. We’ve also partnered with Crooked Tree Arts Center in Petoskey, the Great Lakes Center For The Arts in Bay Harbor, The Bergmann Center in Charlevoix, and the Bay View Music Festival in Petoskey to bring music workshops and programming to kids, adults and special needs adults in northern Michigan.

As of 2022, we have expanded our programming from Songwriting 101 to include Music Exploration, Beginning Ukulele, Community Sing, Rock Jam and have partnered with Good Hart Artist Residency, Blissfest, Michigan Arts Access and Crooked Tree Art Center on music programming.

Our Mission

Dedicated to promoting the arts in the Great Lakes region through education, instruction, interaction and performance

What We've Accomplished So Far

  • Elementary and middle school Songwriting 101 classes & workshops
  • Songwriting 101 workshops for special needs adults
  • Music Enrichment classes for special needs adults
  • Music Enrichment classes for seniors
  • Community Sing classes joining elementary students and seniors

  • Group instrumental instruction for seniors
  • Sponsored performances at local music/art festivals
  • Middle school Music Exploration classes
  • Rock Jam programs for middle school and high school students
  • Original composition and dance collaboration

Co-Founders Pete Kehoe & Michelle Chenard

Our History

Big Water Creative Arts, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that was created by longtime friends and musical colleagues Michelle Chenard and Pete Kehoe in April of 2016, as a response to the lack of music education in northern Michigan public schools, and budget cuts to existing cultural programs throughout the state. The idea for BWCA started in 2014 in the form of an annual songwriters workshop on Mackinac Island, a weekend long creative songwriting program for adults that the pair offered in October each year at the Murray Hotel. While rewarding and a positive experience for all involved, Michelle and Pete realized they needed to create an organization to provide music education and musical experiences of all kinds to kids and adults both, who otherwise would not have the opportunity.

Initial offerings were songwriting classes through local schools and art centers for kindergarten through middle school-aged students. Now, BWCA’s programs include music exploration, instrumental group ukulele and guitar lessons, songwriting classes for kids, adults and special needs adults, high school special ed music classes, and rock band programs for middle and high school students. Starting in 2018, BWCA expanded it’s territory of operations to include a wider area of northern Michigan to include schools and groups in Petoskey, Mancelona, Pellston, Alanson, Mackinac Island, Wolverine, Gaylord and Cheboygan.

We believe that music education and exposure to music is as important to every single human being on this planet as the air we breathe. We believe that the benefits that come from that exposure and immersion in music is critical to young, developing minds, and vital to keeping older minds cognitively sharp as well. Aside from all that, music is simply good for us all. It connects us all as human beings, and shared musical experiences bind us all together as only music can. Big Water Creative Arts is dedicated to providing the opportunity to experience the magic of music for those who wouldn’t have it otherwise. We believe it is crucial to retaining our humanity in an increasingly inhumane world. Music IS the very essence of humanity. Help us continue our mission to connect, to heal, to make whole, those who need music in their lives.