• Céline Peterson

Updated: Feb 11

I have been going back and forth in my mind about the notion that, on certain occasions, silence speaks louder than words. Personally, I do try very hard to be purposeful in the things that I share especially when they can affect others. For a while now, I’ve found myself wanting to say some things publicly but I have refrained from doing so because, first and foremost, I do not want to hurt anyone in the process. I also want to make sure that what I say serves a purpose. So, I ultimately decided that I wanted to shed some light on certain things with the hope that not only will I feel lighter, but that it will also give others a chance to explore a different perspective.

Recently, there was a film that was released about my dad that received some attention here in Canada. With plans for an international release in the works it will, at some point, receive attention internationally. I feel that now would be a good time for me to offer a glimpse into a different perspective regarding projects that involve my dad.

I’m a daughter. I’m a daughter before anything else. I went through the loss of my dad when I was sixteen. While the loss of my dad also meant the loss of a world-renowned and highly respected public figure with a 65-year career, to me it was just the loss of my dad that caused my world to come crashing down around me.

None of us can choose the life scenarios that we are born into. While I am immensely proud to be the daughter of Oscar Peterson, the scenario I was born into forces me to share my dad with countless people around the world. It is something that continues to be challenging for me, even though I have endless respect for the fact that dad is beloved by so many people spanning all generations. It brings me a great deal of happiness to know how much joy my dad has given people over the years. It brought him unparalleled happiness to know that he was touching people’s lives. Whether they were in the audience at a show, playing a record at home, or playing along with his performances, if he could bring even a few minutes of brightness to someone’s day he was content. He was, as well, very much fuelled by his own expectations of himself. He spoke both publicly and privately about not solely playing to feed the audience but playing to feed himself and the people with whom he shared the stage with. His expectations for himself and therefore also for his bandmates, were exceptionally high. Arguably, they were unattainably high unless you were the best of the best, and he was, as were the people he chose to play with.

That high bar applied also to the projects he would or would not participate in. So, what happens when he isn’t here to make decisions about how his name, likeness, and music are used or how his story is told? From my perspective, when that happens painful things occur. As his daughter and someone who will always have a sense of fierce protection when it comes to her dad, it is painful for me to see outsiders use him to further their own agendas, especially when it is publicly masked under false intentions.

There have been more instances like this in my life than I care to reflect on. That isn’t why I’m sharing this. I’m sharing this because I think it will be beneficial for anyone reading this to understand that when there are certain projects that I do not wish to be a part of for whatever my reasons may be, I don’t have the luxury of just ignoring it. These projects see the light of day regardless of my consent or agreement and there will always be people – dad’s fans or otherwise – who are excited about them; I am not here to force others to feel the way that I feel. I do not expect people to refrain from having excitement just because I don’t or even understand why I wouldn’t share in the public’s feelings of excitement. I am not here to take anyone’s joy away.

There is absolutely no reason why Oscar Peterson fans shouldn’t be excited to have a new documentary about one of their favourite musicians. It is my wish that those fans also understand that I’m not always able share in that excitement. And that’s okay. There could be a host of reasons why this might be the case. I don’t necessarily choose to share those publicly and I do not ever want to break someone’s enthusiasm over something new to them when it comes to dad’s catalogue, or something being done by someone that recognizes him.

People do not always have the best intentions. That is life. False intentions, manipulations, disrespect, and hurt are all around us. Every day, there are people of public interest who are being leveraged for some outside party’s personal or professional gain. This remains true for people of interest long after they’ve left this earth. I feel a deep responsibility to protect my dad with every fibre of my being, but sometimes things are just out of my hands.

I make a habit of not making proclamations on behalf of someone who is not here to speak for themselves. That said, there are a few things I am certain of. Dad would not want to see any member of his family hurt or grief stricken in any way (period), especially at the hands of parties who are attempting to use his career and achievements to further their own. It does his legacy a disservice to disrespect the people whom he loved and respected.

This is a situation where my hands are tied which is why I have chosen to share an honest and deeply personal alternate perspective. I love my dad with all my heart. I miss him every single day and he is never far from my mind, especially when I wish he was here to speak for himself. I am grateful that those who love him around the world have his archives and can continue to learn new things about him as they wish. I know along the way they will learn that he was a man of integrity, honesty, and the most genuine and loyal person one could ever meet. A fierce protector of those he loved, he did not tolerate disrespect of any kind but also worked very hard to rise above.

Now it’s my turn.

- Céline Peterson

November 23, 2021

  • Céline Peterson

One year later. As I write this, I find myself sitting in the exact same spot that I was last year on this day, staring out the open window with the cold breeze coming through. The difference? Last year, it was silent outside. This year? I can hear the hustle and bustle of life outside these walls. The cases are astronomical, but there is a desperation to return to normal life, regardless of the cost for others. Instead of showing appreciation for our health care workers from our balconies by cheering, clapping, and banging pots and pans, we’re all but spitting in their face because we’re “over it.”

Lives lost – millions of them. 2.6 million and counting. Let that sink in for a moment.

Close to 3 million people, from across the world, of all ages, have died in the hospital, at home, alone, unnecessarily. But we are still having conversations (more accurately, fights) about wearing a mask and now, receiving a vaccine that will allow us to return to normalcy – whatever that looks like – without risking the lives of people around us. But that is too much to ask?

I work in an industry that was one of the first to shut and is certain to be one of the last to fully reopen. We’ve lost countless venues around the world and imagining the number of people who have been jobless for a year, struggling to get by, makes me nauseous. One year later and I can say with complete honesty that I have no idea what this industry will look like when we’re back.

When I am part of conversations where there are complaints about masks, refusal to vaccinate, and laughter in the face of stay-at-home orders, my blood pressure hits a boiling point. The lack of respect, courtesy, basic human decency, and quite frankly, dignity and sensibility, is mind boggling to me. Among the countless reasons why these conversations make me sick is the simple fact that your refusal to even attempt to be a part of the solution, means that people I care about and work with, are going to continue to struggle to put food on their tables and pay their rent, because there is no work in sight.

One year later and we have definitely seen the true colours of those around us. For some, nothing has changed. For others, everything. Between the pandemic, election, protests and insurrection, showed us that everything has changed. Beliefs that were always there, have come to the surface and to some, have made all the difference in the world. Relationships have ended, family members have either been exiled or exiled themselves, and some of us have been forced to come to terms with where the line is for what we can accept and tolerate in our lives, and what is just too much.

I can say with confidence that one year later, I have grown exponentially in ways I didn’t expect. I have shared stories and experiences with those close to me that I never thought I’d share. I have grown closer to friends that I’d lost touch with, and those that I didn’t think I could get closer to. I learned that my voice is powerful and important, as is yours, and that standing up for what I believe in is necessary. I have learned that my struggles are valid, and my anxiety is nothing to be ashamed of. I have learned what it means to respect human life, respect someone’s boundaries and space, respect time, and respect myself. One year later, I am a stronger woman than I was a year ago, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

I’ve spoken on more than one occasion about the necessity of only doing what we’re capable of during this and the importance of putting ourselves first. Don’t feel like answering the phone? Don’t do it. Didn’t return that text? That’s okay. Missed a commitment? Apologize and acknowledge it and then move on. We get to not be okay. We get to admit struggle. We get to communicate our challenges. Remain upfront and honest about what you’re experiencing, and anyone who doesn’t show you compassion, understanding and respect, is not worth your time. Personally or professionally. Be confident in who you are and remember that all anyone can expect from you is your best. As long as you are giving all you have to give, if a mistake is made or a ball is dropped, I can at least promise that I will meet you with understanding and compassion. Because I need understanding and compassion given right back to me.

One year later, and I can’t wait to see and hug my loved ones. But I have to, so I will. I can’t wait to be an in-person audience member again. But I have to, so I will. I can’t wait to travel and continue seeing the parts of the world that have been on my list for years. But I have to, so I will. I can’t wait to lose the anxiety and worry that comes with being around people – especially those more vulnerable than I – whom I love and don’t want to fall ill. But there is no telling when that particular fear will dissipate, with or without a vaccine, so I will wait and do my best to be patient.

There will be more loss. There will be more heartbreak. There will be more conflict. There will be more stress. But there will also be growth. One year later I can see human growth and I can see the slightest glimpse of light at the very end of the tunnel. It’s there and I’m holding onto it. One year later, I’m cautious, yet hopeful. One year later I’m grateful for my circle that has surrounded me this past twelve months and always. One year later I am hoping we have all learned something and will stand up for what we believe to be right and will never be afraid of the consequences that may come with speaking out against injustice. One year later, I expect more of myself than I did last year.

One year from now, I don’t know where we’ll be, but we’ll be stronger.

  • Céline Peterson

January 20, 2021: A day that we all knew would be historic. A day that we all knew would be important to so many for a plethora of reasons. But to express such an overabundance of emotions that I couldn’t feel coming, shows me how truly numb I have been for so long, especially this last year. I believed whole heartedly that I was tuned in and feeling everything as one would be expected to, but I know now after the events of this morning and the vibrations of hope, excitement, warmth, gratitude, and relief that are now surging through my body at a rapid pace, that I was subconsciously only allowing myself to feel a fraction of the emotions that my heart and mind needed to feel. I have genuinely been numb for months and I had no idea. But today, as I sat at home in my bed with my eyes glued to the television, a cup of coffee in my hand, my dogs in my lap, and the fresh air coming through my window, I realized that aside from everything else that this day represents, the woman being sworn in today represents me. I can see myself in her. I can see my nieces in her. I can see my friend’s daughters in her. I had previously been unaware of how much seeing myself in Vice President Harris in this moment would mean to me. This is monumental. Of course, today marks the start of a new day. One with hope, science, humility, kindness, truth, compassion, and civility at the forefront. Our President spoke as a human being. He once again denounced White Supremacy with conviction and vowed to serve all Americans, even those who do not in any way support him. He promised honesty, and I believe him. But for me, as I stated previously, today is about Vice President Harris.

Another shining star today is United States Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, who stood proudly on the steps of the Capitol and recited one of the most profound and beautiful works with strength, dignity, and grace, and left me absolutely breathless. At an astounding 22 years old, Amanda Gorman is the youngest Poet Laureate in US history, and today she, like Vice President Harris, showed little girls all over the world that their voices matter and can and will be heard despite any and all attempts to silence them. In Ms. Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb”, she consciously spoke in a tone rooted in hope, but clearly had the goal of reminding all Americans that there is work to be done, truths to be acknowledged, and changes that must be made. I encourage you to take a moment and watch/re-watch her historic moment in today’s inauguration:

Today is about allowing myself to feel the tons of weight that have been lifted off my chest. Today is about celebrating the end of a horrifying era. Today is about taking a moment to feel any and all emotion that we need to feel, raising a glass, breathing deeply, screaming, crying, laughing, clapping, dancing, resting, and just doing whatever it might be that we feel we must today, for tomorrow there is much work to be done. Tackling the years of work ahead of us will take the help of each and every American citizen who believes in what that country actually represents. I am proud to be one of those citizens who is prepared to do what I can. For the first time in years, I am able to state that I am proud of this Citizenship and it feels great. I am a proud young Canadian-American woman of colour, who today, is reminded that there is indeed light at the end of the darkest tunnels. Take it in, friends. Enjoy this moment.

-Céline Peterson