An Inspiring Day with @SCDSB_Schools

Clockwise from bottom left: Becky, Heather, Tracy, Shannon, Pauline and Bonnie. Over the years, I've spoken to many music teachers, been a "champion" for the Coalition for Music Education in Canada, been involved in many Music Monday events and presented twice to the Ontario Music Educators' Association. These have all been occasions to see educators dedicated to the idea that a robust music education benefits all other areas of learning - in school, at home and in the community. The impact is felt across all aspects of society and lasts a lifetime. And yet, most of these encounters have taken place against a backdrop of budget cuts and the de-emphasis of the role of music and the arts in school life. That's why my participation in Thursday's "Inspiring Music For Life" event with the Simcoe County District School Board was such a breath of fresh air!

The event brought together teachers and a small group of students from each of 30 schools from across the board at Georgian College in Barrie. In his opening remarks, supervisor Chris Samis talked about how this event was celebrating a rededication of efforts on behalf of the board to better resource music education in the region and make it a more prominent part of the educational experience for students and teachers - with 30 schools feeling the benefits this year, another 30 next year and a further 30 the following year. Together, they spent the day in workshops and seminars building tools to take back with them to their classrooms and music rooms for the remainder of this year and to get started fresh next September. It was an honour to be asked to get the day started with the Six String Nation keynote presentation and kind of set the tone for how music can infuse, inform and inspire every part of learning.

The "performance pocket" segment of the presentation was a little bit different than usual. Instead of one or two or three performers each playing a song to the accompaniment of the portrait slides, we had FOUR guitar players all playing ONE song - not quite Walk Off the Earth but a little bit. Jack Fitzgerald started with Mya Franks seated to his right playing percussion and Bella McCurdy singing. Bella kept singing while Jack handed the guitar off to Mya and Mya handed the bongos to Ethan McBrien and then Ethan played guitar and Ayden Franks played bongos and then Jack picked up the bongos while Ayden finished on Voyageur - Bella singing the whole time with barely a pause between handoffs. Pretty impressive! Teacher John Touchette (Mr. T.) rounded out the pocket with a little Simcoe County original reggae.

There wasn't time or budget to include our official portrait feature but they asked if it was OK to do class pictures with Voyageur following the presentation and I readily agreed. SCDSB media wiz Curtis Dafoe had set up a couple of green screens with iPad camera rigs and student volunteers. I went back and forth between the two set-ups while others wrangled the small classes into the alternating stations. It's the presence of the green screen that inspired me to make the photo for this blog - we didn't really go into the forest for this shot! While many were involved in making the day a success, this is a good representation of the organizing squad featuring (clockwise from lower left) Becky Kennedy, Heather Ellis, Tracy McPhail, Shannon Simpson, Pauline Cook and Bonnie Black. It was Bonnie who had seen me at the OMEA Conference in Huntsville back in November and invited me to be part of this inspiring event - so thank you Bonnie!

Thanks also to Chris Samis and all the teachers, students and workshop leaders for helping to launch such a great initiative by the SCDSB. Thanks also to Curtis Dafoe for his assistance and for shooting the presentation on video (hopefully we'll see a cut of that in the fall) and to Adam and Ron from the Georgian College tech crew for getting us set up so effortlessly. Thanks also to our old friend, Duct Tape Guy himself, Sean McGaughey, for sharing his own music and that of his son. It was great to hear that voice in transition and congrats on the new teaching gig!

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