Mini WE Day is a Giant Success @RHCornishPS @DurhamDSB

Cohen performs for classmates Yesterday's trip to the Scugog region of Ontario was a collaboration between two Durham District School Board teachers, Lindsay Bauer at McCaskill's Mills P.S. in Cannington and Suzanne Guimont-Garriock at R.H. Cornish P.S. in Port Perry. Apart from the return to Cannington, where Voyageur had lived with Don Ross for a couple of weeks, it was another homecoming of sorts. Although Voyageur was built in Nova Scotia, when I first met luthier George Rizsanyi he was living in nearby Greenbank so it was familiar territory.

While the morning presentation was a pretty standard school gym assembly type affair, Suzanne had let me know that my presentation was going to be part of a larger event taking place at Cornish. Inspired by an earlier involvement with the WE.org and WE Day children's charity event, students at Cornish had mounted a number of initiatives at the school and the day was kind of Mini WE Day and a celebration to update their progress on various drives - including the collection of more than 2800 food items for the local food bank and hundreds of pairs of socks for shelters in the region. The students designed and executed every aspect of the show - from screen presentations to musical performances to dance breaks to guest speakers to special awards for work in the community and it all went off like clockwork. I felt lucky to have got to hang out a little bit with traditional/contemporary Plains Cree and Taino hoop dancer Beany John from Alberta, whose guest performance just blew me away with an extraordinarily complex and acrobatic traditional storytelling dance performed to Diplo's "Revolution"!

So, in a way, my presentation at the end of the day had the added element of attempting to draw together some of the many threads that had run through the afternoon and I hope it succeeded in doing that. It seemed to hit the mark with many students and staff who came up after the presentation to take pictures, ask questions and tell stories. I was especially moved by the story of one teacher who had come to Canada from Ireland and found in the presentation a way to connect with her feelings about the country of her choice.

Equally moving were the performances by student Cohen Arndt-Perris and sound man and local guitar-club leader Mike Murczek. Cohen (his parents were in attendance and told me that, indeed, he was named in honour of Leonard!) had some trepidation about taking on the "performance pocket" role since he's normally a nylon-string classical guitar player but after a quick run-through before the show he found his fingers easily and had no trouble at all wowing his classmates with a classical medley and probably the best student rendition of "Blackbird" I've heard yet. Mike did a medley of Neil Young tunes, complete with harmonica rack. He also spoiled me by outfitting the guitar with a wireless transmitter for the pick-up and now I don't know how I'll go without one!

Thanks again to Suzanne and Mike and all those incredible, motivated, dedicated students who are doing such great work in their community and let me play a part in their Mini WE Day!

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