Jazz in the Schools: Building Community Through Performance

I have been lucky enough to be part of the K-W Music community for almost my entire life. As a vocal teacher, jazz educator, and singer, I have been surrounded by amazing musicians and people who have dedicated themselves to building meaningful music communities: school teachers, conductors, professors, bandmates. There are so many musical individuals that I have looked up to over the years that have changed me as a person and a musician. Many of them still play large roles in my life: as ardent supporters, lifelong educators, confidantes, and friends.

The first time I remember truly feeling the impact of a community built through and by music was at Bluevale Collegiate, my high school. For the first time in my school-going life, I felt a sense of belonging. I found my home away from home, and my second family. Thanks to our life-changing, tireless, passionate music teachers (Nancy Kidd, John McLelland, Cam McBain), the students who went through our music program are now forever linked. No matter how far apart we now might be, we will forever be linked, as part of that community that made music together.

When I talk to fellow graduates of our program (some of whom are my very closest friends, and some of whom I am reunited with each week with Nancy’s community choir, Age of Majority Singers), we reminisce and say: “Remember that time we got to sing in Carnegie Hall?” “Remember Friday music trivia day in Instrumental class?” “Remember the lunchtime hangouts in the vocal room which often turned into bonus choir practice?”

There’s something that all those reminiscences have in common: we remember the time we spent together, not alone. We remember the times with each other: singing together in the stairwells, crying together, laughing together, travelling together. We remember the community, maybe even more than the specific music we actually made together. I remember those days so fondly, and they shaped who I became and who I am: a professional musician and music educator.

Now, 8 years later, with a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a Bachelor of Education under my belt, I feel like it’s my turn to step into the role as “community leader”: to shape and build my own musical communities, and give back to this wonderful region of musicians that has given so much to me. Who better to start giving back to than to high school students? If my life journey changed course because of my Bluevale music community, why not pay it forward to current high schoolers? So, I have started a Jazz in the Schools program. Thanks to the support of Josh Hill and Megan Brenneman at Cameron Heights Collegiate, I recently started up the Jazz program to supplement and further shape the community that is already being built in the wonderful Cameron Heights music program. While teaching the fundamentals of jazz performance, we are also teaching the fundamentals of community interaction: teamwork, collaboration, listening to each other, creating a meaningful artistic experience together.

It is my hope that this program (which I hope will expand to even more schools and communities!) will create lasting memories like the ones I have from my high school years. Hopefully, they will have fond memories of their first public jazz gig, or their first school concert. Hopefully, they will come together as a supportive community of singers and instrumentalists to create a beautiful finished product, learn how to collaborate with and listen to each other. Hopefully, they will be proud of themselves and the accomplishments of their peers. It is my hope they remember their time together just as much as the music they make together.

Maybe, 8 years from now, the Jazz in the Schools students will be having coffee together, and say, “Remember…?”




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