Music for Change

Updated: Mar 1, 2019

RNS Glee Club 2017-2018

Well, it’s officially July and now that I’ve had time to unwind after my last year teaching in a classroom full time, I’ve had the chance to really think about the adventure ahead of me as I begin teaching from my studio.

The choice to leave a full time job wasn’t an easy one. After all, I moved back home to NB because I was ready for a more stable lifestyle than the performing arts allowed in an expensive city such as Toronto, and yet here I am: I’ve left my full time, stable job with benefits to work for myself teaching singing! And do I regret it? Not for a second. Despite the relative insecurity of the profession I have chosen, the benefits of working with young singers and artists, and watching them grow and evolve provide so much more fulfillment and joy for me than any job security ever could.

The highlight of my time teaching at Rothesay Netherwood School was my Glee Club. I was given the opportunity to work with a group of students who love to sing and dance. And by love, I mean they do it essentially non-stop, in every class, in every hallway, for anyone who will listen. They made incredible friendships, developed confidence in themselves which is difficult for anyone (let alone someone in middle school), were able to give back to their community by raising money through their performances and performing at local nursing homes and, probably most importantly for me, they were able to channel their emotions, insecurities and dreams into their music. Watching them find that outlet where they could truly be themselves and express themselves in a safe space was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and now I get to do that full time in my studio and upcoming Show Choir! How lucky am I?!

The Recycled Orchestra is a group of kids from Paraguay, under the direction of Favio Chávez who have come together to make music on recycled instruments.

In a book I’m reading, I came across a group of kids who have also found that joy and passion in music making, and it has entirely changed their lives. The Recycled Orchestra is a group of kids from Paraguay, under the direction of Favio Chávez who have come together to make music on recycled instruments. And by that, I don’t mean they’ve made drums out of buckets (although I’m sure they’ve done that too), but they have made cellos, violins, clarinets and horns out of any recycled material they can find. You see, they live in Cateura, Asunción’s largest landfill. It is a desperately poor community, where many children aren’t able to finish school because their families need help working in the landfill. The concept of owning an instrument of their own is just not imaginable- it would cost the same as some of their homes. Not to mention, having an instrument in the home would put them in physical danger and at risk of a break-in. So what did they do? Chavez decided to take what is given to them in abundance (literally garbage) and turn it into something that has changed the lives of these children and their community. Since 2006 they have become local celebrities, travelled the world with their recycled instruments, performing across Europe with such groups as Metallica and Megadeath and there’s even been a documentary made about them (more information can be found here and here). This all for a community of kids whose futures seemed pretty bleak before Chavez, his passion and dedication and the power of music brought to them. Now, some want to become music teachers themselves, and actively speak about the many skills they’ve learned through this organization, such as discipline, confidence and worldliness. Pretty powerful stuff, huh?

Now, we are pretty lucky living in Rothesay, in a country as prosperous and safe as Canada to be able to own real instruments, finish school and pursue music, other arts or sports at will. I also don’t pretend to compare myself to Favio Chávez- he is a real treasure to this world. The magnitude of what he has done for that community inspires me so profoundly- he epitomises leadership, dedication, passion and ingenuity. Those kids are so very lucky to have him in their lives. He has literally brought music to their lives, something they had never imagined would be attainable. That said, though we are comparatively living a life of luxury here in NB, there is still a place for kids to benefit from music its teachings here. It changes lives of people from all walks of life, just like I saw in my Glee Club. Pursuing an instrument, learning technique, practicing regularly, considering interpretation, lyrics, musicality, and finding ways of channeling your inner struggles, triumphs, dreams and regrets in a healthy to music are things that every. single. person. can and should benefit from! And this doesn’t even include the friendships and opportunities music provides. (More on this in a future blog post!) I’ve experienced it, my closest friends and colleagues have experienced it and let me tell you. It is life changing. Have you experienced it too? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Now I have been given the opportunity (and hopefully the grace!) to be able to provide these things to children and adults alike. Wow, am I ever humbled. Am I scared? In some ways, yes, but I truly believe I have found my calling. It may not be through making recycled instruments for underprivileged children, but I believe I will find my way to make a difference for kids who need it. And I am so excited to finally get started! I don’t have all the answers yet- I probably never will. I’m still learning too, and I am sure this year will be full of growing pains as I get to know my new students and their needs, interests and goals. But I can’t wait to grow with them and provide opportunities to help them grow, develop passion and inspire our community, even in small ways. What does that look like? Stay tuned! And keep following my blog for all of the latest goings on.

Now, let’s do this!

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