An Exemplary Teacher Helps Her Students Keep Musical Traditions Vital In Shea Heights With The Help Of A MusiCounts Funding Award.

Jessica Ryan started teaching music at St. John Bosco this school year. She could have taken her time getting to know the school, maybe relaxed a bit at first, but she didn’t.

Cataloguing the schools musical instruments for a game-changing award application made for a very quick introduction. Ryan found out about the MusiCounts Band Aid program, which awards funds of five to ten thousand dollars to schools across Canada to purchase instruments, to sustain musical education.

Her attempts were successful, ten thousand in funds was secured. The award procured band instruments, a great capital gain on its own, but when partnered with a passionate teacher and staff it can make magic.

Ryan has gone far in ensuring a bright future for the school band program. She’s created a pre-band introduction in grade four to help the kids choose the instrument that is right for them. She also runs a guitar group for the students.

Both teacher and students speak highly of the pre-band year addition. A band member tells me how helpful it is to have the extra year to prepare. Ryan beams as she tells me of the joy of matching student with instrument.

“One girl looked at me recently in practice and said, ‘Ms. Ryan I just love playing clarinet.'”

The school clarinets were getting old, and sometimes Ryan had to repair them herself. There will be new ones now. A student tells me how excited she is about this. The girl next to her concurs. “They will sound clearer.” Besides clarinets, a new piano, new drumkit, and other instruments are on their way to the school.

St John Bosco is located in the very musical neighbourhood of Shea Heights. The area has its own Folk Festival, including youth talent events. Every kid I talked to from the school band had a musical family influence. So it’s no surprise there is even more on the go musically at the school. Strong Harbour Strings has recently set up a satellite program there working with violin and viola. It’s a big hit.

Carol Bestvater of SHS says, “The kids love it. How many kids would give up their lunch hour twice a week to come and play the violin? It’s amazing to see! I love working with kids because you can see them light up when they realize what they can accomplish. They’re learning so much when they pick up the violin or viola — dexterity, sound production, focus, teamwork, frustration management, it’s us teachers job to guide them through it.” Bestvater hits a key point here.

“What do you think is important about music education?,” I ask the band students I am speaking with. Like good students, they talk about the goals they hope education can help them accomplish. They are right about the benefit of learning specialized skills, as any guidance counsellor will tell you, but there’s more.

Along the way they are building self esteem and creative skills, while nurturing their developing neural pathways in many positive ways.