“A Whole World of Musical Experiences”: Fostering Musical Diversity in PEI Schools

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Prince Edward Island students are learning more about music from different cultures, thanks to a new pilot program bringing musicians and dancers into Island classrooms.

As the student body of Prince Edward Island becomes increasingly culturally diverse due to increased immigration, the program aims to expand the music studies curriculum and teach children the many types of music created and performed on the island.

“If a child goes through a music program and only learns one thing, one style of music, he may grow up and never realize that, ‘Oh, actually, there are different ways of writing music. music and read music, ”says Karri. Shea, music teacher and coordinator of the ArtsSmarts Musical Diversity Pilot Program.

“There is a whole world of musical experiences, and you never know what might appeal to you.”

Developing the program with the PEI Department of Education, Shea contacted the PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada. and the DiverseCity Festival, which appealed to artists interested in working with young music students.

Shea landed 13 musicians and dancers representing Mi’kmaq, Tibetan, Chinese and Cuban communities, to name a few, and they were matched with 10 schools in Prince Edward Island.

Staff are now working with artists to create instructional videos to share with all schools in PEI.

A grade 6 class from Spring Park School worked with dancer Reequal Smith, who is originally from the Bahamas and runs the Oshun Dance Studios in Charlottetown.

“The dancing part was really fun,” said student Sebastian Connor. “Even though it was a different style of music, you can still use… whatever you like about the dance.”

The students were just captivated… it was almost like magic.– ArtsSmarts Coordinator Karri Shea

Lexie Singleton said she also loved the dances Smith taught them.

“At first I wasn’t as confident with my dancing,” Singleton said. “When she showed us… I became more confident with it.”

Coordinator Karri Shea says she hopes the cultural diversity of the PEI music program. will continue to grow. (Jeff Eager / Hummingbird House Productions / ArtsSmarts)

Their music teacher, Nancy Thornton-Smyth, also saw the effect Smith had on his students.

“Some of them were initially reluctant to let go and really buy into it,” Thornton-Smyth said. “In the end… they were really having fun.

Student confidence grows

Persian dancer and instructor Monelli Rahmatian worked with grade 3 students at Montague Consolidated.

“My classroom experience was like no other,” said Rahmatian, who lives in Stratford. “To be able to share… the connection between nature in Persian culture and poems, and dance.”

After just five sessions, she said she could see the students’ confidence growing.

“Even the hockey boys, you know, they’re all kinda lumped together. At the end, they were all dancing in a circle together and they were clapping for the girls and the girls were just dancing, ”Rahmatian said.

Acadian musician Emmanuelle LeBlanc taught a call-and-answer song and walking percussion to students at Greenfield Elementary School. (Karri Shea / ArtsSmarts)

Emmanuelle LeBlanc of the Acadian Folk Trio Vishten taught students at Greenfield Elementary School in Summerside an Acadian call and response song and some walking percussion.

“At the time, there may have been … a lack of instruments[s]. Maybe there was only one violin there or we needed some kind of rhythm to get people dancing. And that foot percussion has been used a lot for that, ”she said.

LeBlanc was happy to teach children a part of her culture that has existed in Prince Edward Island for hundreds of years.

Acadian folk music is “something they can hear just in a local venue or at a concert or something,” she said. “But it’s also something that’s not relevant. It’s not on the radio. It’s not on TV.

“Being able to go to a school and teach that to the kids, I think that’s a good lesson in how you can learn things from people.”

The second part of the pilot program was to create professionally filmed videos of musicians and dancers for distribution to music teachers in PEI. Here, Persian dancer Monelli Rahmatian films with filmmaker Jeff Eagar. (Karri Shea / ArtsSmarts)

Shea said the goal is to have artist videos ready for use by music teachers in PEI. during the next school year. They will also be publicly available online.

She hopes the cultural diversity of the PEI music program. will continue to grow.

“Even if we learn just a little, as long as we are respectful in the way we present it, as long as we listen to the voices of these members of these cultures… the benefits for the children are immense.”

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