A national youth education program called "Music Alive" has arrived in Manitoba. Ottawa's National Arts Centre (NAC) has been spreading the musical word in many regions of Canada since 2005. The idea is to bring professional musicians and music into schools in remote communities.In April the program went north to Camperville, MB and on May 4 they will be at Ruth Hooker School in Selkirk.
Ken MacDonald is a French Horn player with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and Andrew Balfour is an Aboriginal choral director and composer and Artistic Director of Camerata Nova. The two have been selected to be the teaching team. The theme for this year is "Inspired by the Land."
The instructors use the NAC's Vivaldi and the Four Seasons resource materials as a jumping-off point to create original works of music that the students write themselves. They also perform for the students.
WSO's Ken MacDonald plays for students in Camperville (Amy Wolfe)
"We have to be much more resourceful and creative when we are up here beyond cellphones," admits Ken MacDonal about his experience in Camperville. "It's very difficult to get here sometimes. We also want to make sure that these kids can get a sense of how what we're doing can relate to how they are living up here, too."
It has been a very gratifying experience for MacDonald and Balfour. "It's really very energizing. Sometimes when you go into a smaller community you find it's become a real event and you'll get elders coming from the community to watch. Some of the kids are into fiddling and you can get them to be involved in the production as well. It's a very holistic approach to musicianship."
MacDonald recounts an event where a student returned to the classroom after being on probation for assault. He was a proficient drummer, so was asked to participate in the performance.
"This was a chance for him to come in and feel accepted and welcomed back into the community. You can use the power you have to have the community appreciate and acknowledge you rather than use your power in a way that is destructive. This is the kind of connection that we had no idea could happen."
Listen to Ken MacDonald speak with Larry Updike on Up to Speed: