Tue, Mar 26, 2013.
Alyson Hubbard's music students at Woodstock Middle School in New Brunswick had a problem. Most of their instruments had seen better days. "The majority of our instruments are over 15 years old," says the music teacher and band director. "Some, like the clarinets, flutes and trumpets were over 20 years old. We have some that don't play certain notes, or are cracked, and we just kind of overlook that. We've had to retire some completely. We've had kids that have wanted to play instruments but can't, because they're sitting in the closet broken."
Hubbard heard through a colleague about a program that could help. The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences is the organization of music companies that puts on the annual JUNO Awards. But it's not all about handing out trophies. One of the programs it works with is called MusiCounts, a national music education charity. And it has developed a grant system called Band-Aid, which provides major grants to school across the country in need of support for music education. And that's exactly what Hubbard and Woodstock Middle School needed.
She picked a good year to apply for the grant. In 2013, for the first time, the Band-Aid grants will total over $1 million dollars in a single year, and be awarded in each province. In February, Hubbard found out Woodstock was one of the three New Brunswick schools selected for the grant, along with Ecole Le Mascaret in Moncton and North & South Esk Regional High in Sunny Corner.
Every student in Woodstock Middle School will benefit from the grant. They each take a ten-week music course as part of the curriculum, in each grade. Then there's the band program, which Hubbard runs, with 20 in the senior band and 14 in the beginner. The $10-thousand will go to purchasing 21 new instruments in total. Another benefit is that they all come from New Brunswick music stores, the cash staying in the local economy.
Hubbard knows what the most popular instrument will be. "In the classroom, every student I've ever met wants to play a drum kit," she laughs. "But you can't just wail away on a real one, it's too loud for school. So we're getting an electronic one. It's great, everyone can play and not bother the rest."
"We're also getting some bigger-ticket items that normally wouldn't be in the realm of possibilities, like the bassoon, and a euphonium, which is like a baby tuba. Cornets too. I've had a girl who's wanted to play bassoon for over a year but can't. Now i'll be able to hand her one."
The music students haven't had the big moment yet, as the last of the new instruments are being shipped this week. Hubbard hopes to be able to present the new gear to the band just after Easter. She knows it's important. "The more options you give them in instruments, the more you hook them. The fact that the band is going to have new, completely functioning instruments, the more they'll be able to focus on their own skills instead of fighting with broken ones."
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Bob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).