Going out on high note: Winnipeg elementary school music teacher wins Juno as career wraps up

Winnipeg teacher Jewel Casselman now has a Juno statuette as an outro to her long and accomplished career as a music instructor.

Jewel Casselman is 1st elementary school educator to win MusiCounts teacher of the year

A woman holds an award in her left arm with her right hand wrapped around it.
Jewel Casselman poses with the Juno Award for MusiCounts teacher of the year during the Juno Awards in Edmonton on Monday. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Winnipeg teacher Jewel Casselman has a Juno statuette as an outro to her long and accomplished career as a music instructor.

Casselman, who plans to retire at the end of this school year — her 34th as a teacher — was in Edmonton on Monday to hear her name announced as the MusiCounts teacher of the year for her dedication to early music education.

"It's a huge honour. It's indescribable," Casselman, who teaches at Lakewood School in St. James-Assiniboia School Division, told CBC Manitoba Information Radio guest host Stephanie Cram on Tuesday morning.

"It's a way of recognizing the hard work that music teachers do, not just by me, but by all kinds of all the music teachers across Canada."

Since 2005, the MusiCounts music teacher of the year award has been given out at the Junos, Canada's music industry awards show, to recognize the work of passionate Canadian educators.

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CBC's Jim Agapito speaks with Jewel Casselman, who has been nominated for second year in a row for the MusiCounts teacher of the year award, the winner of which will be announced at the Juno Awards on Monday.

This year is the fourth time Casselman has been nominated. The fact it comes just as she ending her career "is a huge exclamation mark," she said.

"It's like the icing on the cake or the cherry on the top of the sundae. What a way to end a career. To receive a Juno for doing something that I love to do and that I get paid to do is kind of crazy. I'm going out on a very high accomplished note."

Of the 18 MusiCounts award recipients to date, Casselman is the first elementary school educator to win. In addition to the statuette, she receives a $10,000 cash prize and a grant for Lakewood School.

Casselman has advocated for music education to start in kindergarten, saying it helps kids develop self-esteem, confidence and social skills while also building on reading and math.

"It's a very creative way for them to be using their brains every day and just carries on over into other subjects and throughout their life," she said.

This year her students have been learning how to play the ukulele, putting chords together to make up songs of their own.

Other Manitobans were also nominated for Juno awards, with two coming home with hardware. The Bros. Landreth won contemporary roots album of the year for Come Morning while Jordan St. Cyr won contemporary Christian/gospel album of the year for the self-title album Jordan St. Cyr.

Two men smile and pose for a photo. The man on the left holds up a statuette.
The Bros. Landreth, David and Joey Landreth, pose with their Juno for contemporary roots album of the year during the Juno Awards in Edmonton on Saturday. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

It's the second Juno for the Landreth brothers, who won in 2015, while St. Cyr picked up his first. Both awards were handed out during events on the weekend ahead of Monday's televised show.

St. Cyr wasn't at ceremony because he's on a U.S. tour, so far playing four shows — all of which sold out.

"I was actually performing a show that night. I was in line taking photos and signing autographs and then I pulled my phone out of my pocket to, like, 30 messages. I couldn't believe it," he told CBC Manitoba Up to Speed guest host Julie Dupré on Monday.

"I just immediately called my wife, I called my dad, and it was just this overwhelming feeling of gratitude."

St. Cyr, who grew up in Niverville but now lives in Nashville, said the award is "the affirmation that I'm on the right path."

"Growing up in a small town, when you tell people you want to do music for a living, you know, they're always so kind and generous about it, but they're always like, 'You can always just move back home if things don't work out,'" he said.

"So this is just a great honour to share with people who have supported me the whole way."

Winnipeg singer Faouzia was was nominated for songwriter of the year but lost out to The Weeknd.

Indian City was up for best contemporary Indigenous artist or group of the year but did not win, Andrew Balfour was nominated for classical album of the year (small ensemble) for Nagamo but came up short, and James Ehnes was nominated for classical album of the year (solo artist) but did not win — although the violinist has won a whopping 11 Juno Awards in the past.


Darren Bernhardt spent the first dozen years of his journalism career in newspapers, at the Regina Leader-Post then the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. He has been with CBC Manitoba since 2009 and specializes in offbeat and local history stories. He is the author of award-nominated and bestselling The Lesser Known: A History of Oddities from the Heart of the Continent.