Nfld. & Labrador

Great Big Sea gives boost to distance learning

Members of Great Big Sea paid a school visit of sorts to students around Newfoundland and Labrador, thanks to state-of-the-art technology.
Great Big Sea paid a special school visit to rural students, thanks to digital technologies. Zach Goudie reports 4:29

Students in some of the smallest communities in Newfoundland and Labrador got a special music lesson from Great Big Sea, with neither having to leave home base.

The St. John's trio took part Friday in the latest lesson involving professional musicians, delivered to music students in more than a hundred schools around the province — many of them in schools with student populations too small to sustain a music program of their own.

"What a great treat for us to be able to talk to so many people at once," said singer Alan Doyle, who played with his band and fielded questions from students over state-of-the-art videoconferencing technology.

The Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation, set up by the Newfoundland and Labrador government to make specialty subjects available to rural areas, has been sponsoring a "backstage" program that has so far attracted such other performers as Amelia Curran, the Good Lovelies, some of the Great Lake Swimmers and Hey Rosetta!

Teacher Andrew Mercer said the distance-education program has many benefits.

"Not only are the artists giving inspiration to the young musicians, they're also talking about song-writing techniques, guitar-playing techniques, a variety of different things that students will use as they develop as young musicians," Mercer said.

Great Big Sea's Sean McCann said Friday's performance resonated with the band, which has managed over the years to build a career of international tours while maintaining their local roots.

"We've learned how hard it is from an isolated place to come and try to get out.  We know the pains of isolation that can bring, and also the pleasures, so it was great to reach out and contact these students," he said.