Raptors' Nick Nurse surprises Mississauga music teacher with $25K for new instruments

A Mississauga music teacher is excited for the new academic year after Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse's foundation donated $25,000 to her school to buy brand new instruments for her students.

Head coach's foundation donates money with the help of rock band Arkells

Julia Jung was surprised with a donation from the Raptors head coach's foundation during a video chat with Nick Nurse and Arkells lead singer Max Kerman. (@Arkellsmusic/Instagram)

A Mississauga music teacher is excited for the new academic year after Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse's foundation donated $25,000 to her school to buy brand new instruments for her students.

"Oh, my goodness. This is giving me so much street cred with my kids," said Julia Jung, a teacher at St. Aloysius Gonzaga Secondary School.

"Like, now they made me cool," she laughed. 

It all started when Jung arranged for her students to put together a cover of Years in the Making, a song by Hamilton rock band Arkells. That was just one of her many efforts to keep students engaged during the pandemic after schools closed.

Jung messaged the band's lead singer, Max Kerman, to tell him about the project. Kerman responded, shared the cover video on social media, and spoke with Jung and some of her students. 

Last month, he surprised Jung, a huge Raptors fan, by inviting Nick Nurse to join them on a video call, where the head coach shared the news of the donation on behalf of the Nick Nurse Foundation and Entertainment One Music. 

"Nick Nurse was so generous and I really would love to talk to him more about music education because he's such a strong supporter of it," Jung said. 

Nurse, who plays guitar and has appeared on stage with Arkells, launched the foundation in March.

The charity's "series of programs will support the academic development of children and young adults through a mentorship approach," the foundation's website says.

"These programs intend to encourage parental involvement, while exposing students to music, sports and literacy."

Jung says keeping students engaged during the pandemic has been a priority. (CBC)

Jung explained that sharing of instruments was already an issue at the school even before the pandemic, but now with new coronavirus safety precautions in place, it's even more of a challenge. This donation will be a big help, she said. 

"It won't give every student their own instrument, but it will definitely help to disperse them. And then we can find other ways to accommodate them," Jung said.

'I was over the moon'

Meantime, some of Jung's students, past and present, are applauding the donation.

"My God, I was over the moon, man," said Chris Martins, 19, who just graduated, but not before participating in the Arkells' cover video. 

"This is like an incredible, incredible donation. With music programs across the country and across the world, like, every dollar counts."

A big part of why Kerman was so impressed with Jung, according to an Instagram post, was her dedication to her students during the pandemic. 

Chris Martins says music has played a pivotal role throughout his high school career. (CBC)

When schools shut down in March, Jung and her colleagues in the music department loaded up their vehicles with instruments and safely delivered them to students who had gone home without them. 

Since then, Jung has focused on keeping students connected to their music through virtual meetings, recorded lessons, and putting together performances like the Arkells' cover song. Beyond that, even into the summer months, she's been checking in on her students regularly.

"We want to make sure that the kids are doing all right," she said.

"Also, when you're an elective course, where it's not mandatory for students to keep or to enrol in your course, keeping up this communication with them makes them know that they're valued."

For Vyshali Somasekaran, 16, who will start Grade 12 in the fall, that care means the world. 

Grade 12 student Vyshali Somasekaran says Jung treats her students like family. (CBC)

"Ms. Jung worked super hard to help all of us get better and just keep in touch and make us all feel loved," she said, noting that Jung treats her students like family. 

In fact, both Somasekaran and Martins were a part of a group of students who performed at Jung's wedding in February. 

"It felt like just a great way to pay her back for everything that she's done for us these past years," Somasekaran said. 

"Not even in music but just, like, in school and life in general."

Jung's students, both present and former, performed at her wedding in February. (Submitted by Julia Jung)

For Martins, the music program has played a pivotal role in his life. 

"I'm on the autism spectrum, and music has always been my link to my community, and high school has been no different," he said.

The new instruments have already been purchased through Long & McQuade in Mississauga. The company is just waiting for the right moment to safely deliver them to the school. And for Jung, that can't come soon enough. 

"We're so excited. We can't wait. I just want to be there and see this grand delivery of gorgeous brand new equipment come," she said. 

She acknowledges it's still not clear what the fall will look like because of the coronavirus, but Jung hopes for a safe way for schools to reopen. 

"I want to see them. I want to see them in person and I want to be able make music in person live." 

Students at St. Aloysius Gonzaga Secondary School, led by their teacher, put together an instrumental cover of the Arkells song Years In The Making. (@Arkellsmusic/Instagram)