Conductor Nezet-Seguin schools audience in concert etiquette after cell phone interruptions.
"Can we live without the damn phone for just one hour?"
It's a phrase not soon to be forgotten by fans of The Philadelphia Orchestra, where conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin lectured his audience after their ringing cellphones interrupted the show -- multiple times.
During a May 7 concert, after a ringtone pierced through the air midway through Bruckner's Symphony No. 9 -- for the second time -- Nézet-Séguin decided he'd had enough.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Montreal-born conductor stopped the orchestra, turned to the crowd and firmly, but civilly, gave them the business.
The phrase "Can we live without the damn phone for just one hour" appeared to resonate with audiences beyond Philly's Verizon Hall, making the rounds on social media.
As we inch closer to the end of the band year, I thought it prudent to post some dates for parents and students:
MAY 1st - SR. JAZZ '24 Audition Music comes out. This audition is open to all band students. Auditions begin in June. There will be a sign up sheet in the band room for an audition time. See dates below.
MAY 26th - Sectional cut off. Each student must complete a minimum of 2 for each band they are in by this date and record them in the sectional book. - ALL STUDENTS
MAY 28th - (SUNDAY) mass rehearsal for super secret surprise wink wink ;) 2 - 5pm. ALL STUDENTS.
MAY 29th - Concert Set up at 3:30PM - 4:00PM - ALL STUDENTS
MAY 30th - Final Band Concert and Awards Presentation - 6:30PM in the Gym - ALL STUDENTS
MAY 31st - Final Jazz Band Concert and Awards Presentation - 6:30PM in the theatre - ALL JAZZ BAND STUDENTS
JUNE 1st - Final Choir Concert in the theatre - ALL CHOIR STUDENTS
JUNE 5th - Final Written Reflection Due - ALL STUDENTS
JUNE 5th - 16th - SR. JAZZ Auditions.
JUNE 12th - all music and instruments must be handed in by this date with the exception of those students still completing their Sr. Jazz audition or are invited to join GRAD BAND.
JUNE 28th - GRAD BAND at the Concert Hall at 7:00AM for their performance at GRAD.
Winnipeg music teacher Jewel Casselman is back in her element, leading elementary-aged students in song and guiding them on musical instruments after three years of pandemic restrictions and adapted lessons. Her students are finally getting their hands on ukuleles she purchased back in 2019, for instance, and they're having a blast.
"You get to make music. You don't really get to do that in math class," noted 11-year-old Arun Sharma, a Grade 5 student.
"When we couldn't do [music class] in the pandemic, I was a little upset," added Grade 4 student Anna Lockerby, who's nearly 10.
The pandemic silenced traditional music education with a raft of restrictions — no singing, no playing of wind instruments, limits on indoor sessions and no instrument sharing, among others.
Even after other subjects and activities returned to normal, school music classes, bands and ensembles hadn't, with some only back this school year. That interruption has had a definite impact, say music educators: a gap in music skills, a swath of deteriorating, unplayed instruments and multiple cohorts who haven't experienced or have let music class fade from their lives.
Yet passionate students, teachers and advocates are striking up the band to remind Canadians of the value of music in the classroom.
WATCH | Music is back in Canadian schools, but the pandemic has taken a toll, say educators:
Many music programs have now resumed in schools across Canada after being shut down by the pandemic. But some teachers say a lack of funding and aging instruments are making it difficult to effectively run these programs.
Losing music at school was difficult for many, said Casselman, whose students currently include second and third-graders who've hardly sung at all due to the pandemic, as well as Grade 5s who haven't sung since their primary years.
"Music is in them and it's all around them — and then when they couldn't play it or sing it or dance, it was really hard," said the 35-year teaching veteran. "[We've] had to backtrack and go back and reteach things."
Learning music "can help you with much more stuff than just singing. It can help you with finding a rhythm or hearing stuff that might be a bit harder, and identifying sounds," said nine-year-old Brian Huggard, one of Casselman's Grade 4 students. "Sometimes it can actually sound really good."
It also crosses into other subject areas, she added, and inspires new music fans, concert-goers, musicians, producers and more.
"In music class, when you learn music, you can, like, find your voice," said Grade 4 student Smayana Sharma, 9.
'A core subject'
The Canadian public school system's music education programs were already hurting prior to COVID-19, "so when the pandemic hit, it just created a situation that was almost untenable," said Kristy Fletcher, president of MusiCounts, the national music education charity associated with The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
She praises Canadian educators for their creativity in teaching the music curriculum while bound by restrictions on singing and playing wind instruments, for instance. However, she notes that another pandemic rule — no sharing of instruments — has also severely hampered school music going forward.
"The sharing of instruments is fundamental to the music program because teachers don't have enough instruments. Music programs don't have enough instruments for each student to have their own," Fletcher said.
With instruments at many schools typically 20 or more years old, music teachers were already doing whatever possible to repair and keep that aging inventory in playing order, she continued.
Add in a hiatus of a few pandemic years and now, "in many schools, you just have instruments that are literally unplayable and unusable."
On average, Canadian schools receive less than $500 a year for music programs, according to Fletcher. Some have no money for a music program and require fundraising in order to operate.
MusicCounts provides instruments, equipment and resources to Canadian schools and "we currently can help maybe one in six schools, so we have a ways to go," she said.
After countless conversations with administrators, Fletcher understands that music programs are regularly the last line item on very stretched school budgets. Still, she feels they absolutely deserve more consideration.
"We talk a lot about STEM and obviously STEM programs are incredibly important.… But so is music. So are the arts," she said.
Laggy online sessions, unwieldy band practices outdoors or awkward classes via video conferencing have mostly disappeared, but music teachers are facing a new obstacle — a noticeable drop in student players compared to pre-pandemic times.
"Students didn't sign up for music class in order to play from home or online. They signed up to play and make music together," Sommers said.
That matters because in-school exposure and experience gives students an equal opportunity to learn. "The effects of having no elementary instrumental music for two years has really trickled up to high school," she said. "Not everybody can afford music lessons privately."
Beyond benefiting students' cognitive development, motor skills, hand-eye co-ordination and creativity, Sommers pointed out that music education can also positively affect social emotional growth: students' ability to listen to and collaborate with others, set goals, build resilience, a sense of community and more.
"We need to make a little bit of noise and make sure that people know what was lost, because … if you were never a band student and you didn't participate, then you don't know what you're missing," said Sommers, who is also a volunteer with the Ontario Band Association.
"Music truly is a universal language that everybody can learn."
Music '90 per cent about collaboration'
Ottawa high school senior Isla Rennison has played flute since Grade 7 and added percussion not long after through her cadet troop, but she truly didn't realize how core music was to her life until the pandemic hit. Online lag prevented her from performing synchronously with classmates. The alternative — everyone but the conductor on mute or playing along to recordings — left her feeling utterly isolated.
"Listening to other people, working on my dynamics, working on my timing … you don't learn those without playing with someone else in the room," she said. "Music is like 90 per cent about collaboration."
Pressing forward, the 17-year-old is now trying to quickly level up her skills while also dealing with the shortfall of musical peers. Like Sommers, she's seen students drop music during COVID-19 — including friends who played for years, but moved on after becoming disengaged with pandemic lessons.
"We don't have enough students to make a senior ensemble, so we have to bring in Grade 11s, even Grade 10s, to the mix to help boost our ensemble, which means we're not able to play those pieces that are really challenging to us," she said, given the experience gap of the younger players, whose ranks have also thinned.
"[We've] lost two years of building that skill, working together, progressing, learning."
Rennison has joined Sommers in visiting Ottawa-area elementary schools to perform, introduce kids to different instruments and hopefully inspire them to play.
"A lot of people don't feel like they can pursue music," said the teen, who along with playing in school ensembles and at cadets has also started a punk band with friends.
"You don't need to have a future in music [professionally] to pursue music.… I don't think I'll ever not be a musician," she said. "Music brings me a lot of joy."
Based in Toronto, Jessica Wong covers Canadian education stories for CBC News. She previously covered arts and entertainment news, both national and international, and has been a digital journalist for CBC since 2001. You can reach her at Jessica.Wong@cbc.ca.
With files from Deana Sumanac-Johnson and Furkan Khan
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Mark your calendars... Lots of exciting performances are on the horizon for the band program. Looking forward to seeing you all there.
Jan 13 - Jazz Band recordings are due - more info on the individual class links is in the menu above.
Jan 20 - Concert Band recordings due - more info on the individual class links in the menu above.
Jan 23 - Written Reflection #2 Due - more info on the Written Reflection link in the menu above.
Jan 24 - Warrior Jazz Camp - 4:30PM - 9:00PM Dinner provided. Special local guest artists will be here to help workshop our jazz music and hit us with some cool motivation as we get ready for the concert season.
Jan 26 - Rouge Rd. Renegades Jazz Camp - 4:30PM - 9:00PM Dinner provided. Special local guest artists will be here to help workshop our jazz music and hit us with some cool motivation as we get ready for the concert season.
Feb 2 - Sectional cut-off - Sectional information in the course outlines which can be found in the program link above.
Feb 7 - Set up for Winter Concert - Students will meet TBA in the evening to set up for the concert
Feb 8 - 6:30PM Winter Concert in the gym. Parents and Students can reserve seats anytime after 3:30PM. Students will need to be in their designated rooms at Westwood by 5:00PM. All students are expected to stay for the entire concert.
Feb 22 - 8:30 PM - Symphonic Band competes at the Optimist International Band Festival at the Convention Centre. Students are to meet Mr. Edwards at the bottom of the escalators at 6:30 PM in full uniform with their music, instrument and all mutes and percussion extras as discussed in class.
Feb 23 - 7:00AM Gr. 9 and 10 Concert Band meet in the band room. 7:30AM Board the busses to the convention centre. Performance times: 9:10 AM - Gr. 9 Concert Band. 11:10 - Gr. 10 Concert Band. Students will return to school for afternoon classes. Parents are welcome to attend.
March 3 - Rouge Rd. REnegades Jazz "B" Meets in the Band room at 10:30AM. 11:00AM board bus for the Franco Manitoban Cultural Centre. 12:40PM - Performance time. Return back to Westwood later in the afternoon. Parents are welcome to attend.
March 4 (SATURDAY) Rouge Road Renegades Jazz "A" meet at the Franco Manitoba Cultural Centre at 10:00AM. Performance time at 11:00AM. Parents can attend for a small fee and take part in our Adjudication.
March 4 (SATURDAY) Warrior Jazz meet at the Franco Manitoba Cultural Centre at 5:30PM. Performance time at 7:10PM. Parents can attend for a small fee and take part in our Adjudication. Parents can attend for a small fee and take part in our Adjudication.
March 15 - 17 Brandon Jazz Festival - more info on the individual class links in the menu above.
April 17 - 7:00PM For the Love of the Arts (FLOTA) - Westwood Gym. This event features performances from all of the arts programs at Westwood. Warrior Jazz and Gr. 9 Concert Band will play.
April 18 - 6:30PM Westwood Family Concert in the Westwood Gym. This event features performances from all of the Westwood Family of Schools choirs, Orff ensembles, Bands and jazz bands from Sansome, Pheonix, Lincoln and Westwood.
May 30 - 6:30 PM - Final Band Concert - Westwood Gym.
May 31 - 6:30 PM Final Jazz Concert - Westwood Theatre.