At Woodbine Jr High School in Toronto’s North York neighbourhood, three time JUNO winner and Canadian Singer/Songwriter Serena Ryder came together with Musicounts and its supporters to celebrate the awarding of over $1,000,000 in grants to benefit music education in Canada this year alone.
“The only reason I’m up on this stage right now is because I have so many people supporting me.” said Ryder to hundreds of students, as well as several recording industry guests. “Music has always been my favourite thing in school. Having a music program is unbelievable. I’m so honoured and happy to be here to share what I’m able to do.”
The event took place in an appropriately outmoded multipurpose room dubbed a ‘cafetorium’, with virtues like ‘Teamwork’ and ‘Cooperation’ strewn across the walls. The assembly began with a performance from the Woodbine Jr High School, full with all the sweetness, promise, and roughness of youth.
“Music… is about creating confidence, self-expression, working as a team, and learning a new language.” offered Music Teacher Tyler Gmyrek earnestly to his pupils. “Music can do things nothing else can.”
Ryder took the stage not long after the students, and accompanied solely by percussionist Sekou Smart, flashed the sort of talent and confidence the pursuit of musical education could eventually yield. She owned the room with “Stompa”, the first single off her latest album Harmony and her highest charting song yet, even getting the youngsters on their feet for some clapping and stomping. She followed it up with the energizing and uplifting “What I Wouldn’t Do”, a positive and powerful song with themes of perseverance and devotion well suited to the proceedings.
“Our mission is to insure that children throughout Canada have access to a music program in their school regardless of their socioeconomic circumstances or cultural background.” Allan Reid, Director of MusiCounts, told the assembled. “We will be awarding 82 schools and four school boards with Band Aid grants. We’re handing out grants to every province and territory in Canada for the first time (this year).”
MusiCounts, a music education charity associated with the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, has been responsible for awarding more than $6,000,000 since 1997, impacting an estimated 520,000 students. Their Band Aid Grants are awarded to Public Schools only, and are designed to help schools in all communities to purchase brand new instruments.
“We’ve worked with small record labels, recording studios, live music venues, musical festival organizers, artists, and managers.” said Graham Henderson of Music Canada, a non-profit representing the major record companies in Canada, namely Sony Music Entertainment Canada, Universal Music Canada, and Warner Music Canada. “There are a lot of different roles in the music industry. We want to make it better for you, and for them.”
Henderson needed only to point to Woodbine Jr High School Graduate and President of Sony Music Canada Shane Carter for a powerful example of the versatility and value an education in music can provide.