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Nova Scotia music class wanted to build a playground – they became award-nominated musicians

Kerry Martin

CBC Music, in association with Musicounts, is looking for Canada's Greatest Music Class. Choose a song to cover and upload the video for a chance to win an exclusive concert at your school. Go for details.

Carol Coutts has always loved bringing local musicians in to perform with her music students at Basinview Drive Community School in Bedford, N.S. When the school needed to raise money for an outdoor learning space and accessible playground, she knew there was a way she could help, but had no idea how far it would take her music class. 

"I often have musicians coming in and out of my school. The students learn artist's music, and then make their own arrangements," said Coutts. "That kind of personal connection, I thought that was very important. When the [parent teacher partnership committee] was planning to build a playground in our community and were looking to do some fundraising, I thought this could be the perfect time to pull everything together and do some recordings."

Coutts approached her friend, and musician, Keith Mullins with the idea of recording an album to raise money. "We decided to reach out to ten of the musicians we had worked with, and then our students would provide background vocals, harmonies and some percussion parts," said Coutts. With no certainty that the musicians would accept the request, or give rights to their music, they started their outreach. 

"We recorded all ten tracks in my classroom, and some of the musicians actually came in to do their recordings," said Coutts. "Our very first recording, we recorded Willie Stratton playing one of his originals with our students. You got that magical feeling when you heard it all come together."

The collaborations continued on. Musicians such as Meaghan Smith, Jeremy Fischer and Joel Plaskett all provided music to make this album a reality for Coutts and her class. 


"I was just blown away with the generosity of the musicians who were getting involved with our project," said Coutts after seeing the effort that musicians, along with the students, put in to this project.

Hawksley Workman was another one of the musicians Coutts approached to take part in the project. Shortly after receiving the request, Workman sent several versions of his songs for the class to collaborate on. "Safe and Sound" from Workman's 1999 release For Him and the Girls was the song that ended up on the album. 


Once the album was recorded, Basinview hosted back-to-back nights of concerts showcasing the album, with six of the artists featured on the album performing the songs live with the students. The event, along with CD sales, helped raise money for the playground, which was the initial goal, but a few months later, the album achieved a level of success that Coutts had not even considered.

"We were nominated for a Music Nova Scotia Award, as well as an East Coast Music Award. I took 100 kids to P.E.I. to perform at the ECMA's in 2014."

So now, these kids are also ECMA-nominated artists.

Dubbed Basinview Rocks, the effort raised money for their community and earned music award nominations, but Coutts says the biggest victory came in the collaborations. "I can't even express how much these kids get out of connecting with the artists, and working with them on different arrangements. It really has become part of our thing. The most important part was that the kids felt like they contributed to the building of the playground by doing this. " 

When asked what message she hopes other people will take from this great Canadian music story, Coutts replies, "the music that is happening today, and our local musicians, that is our current folklore. By connecting our children with those local musicians, we are fostering knowledge of their own community and culture so that they can bring it forward in to the future."

To hear the entire Basinview Rocks album, click here. If you want to start your own Canadian music class story, enter Canada's Greatest Music Class right here.