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6 music programs whose inspirational work will melt your heart

Grant Lawrence

At CBC Music, we believe that every child deserves a chance to experience and learn music. We also believe that music education can positively impact the lives of children in countless ways.

That's one of the main reasons why CBC Music along with MusiCounts (the charity of the Juno Awards) launched the Canadian Music Class Challenge. The contest is now in its fourth and most successful year yet, with the purpose of engaging music classes across the country to learn Canadian music — and have lots of fun while doing so!

Over the years of the Canadian Music Class Challenge, we've discovered many amazing music programs that are making a difference in their communities. In a further effort to recognize the hard work of music educators in this country, this year, we sent out filmmakers to tell the stories of five inspirational Canadian music programs.

We invite you to check out these meaningful, emotional, and groundbreaking music programs that are doing it all for the kids.

Beverley Street Public School (Toronto)

Since the 1950s, Beverley Street has been a school for children with intellectual and physical challenges. The teaching philosophy is based on a team approach, with the belief that every child has a right to reach their full potential in a safe, secure, and encouraging environment. Jonah Epstein in the music teacher at Beverley, and as you can see below, he's doing amazing work. Thank you, Jonah!

St. Vincent Catholic School (Chatham, Ont.)

Music teacher Jacquelyn McGlynn had never seen or heard anyone quite like her student Audrey S. “She had no formal piano or voice training,” McGlynn told the County Weekly News. Audrey sat down at the piano and music came out of her fingertips. Soon, she began writing original music, which McGlynn categorizes as “unbelievable." Audrey has since proven to be an inspiration to many other music students who are now attempting to sing and perform their own music. Watch Audrey's story.

Christie Refugee Welcome Centre (Toronto)

Imagine you and your family just walked across the border into Canada to claim refugee protection. After being processed, you are allowed into Canada to await your court date to decide your status. In the meantime, you might live for a few months at the Christie Refugee Welcome Centre. For kids in these families, leaving friends and family behind for an uncertain future in a new county can be distressing. In this video, you'll drop in on a music program run by Sandra Gonzalez Amaya. Through the MusiCounts TD Community Music Program, the Christie Refugee Centre received an award for musical instruments.Check out how music teacher Kunle Chris offers the children a chance to have fun again, to forget their worries for a while, and have some much-needed structure in their lives.

Ohsweken Community Hall (Ohsweken, Ont.)

Ohsweken is a village on the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation Reserve near Brantford, Ont. At the Community Hall in Ohsweken, they offer a music program called Music For The Spirit. It's a grassroots, youth-led program of music instruction for learning various instruments, including keyboard, ukulele, guitar, drums and vocals. Other highlights of their program include Indigenous visual arts, knowledge, and instrument-making workshops for summer camp and after schoo programs. Through the MusiCounts TD Community Music Program, Music For The Spirit received an award for instruments, including traditional drums, guitars, drum kits and repairs to existing instruments.

Nakoda Elementary School (Morely, Alb.)

This small school in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains near Calgary uses music to connect students to their Stoney First Nation heritage. According to music teacher Drew Van Allen, sometimes that means learning traditional music, sometimes it’s taking a modern pop song and giving it a twist with Stoney language and A Tribe Called Red-style backbeat, like in this video from the Canadian Music Class Challenge. When Gord Downie died, the kids made a video performance of Tragically Hip songs, including ceremonial dances and traditional storytelling.

Valour Rocks Music Program (Winnipeg, Man.)

There's a free after school music program in the West End of Winnipeg that serves a mix of diverse and indigenous kids. It's called Valour Rocks. Two passionate musicians teach the kids who drop in how to express themselves by making music, and not by getting into trouble. Valour Rocks is a safe environment for learning. Habib Omboke teachers how to DJ, while Lindsey White offers lessons for the kids on drums, guitar, voice, and keyboards. Together they broaden what's possible for kids who have too few musical experiences. Valour Rocks is another recipient of the MusiCounts program.

Let us know what you think! If you know of an inspirational music program or teacher, let us know: Maybe next year we can do a video about you!


Check out the videos from the 2018 Canadian Music Class Challenge

Watch pop star Lights shock a music class learning her song "Giants"

Meet the judges for the 2018 Canadian Music Class Challenge

Canadian Music Class Challenge key dates

Need new instruments for your music class? Check out Band Aid