Performing Arts In Education

by Anna Contini


In 1996 the Edward Johnson Music Foundation established its Performing Arts in Education program, with a mandate to ensure that “every elementary student in Wellington County has a performing arts experience at least once every two years.” For four consecutive years the Foundation has worked with the public and separate school boards to reinforce the importance of performing arts in education.

This year from February to May the program will reach over 9 000 Wellington County students in Grades 2, 4, 6 and 8. Some of the performances take place at River Run Centre and others are offered at schools in the north end of the County.

At the end of February the Desrosiers Dance Theatre delighted Grade 4 students with their performances of Circus Dream, a modern dance piece featuring humourous and bizarre circus creatures. In March, Grade 6 students will be entertained by Guelph Youth Singers, an award-winning local choir under the direction of Linda Beaupré, performing selections that illustrate how music differs from country to country.

During April and May, some Grade 8 students will have a special opportunity to participate in a Symphony Composition Projectü Jeffrey Ryan, a Canadian composer originally from Fergus, will conduct five weeks of workshops. Students will construct instruments, learn about musical composition and compose and rehearse a short piece which can be performed at their school. Ryan will then use elements from the compositions in a new work for symphony orchestra that will be performed at Guelph Spring Festival’s Opening Night Concert. A few students from each participating class will be selected to appear asDguest musicians with the K-W Symphony Orchestra, using instruments created by their class. The Suzuki String Ensemble will also appear as guest artists.

For those Grade 8 classes who are not able to participate in the composition project, there will be special performances in April by Maderaz a five-member ensemble that offers a musical tour of Latin America using instruments such as bamboo flutes, pan-pipes and a churango (small guitar from the Andes Mountains).

Finally, also in April, Grade 2 students will be treated to Carousel Theatre’s production of The Ice Cream Store and More The play is based on Dennis Lee’s poetry with original music by Cathy Mosaty. Students will be asked to build rhythm instruments in preparation for the show and will have the opportunity to join in the music making during the presentation.

Lynn McGuigan, Executive Director of the Edward Johnson Music Foundation, comments that the Performing Arts in Education program “cultivates creativity and imagination while giving youngsters a set of standards and something to strive for.” The program has been co-ordinated with the new arts curriculum and includes teachers’ guides which are sent out three to four weeks prior to the performances. “This enables teachers to offer related lessons before and after the performances to maximize and reinforce what the students learn,” adds McGuigan.

In order to help support the Performing Arts in Education program, the Foundation is inviting the community at large to a special fundraising evening on Tuesday, April 4 at The Bookshelf. There will be a screening of the film, Music of the Heart which is based on the true story of Roberta Guaspari and how she introduced music to the children of Harlem. The evening will also offer a delectable assortment of hors d’oeuvres as well as an opportunity to meet some of the performing artists who have participated in the Performing Arts in Education program.

For more information, contact the Edward Johnson Music Foundation (519) 821-3210. Tickets for Music of the Heart can be ordered from the River Run Box Office 763-3000.