By Kimberley Hughes and first appeared in the 2019 JUNO Souvenir Program
It’s hard to imagine a more inspiring MusiCounts Band Aid Program recipient than Fairview Heights Elementary who received $10,000 in new instruments in 2016-2017. Over 50 percent of its student body does not speak English as a first language. Many are newcomers to Canada for whom extra-curricular activities are a luxury, so music education is an exciting opportunity. If you want to hear optimism personified, get Jennifer Cleveland on the phone and ask her about MusiCounts.
Cleveland, who recently completed her Master of Education in Curriculum Studies with a Focus in Music Education and teaches music from kindergarten through to grade six band (“I joke that I have seven different personalities, one for each grade level!”) sees music not just as a means of bridging language barriers. It’s a way of building community that can last a lifetime.
“The area where our school is located in Halifax has become, over the last five or six years, the primary place where new Canadian families have settled in the province,” she says. “Our families are coming from Syria, Saudi Arabia, and many are traumatized. They have socio-economic challenges. Many kids have never been in school previously, and their opportunities are so limited.
“Being able to buy new instruments was huge. All day long the students struggle to say simple things…but in music class, they get to feel like they belong, and are heard just like any other child. I don’t need words to show them what to do with an instrument.
“Plus, having actual instruments also means it’s not just all about singing. I love singing and am a singer first. But I sincerely value reaching kids and for many it’s not through singing. Playing with xylophones and recorders and drums allows me to reach all of my kids. I feel pretty confident there is not one kid in this school who would say they hate music,” Cleveland laughs. “And I love my job every day.”
If you’re a school in need of new instruments like Fairview Heights, you can apply to the MusiCounts Band Aid Program each fall for up to $15,000 in instruments. Click here to get more information.
MusiCounts can only help 1 in 5 schools who apply to receive instruments. Click here to donate now and help us close the gap. Music adds possibilities for youth, and every donation counts.