Bassoons, school band, and MusiCounts

This article originally appeared on the Ten Kettles blog, and is written by Alex.

My story
In 1996, there was a serious problem facing a high school just outside of Toronto. The school’s only two bassoonists would soon graduate—leaving the school bassoon-less. But the music director wasn’t about to let that happen. And so, a somewhat directionless 13-year old suddenly found himself with a bassoon in hand.

That was me. What followed was a five year wrestle with an instrument that I would come to love. It was also the beginning of a musical and personal exploration that would have been impossible without my high school music program.

There were after-school practices. There were band competitions. There were volunteering events in the community, band trips (sometimes only tangentially related to music…), and there were friends. There was romance and some heartbreak. And there was music.

Despite going on to study engineering and then working in research for years and years before starting Ten Kettles, I can honestly say that our high school music program was one of my most valued school experiences.

Music programs
Sure, music programs are about music. You learn how to play an instrument or two. You learn to play music as part of a group. If you’re lucky, you learn to really listen to your bandmates too. And you experience the real joy when it all pays off! Playing your part, hearing it weave in and out of the mix, and feeling part of something so much bigger. It’s wonderful.

But music programs aren’t just about music. They’re also about identity and figuring out who you are and what you love. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed my math classes, physics, programming (obviously) and all that stuff.

But music is different.

You exist when you play music in a fundamentally different way than when you’re doing those other classes. You play your instrument and musical parts in a way that no one else has ever done before. You add your character to it, your feeling. You. And in the process you learn a little bit more about what that “you” is. A useful lesson when you’re 13!

Where’s this coming from? If you couldn’t tell, I really care about music education. So, it came as a bit of a shock to me to learn that many schools in Canada don’t even have instruments. Like, none at all. I had no idea! I can’t imagine a school without music, just like I can’t imagine a school without sports, or English, or any of the stuff that builds and celebrates our humanity—and brings us together.

Enter MusiCounts. I found them online. They are fantastic. It’s a very small group that spun off from the JUNO Awards (think Grammys, but Canadian) to give instruments to schools that don’t have them. And it’s small, but mighty. Just six people: Kristy, Regan, Nick, Ashley, Anika, and Evelyn.

Alicia and I met up with the MusiCounts team earlier this month because we wanted to help. Ten Kettles builds apps for music education and training, but not everyone has a smartphone or tablet—and not everyone has the money to buy apps anyways. And to be honest, high school music programs are just so much more important than even the most lovingly crafted app. So we took a chunk of our earnings from some recent consulting work and handed it over.

Through MusiCounts’ grant program we’ve agreed to outfit at least two schools’ music programs in Canada over the next year—helping them get the instruments they need—and we couldn’t be more proud. The instruments they’ll be purchasing will serve them for years to come, and we’re honoured that a little piece of Ten Kettles gets to play such an enormous role in our broader community. If you love music and your country doesn’t support it like they should, please consider giving too. Canadian? Here’s MusiCounts.

Thanks for reading.


About Ten Kettles:

Based out of east-side Toronto, Ten Kettles builds apps for music education and training, including Waay (music theory), hearEQ (ear training), and Beat Mirror (rhythm training). Ten Kettles was founded in 2013 by Alex Andrews. Alex is a musician and engineer (B.Sc. Engineering Physics, M.Sc. Electrical Engineering), coming from a background in research labs (biosignal analysis, hearing development & disability, music psychology), music education, and playing many, many concerts in and around Toronto.”