Stephen Richardson’s pathway to becoming a music teacher was unconventional. Born in Nova Scotia to a Puerto Rican mother, Richardson picked up the guitar at the comparably-late age of 21. “It changed my life,” said Richardson, “and that late start created a strong empathy towards students who struggle in ability or confidence.”
That empathy and connection with students is plain to see in Richardson’s teaching practice at Ecole St. Joseph in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. Richardson draws heavily on his experience as a working musician and develops varied and engaging opportunities for music at his school: talent shows, a school choir, battles of the bands, songwriting clinics, recording sessions, and more. Richardson isn’t just a teacher; he’s a student of music himself, and continually takes lessons to hone his craft and model lifelong learning for students.
Like any good rock & roll musician, Richardson knows the value of adaptability and improvisation. He pays keen attention to the needs of his students, and creates inventive and inclusive programming that meets their needs. Technology figures prominently; students get a chance to try out industry-forward software like Pro Tools or Sibelius, as well as tackle video and stage production projects.
“Stephen has proven flexible at seeking out new ways to present band and music classes to adjust to the new classroom landscape,” says Assistant Principal Tony Florio. “This includes abandoning old-school methods if necessary for new inclusive approaches. In band, this has included using online music video game apps, apps for testing, online video testing, and composition projects.”
“My classes are communities where music work is teamwork. A powerful band and fantastic uplifting musical experiences abound if we all work together, push one another, and trust that each other’s journey is a valid one,” says Richardson.
Stephen Richardson is one of five nominees for the MusiCounts Teacher of the Year Award, presented by the Canadian Scholarship Trust Foundation. The winner will be announced at the 50th JUNO Awards in June, and will receive a JUNO statuette, a $10,000 donation, and a sizable grant for the music program at their school.