6 years ago

Volume 6 Issue 2 - October 2000

  • Text
  • Toronto
  • October
  • Theatre
  • Choir
  • November
  • Arts
  • Singers
  • Concerts
  • Symphony
  • Musical


BEHIND THE SCENES, CONTINUED Mark: Only one. Grade 9 Music is "open," so kids who have never taken a note of music are in the same class as kids who have had years of music. And the curriculum - in terms of music notation, for instance, for the Grade 1's they have watered it right down. They call it 'rigorous', but they don't introduce quarter notes until Grade 4. And then by Grade 8 students are expected to write an original musical. How's that going to happen? Me: So what should it be like? Mark: Well, if kids should have read Romeo and Juliet by grade 12, they should also know Beethoven Six, also who is Picasso, what a Rembrandt looks like. They should have heard certain music, just as they know who Michael Jordan is. We have to make these things part of the school experience, I think we as a society are not educating our young people if we're not. Me: So, is amalgamation going to hurt or help? Mark: I'm really afraid for our old board's programs. We were doing some amazing stuff. Music at the Boyne, for example ... Me: At the what? Mark clarifies: Boyne River Natural Science School, near Shelburne. City kids could go there to learn about nature. It's a residential school, with dorms, kids would stay there, it was part of the Toronto School Board; Scarborough and East York had similar programs. Instrumental music, strings and band-- would go for 8 days in June. There was a fee-­ 0 for a week, that included the bus there and back, 3 square meals a day and snacks, teachers and programs. But a lot · of kids got bursaries too. The program is still in effect, and the choral version, Voices at the Boyne, still seems OK, at least for this year ... And we take high school students as tutors. I have seen kids at Boyne in grade school, then I see them come back as aides in high school, now they are teaching in the schools. This is an amazing tradition, an amazing mentorship, and quite a familial feeling. I work with these kids all over the city, then I see them at Roy Thomson in a massed choir of 6oo voices in an all-city choir, or an all-city orchestra, or an allcity string ensemble ... And we don't know what will happen to Boyne. Me: And aside from Boyne? Mark: I was at an all-city Recorder Fest last May at Rosedale Heights Secondary School, the program said there were 450 public school kids there from all over the city. It was amazing, each school played a few pieces from the stage but the really great part was when these kids who'd never seen each other before all played together, just from their seats in the auditorium. It was like being inside an organ! And that was the last one there will be, so far as we know. (He is quiet for a moment before continuing.) Another thing. The Toronto public schools have presented their annual concert every spring for 115 years, at Roy Thomson Hall, at Massey Hall before that, and somewhere else before that. The Grade 4's have their recorder group, the Orff group puts on a dance, and the steel pans play in the actual concert now -they used to be in the foyer, now they're part of the concert. I had a hand in that, I did a lot of the ground work for getting world music into the curriculum. The secondary schools have been at Massey Hall every April for 42 years. Me: On the phone you mentioned the public schools' traveling music teachers --and cutbacks there. How does the travelling teacher thing work? Mark: Well, Grades 4 and up get Isabelle Wolman or one of the other itinerant recorder teachers for one half hour a week, the Orff teachers for Grades 1 - 3· The regular teacher stays in the classroom during the music lesson so it's professional development as well. If the regular teacher is committed, she will see that the kids practice for 10 or 20 minutes every day, or every other day, so when the traveling teacher gets back with the kids there's some progress. Starting in Grade 5 we offer strings or band -­ junior band for Grades 5 and 6, senior band for 7 and 8. Now the way things are shaping up, when they go off to high school, they're going to get strings or band or choir or orchestra -- or maybe not. Mark sighs: But I'm not really doing that anymore,last year my job was help figure out how all this new curriculum and amalgamation was going to work. This year ... I'm back in a school. Me: How do you feel about that? Mark doesn't have to hesitate: Happy as hell, happy to be back with kids. Last year I wore my car out, I was putting go km a day on it -- at old Toronto Board mileage allowances -- meeting in Scarborough, meeting in Etobicoke, meeting downtown ... now I can walk td work in 12 minutes. (He gets enthusiasitc.) This year the choir is going to be a mixed choir - last year there were only two boys -- we've agreed that Tuesday will be choir day, we've arranged with the Phys Ed teacher that there are no conflicting PE activities on Tuesday. I think that being a man myself helps give the boys a different view of music. Me: What are you going to miss? , Mark looks agonized: I can't imagine how they are going to put on the spring concert in Roy Thomson Hall. Last year Shelagh Cohen and I worked full-tilt on it, the workload was designed for six people, now it's just Shelagh, plus she has 22 East York schools to do. I guess my main criticism of the Harris plan is that there is no vision for what music is going to be in the schools. The TSB is operating on a mitigation fund that will run out in three years. Paul Marshall, the co-ordinator, they trimmed his budget by ooK, then goK, it's been whittled away .... A lot of our experienced teachers have been retired, they've taken a package. Paul Marshal! retires in December. There's a world of experience, the knowledge this man has in his head, and he's going to be gone! The Choral Festival, just as an example-- that's days and days of auditions and deciding what pieces we can do -- all this history and tradition that needs to get passed on. Paul taught me, I learned from him, and last spring I packed up my office and its all in storage. That stuff should be in teachers' hands, so they can teach. Our choral library is at Western Tech, that's a tremendous resource, our holdings are mainly in SA, of course, but we've also got SAT and SATB. And I have the key here in my pocket! I have teachers calling me, "How can I get into the choral library?",and I have the key in my pocket, and I have to tell them I don't know, no one has picked up the ball. Anyway, I'm in my own school now and what I have to offer is making a difference in 565 lives. Me: Can you pinpoint what's gone wrong with the system? 44 Whole note OCTOBER 11 2000 • NOVEMBER 7, 2000

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