Making Music: Working with Woodland Elementary School

Making Music

Making Music: Working with Woodland Elementary School

The announcement was music to Leila Brown’s ears. At a time when she had been working hard applying for government grants to help expand her school’s popular music program, Vale’s Long Harbour Operations announced a three-year funding commitment to the Woodland Elementary School in New Harbour, NL.

Brown, the music teacher at Woodland Elementary, says the donation provided students – who play in one of four instrumental groups including guitar, accordion, concert band and violin, with inspiration to take their music a step, or note, further.

“It brought me the opportunity to bring in professional musicians to help teach the kids and to help motivate them,” said Brown, who’s taught music for 21 years. “When the musicians came in, they gave the students more technical experience and it exposed them to a repertoire that’s out in the community. That helped motivate them to learn.”

Until then, Brown’s program had been a growing interest for Woodland’s music students, however, Brown could only take the 80+ students so far in their skill development.

“There just weren’t enough hours in the day for me to address the needs of all the children,” she says. By introducing professional musicians, it helped demonstrate to the students more advanced musical playing techniques that they in turn could try themselves.

Vale’s sponsorship is being used to bring in three musicians, multiple times, over the next three years. Jason March, performing folk and pop musician; Elizabeth Philpott, a former music teacher specializing in concert band; and Kelly Russell, a performer and private instructor in fiddle and accordion, each spent four sessions with the students. Focusing on their particular area of expertise, they taught the kids various songs and techniques to further their playing and will continue to work with the students over the next two years.

“It also really showed the kids that music is not just something they’re learning in school – it’s a life skill that they can take with them and be like those musicians,” Brown said.

And learn they did—well enough to show off their newly developed skills in a recent musical showcase at the school.

“We’re always happy to support a local initiative like Woodland’s music program, which is a great match to Vale’s community investment objectives,” said Don Stevens, manager, Long Harbour Operations. “The program’s goals are compelling, taking a traditional music education a step further by putting professional musicians in the classroom to work with the children, and overcoming a common limitation to education programs in smaller communities: accessibility to resources, be they people- or materials-related.”

 Woodland Students getting ready to perform