MONTREAL, JUNE, 17, 2008 – Coronation Elementary School in Côte Des Neiges ended the year on a high note thanks to a memorable visit on June 13 from world renowned jazz pianist and Montreal native, Oliver Jones.
A child prodigy who at age three could play from memory songs he had heard once on the radio, Jones made his piano debut at age five at Union United Church in Montreal. Although trained as a classical pianist, Jones was inspired by his Saint-Henri Neighbor, the late and legendary jazz musician Oscar Peterson to learn jazz. It was love at first sight. “I didn’t choose jazz music, it chose me,” said Jones to cycle III students at Coronation.
Jones’ afternoon at Coronation began with a visit to the music room, where members of the Steel Pan Band dazzled him with their talents. He then took questions from a group of excited senior students whom he later wowed with a jaw dropping piano performance of his own. The biggest surprise came when Jones announced that he would be donating a brand new piano to the school, which he hopes will be formally presented at the start of the next school year. The news was welcomed by a wave of applause and nearly brought Principal Teresa Germano-Saucier to tears.
During his conversation with the students, Jones, a firm believer in the power of a good education, stressed the importance of staying in school. “Right now the most important thing for you is to continue to stay in school, study as hard as you can and I’m certain that everyone of you will get a chance to travel the world and do anything you want,” he said.
Principal Germano-Saucier’s main goal in inviting Mr. Jones to Coronation was to get the students to relate to him because of his Montreal roots. She left the students with the following message: “What’s important here today is that you meet a famous Montrealer who has gone somewhere and who has decided that he’s going to do something with his life through a lot of hard work- something that all of you can do as well,” she remarked,
Earlier that week Coronation played host to cellist Denis Brott, yet another acclaimed Canadian musician. Mr. Brott is a professor of Cello and Chamber Music at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal and founder and artistic director of the prize-winning Montreal Chamber Music Festival. His career has taken him to four continents, as soloist, chamber musician and as a member of Canada’s renowned Orford String Quartet.
Brott is also the creator of a program called Breakdance with Brott, which he presented to Coronation students. The objective of the programis to give students more than a cursory knowledge of classical music and the relationship of the classics to current music. This project renews an appreciation of the classics, all the while addressing the needs of students in modern society.
Working with him on this project are Jonathan Emile, JoDee Allen and Helen Simard. Mr. Emile is founder of Mindpeacelove Records where he unites mind (the intellect), peace (balance) and love (emotion), allowing delivery of conscious and free art with respect and relevance. Ms. Allen is an accomplished dancer with the breakdance crew DysFunkShn. She brings a contemporary perspective to this project, engaging students to apply breakdance movements to classical music as played by Denis on the cello. Ms. Simard is a member of Solid State Breakdance.
Today’s teachers are always searching for ways to engage students, address issues of interest, promote the arts, and help students discover relevance in what surrounds them and what came before. Music is one way that joins all and helps to foster understanding amongst people. Students are faced with a variety of literacies, whether media, spoken, visual or auditory. Breakdance with Brott adds another dimension – a dimension that is promoted by MELS (Ministère de l’Education, du Loisir et du Sport) and is sure to appeal to students.
Each step of the project will be documented in digital and/or film. This allows students to see the fruits of their labor. Each student will maintain a running journal of their experiences and observations of the project. It is possible that some may choose to prepare a short film clip or sound track of their learning outside the time frame, create illustrations of their learning, or prepare a creative journal – this is also one benefit of the project as it allows students to make decisions about how to present their work.