It was absolutely rejuvenating to listen to the passion, hopes and excitement in the voices of a number of Kivalliq folks in the education field during the past few weeks, especially those in Chesterfield Inlet and Arviat.
The reason for their optimism as they begin a new school year?
The music programs in their schools are either returning or expanding with the return or addition of staff members with a proven track record in the performing arts.
The number of schools in our region that struggle to initiate or maintain a solid music program has long been a pet peeve of mine, especially because music is so deep-rooted in communities across the Kivalliq.
A rich tradition in music and dance is one of the main snow blocks that make Kivalliq so unique. Consider the super cool local jam sessions posted on social media by Levi Katuqaq and friends in Naujaat; the foot-stomping grooves of the Baker Lake Band at their local community hall; square-dance raves in Whale Cove and Arviat; the water-hole gatherings for open-mic nights hosted by Billy Gallant in Rankin Inlet; and all the way up to the national impact of Arviat’s Arctic Rose, Susan Aglukark.
Our youth can only benefit from a solid music program being offered in their school.
And, as I’ve written in this space a number of times during the past 20-plus years, folks across our region — young and old — passionately embrace a number of musical styles.
There is no doubt in my mind a number of students who clapped and cheered for their new principal’s effort in playing our national anthem on his flute this past week at Victor Sammurtok School (VSS) in Chesterfield Inlet have personal playlists ranging from tweener pop, country, hip hop and gangsta rap all the way to thrash and dark metal.
Such is the ability of music to inspire and touch the emotions of people of all ages and from all walks of life.
Although I was a little taken aback to hear the previous semblance of a music program at VSS was held more than a decade ago (presented by the same aforementioned Billy Gallant), I was not the least bit surprised to hear the excitement in teacher Glen Brocklebank’s voice as he spoke of the possibilities should music gain a bit of prominence among the VSS students.
That same rise in excitement could be heard in the voice of Arviat drama teacher and play director Gord Billard as he spoke of Curtis Metcalf’s return to John Arnalukjuak High School and, with him, the return of a full musical program to the school.
And, like his fellow educator in Chester, Billard was eying possibilities and championing the cause of music programs and their positive impact in offering students more choices in the well-rounded education Kivalliq teachers and administrators strive to deliver.
Music programs have the ability to open the doors of inclusion and achievement for many students. They can also encourage the expansion of the imagination and the desire to learn and improve. And, for some, they stoke the fires of creativity and present possible opportunities that heretofore went unseen.
Best of all, music programs are just plain fun.
Unlike another Kivalliq passion – the game of hockey – refrains of “let them play” strum the chords of creativity, as all the right notes are hit and the tone is set to scale adversity, bridge gaps and offer a choice students can pick and then set their own tempo while learning.
It’s a win-win situation for all involved, bar none.