Assiginack Public School secures $10,000 grant for musical instruments

MANITOWANING—Assiginack Public School teacher Ray Scott didn’t try to contain his enthusiasm when contacted about the news that his school had just received a $10,000 grant from MusiCounts to purchase new musical instruments for the school’s music program.

“It’s pretty fantastic,” he enthused. “A lot of people applied for this grant. It is amazing that out of all of those applying, we were among those organizations chosen to receive the grant.”

Mr. Scott explained that the school has musical instruments now, but that those pieces are nearing the end of their lifespan. “We have had instruments which have been generously loaned to us by other schools,” he said. “But those instruments are very old and are starting to show their age. That was the impetus for seeking the grant.”

The school wasted no time in ordering the new instruments, which Mr. Scott said he hoped would be in place following the March Break.

Most of the instruments are smaller brass, like flutes, trumpets and clarinets, but there will also be some lower brass, including three trombones and a tuba-like instrument. The variety of instruments is important to the success of the program. “Different people thrive on different instruments,” explained Mr. Scott. “Some people’s lips are shaped differently or their jaws might be a different size.”

Each student tries out the different instruments to determine that which they are most suited to. “The student chooses three instruments,” said Mr. Scott.

MusiCounts is a program administered by the Canadian Academy of Arts and Sciences, the same people who bring us the JUNO Awards. “The program is part of their outreach to communities,” said Mr. Scott.

Over 300 schools applied to the program, but only 70 schools were successful in being awarded the grant. “Out of those 70, we got the maximum amount possible,” said Mr. Scott. “We are very grateful.”

“Music is the universal language that transcends all barriers,” said Melanie Berry, president and CEO of CARAS/The JUNO Awards and MusiCounts in a release following the awards. “Making music makes you smarter and through the power of music, we can make a difference.”

The grants are provided as part of the MusicCounts Band Aid Program, which distributes $600,000 in grants to schools across Canada. The program is conducted in conjunction with Music Canada. Music Canada is a Toronto-based, non-profit trade organization that was founded in 1963 to represent the interests of companies that record, manufacture, produce, promote and distribute music in Canada.

“Music education is a gift that keeps on giving—from the obvious benefit of inspiring our future generation of musicians, some of whom will go on to become ambassadors for Canada around the world, to preparing students for careers in a variety of disciplines including technology and science, to instilling respect in the creative process,” said Amy Terrill, vice president public affairs at Music Canada in a press release. “Music education is as important as the three Rs and we are proud to do a small part to ensure it remains a priority.”

Mr. Scott noted that the Rainbow District School Board has been very supportive of music programs within the schools, but when a school is as small as Assiginack Public School there are many challenges of scale to offering the music program. “There are always competing pressures and challenges (on funding),” he said. “Not everybody has the comfort of being able to offer everything they would like to.” That is part of what makes the MusiCounts grant so timely.

Michael Erskine