Jess and Ontario a.m. ClassThis past July, Guitars in the Classroom had the pleasure of training teachers in Ontario, Canada for the first time to make and lead music in their non-music classrooms. GITC was able to accomplish this longstanding goal thanks to Canadian music educator Hania Krajewski who had trained with GITC’s instructor Joan Maute in South Carolina in 2011. After vacationing on Hilton Head Island, Hania brought the work back to her native country, reaching out to the head of music education for the Catholic schools in her province of Ontario. By the way, Catholic schools in Ontario are publicly funded, unlike schools with a religious affiliation in the states.

With programatic costs covered through generous grants from GAMA and from the Music for Life Alliance, (finger style guitarist Muriel Anderson’s foundation), GITC has laid plans to continue training through 2014. PortraitFinal2ThinerBlkThe musical accessories for this first GITC Canada program were provided by D’Addario Strings, Dunlop Manufacturing, Onboard Research, Levy’s Leathers and Godin Guitars who provided brand new Excursion guitars for all the teachers to play and borrow long term through GITC’s guitar “recycling” program.

The four day intensive brought two groups of teachers each day through a 3.5 hour journey towards developing essential musicality and music leadership skills. Organized by the Niagara Catholic School District’s Director of Music and French, Jayne Evans, the participants now have an exhilarating way of employing music as a teaching strategy five days a week through teaching songs for success and writing lyrics for learning.

Teachers in this program participated with every fiber of their beings. They reported experiencing transformation on a personal and professional level, coming into their musicality as adults and finding themselves in possession of beautiful singing voices, musical preferences, and quickly forming guitar skills. “It was a breathtaking week,” exclaims GITC’s founder and director, Jessica Baron.Jess and p.m. Ontario Class“These teachers embraced the experience wholeheartedly. It’s interesting that teachers in Canada are far more supported in their roles in the schools than teachers here in the U.S. They are not pressured to teach to standardized tests, they are paid a truly liveable wage, and their school funding is not contingent on test scores or threatened for losing support if they do not “perform” to federal or state levels of expectation. Perhaps in part because the climate for education is more humane in Canada, these teachers were able to approach the learning process energized, unburdened and entirely emotionally available for an exciting new experience. In any case, the participants quickly bonded as a group, musically excelled, wrote delightful and powerful new songs for teaching, performed together in duos and trios, and left the intensive ready to share music this fall.”

To cap off the Canadian adventure, luthier Robert Godin and his wife (and GITC board member) Janet traveled to St. Catharines where he gave a highly engaging public presentation at Thorold’s Music on the anatomy of the acoustic guitar. This talk was SRO and attended by teachers and guitar enthusiasts from around the province. Robert Godin standingIn addition to this talk, Janet attended her first hands-on GITC class and played guitar along with the teachers. It was Janet Godinan honor to welcome the Godins, who have sponsored GITC programs in the U.S. for more than a decade, to the first Canadian program.

GITC’s work is continuing with regular teaching visits from GITC’s instructor Ben Hassenger in nearby Lansing, Michigan while GITC works with the Catholic and the rest of the public school district to develop and train a local GITC instructor.  In the meantime, Jessica Baron is planning to train a large group of music educators from all kinds of schools in Ontario in the GITC approach at the Ontario Music Educators Association this November. The district’s goal is to have their music teachers lead the way and to empower classroom teachers to include music in learning across the academic spectrum throughout the school year.

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