I recently took a road trip over to the island for two days of rehearsals with Holly Arntzen and Kevin Wright over at their work studio in Crofton BC. The rehearsal setting was idyllic as the house was nestled in a mini countryside community at the edge of a cliff overlooking the water.
On a break from the rehearsal I took a windy path down to the beach and stood there breathing in the salty air as I looked out over the water to the island directly in front of me, and I noted to myself that it seemed quite perfect that I was learning songs about sustainability and the environment while situated in such a gorgeous setting. It felt good to be there.
We were there preparing for the concert that we are scheduled to perform next week in Williams Lake. You see last spring I was asked to be a part of an Artist Response Team. ART is a small group of musicians who travel into schools to rehearse songs with students for a concert performance/learning program called "Up your Watershed" sponsored by THINK SALMON, an initiative of the Fraser Salmon & Watersheds Program which is jointly managed by Pacific Salmon Foundation (PSF) and Fraser Basin Council (FBC), two non-profits dedicated to ensuring sustainable Pacific salmon stocks.
The goal of the Up Your Watershed Tour is to promote broader understanding of the importance of watershed stewardship, and to inspire positive action and behavior change in residents of Fraser Basin communities. We do this by going into schools and using music to spread the message.
In the the weeks leading up to the concert the schools teachers use ART’s Cycle of Life and Salish Sea learning resources to provide activities in their classes that are linked to song lyrics. The beauty of this program is that is was designed to also fulfill prescribed learning outcomes. I love that part in particular (for the teachers) because it helps them reach their teaching objectives, rather than burdening them with extra activities to fit into their cumbersome curriculum. The bonus for the children is that the information is delivered in an engaging and inspiring way. Win, win.
Local conservation groups are invited to provide additional resources, speakers, workshops and field trips to the schools. Involving the communities is another place where the win/win factor is high. The sponsors and companies involved all support one another in spreading the message.
The culminating event is a fabulous concert that features student choirs performing with Holly Arntzen, Kevin Wright and the Dream Band. Beautifully illustrated printed programs are distributed to audience members with lyrics and information. Students deliver song introductions that they create, talking about the issues in the songs, and what they think people can do to help.
For more information you can check out the website, and if you think you want your school to participate just contact Holly or Kevin through this link!
I will be updating as we go through this process, there are a number of schools scheduled to be involved over the year including the school my own children go to. I have been helping with the shows there on and off for a number of years and I am terrifically excited to have been instrumental in bringing this particular program to our students. Our children will possibly even have the opportunity to sing on the next recording that Holly & Kevin do ( a project that will tie into a book launch my school is doing, the project connects to VANOC, which will be reported on later on this blog). More win/win.
There are many exciting things on the horizon in fact, for instance while we are on the road next week, there will be a video and documentary shot for and about the project. I'll make sure I keep some tabs on the behind the scenes for that as well, you'll be looped.
So next week I will be heading up to Williams Lake for my first performance as part of the Dream Band. Interestingly it was my new gig with the League of Rock (which had me playing the bass for the first time) that gave me the ability and confidence to try and to use an instrument that I never expected to have the opportunity to use purposefully.
What happened however, is that during our rehearsal we came across one song where they felt they really needed a bass part. I cautiously offered the info that I played a little bass.
Normally there is a full band and all instruments are covered but for Williams Lake they are bringing a really small band, only 4 people (my long time pal Shawn Soucy who introduced me to Holly and Kevin was missing from the rehearsal this week but will be joining us in Williams Lake), so I was the only one available to play the part.
Eek, that meant I was going to actually be relied upon.
I felt that I could pull it off though, maybe anyway. A simple song, a good weeks worth of practise...............? hmmmmm. So, I picked up the bass, found the chords, looked at the chart and gave it a whirl. At the end of the song we all nodded, I had the part. I got excited at that point, noting that the synchronicity of life is so very interesting. I never would have even THOUGHT to offer myself up were it not for my recent LOR experience and now, here I was actually contributing musically, not just pulling myself out of the mix and hiding in the background.
This really jazzes me because I will have the opportunity to come in and teach/perform in front of 300 children and I will be in the very same position as the performers who came to my childhood school and inspired me.
Young kids are going to see me pick up two instruments and sing and teach them motions to the words they will sing with us. What better opportunity to be a good example will I ever have? What better chance to actually be a tiny part of the solution to a problem I have often wrestled with; that of the school system letting some otherwise bright children fall through the cracks just because they are not intellectuals by nature and are not inspired by or can't cope with the drone of the current unengaging methods of teaching that educators are bound by.
If even ONE student catches a glimpse of fresh understanding through this alternate form of teaching, then it will have been worth the effort. What each student and school will draw from the experience will be sincere and they will connect with the project in a way that is going to be exciting for everyone.
And I am sure the kids will see the joy on my face as we perform the music together. They may even see a tear once in a while because I am possibly the hugest suckball ever to walk the planet and I just know I will get choked up.
Really, if you think that YOU folks are important as an audience, just THINK about what 300 children under my wing are going to do to me. I'll be a mess, but in a good way.
Williams Lake (Nov. 5 - Gibraltar Room)
Surrey (Dec. 3 - Bell Performing Arts Centre),
Vancouver (Jan. 21, 2010 - Norman Rothstein Theatre)
Vancouver (Mar. 2, 2010 - Vancouver East Cutural Centre).
Holly Arntzen's Dream band is:David Sinclair - Guitars
Bill Sample - Piano/Keyboards
Brian Newcombe- Bass
Shawn Soucy - Drums
Kevin Wright - Percussion/Bass/Vocals Rachael Chatoor - Guitar/Vocals