Jeannie Hunter, vocal instructor at Hillcrest High School in Ottawa, enthusiastically embraced Project of Heart and so did her students. Here is what she had to say:
“This was the first year for vocals at Hillcrest, and I have always felt that it is important to teach context when teaching music, and that music can be an important tool for social justice. My eureka moment came during Ontario Teachers’ Federations’ Aboriginal Perspectives Institute in July of 2011, when I met the coordinator of Project of Heart as well as Heidi Langille from the Ottawa Inuit Children’s Centre. While still covering traditional vocal curriculum (the basics of how to sing and how to read music), I wanted to create an underlying theme in our repertoire.
We began the term by exploring ‘Anthemic Songs’ – songs that have become tools for Social Justice. We watched Playing for Change and created our own versions of “Waving Flag”, “Stand by Me” and “Lean on Me”.
The beginning of our Project of Heart focus was when we read and listened to David Bouchard’s “The Secret of My Name” and shared the stories of our own names while listening to Metis Music. Finally, we explored the history and stories of Indian residential schools and their survivors and began working on our tiles.
Often while working on our tiles we would listen to Aboriginal Music from different areas of Canada, and from both traditional and more modern perspectives. During this time we had Heidi in to teach throat singing, and learned children’s songs in Inuktitut. Ultimately we created our own arrangement of “Frere Jaques” in Inuk, French and English, beginning with throat singing and ending with beat boxing and rap! We also created our own arrangement of the Haudenosaunee lullaby “Watane” and again read and listened to David Bouchard’s “An Aboriginal Carol”. We also kept up a lively discussion of current events as they related both to Canada’s First Nations and to Social Justice in general.
We explored the links between Canada’s treatment of First Nations people and South African Apartheid. It was eye-opening to learn how Truth and Reconciliation Commissions work, and to make the links between South African Apartheid and Canada. Musically, we explored arrangements and meanings for South African freedom Songs.
To put our “learning into action”, we made a donation to the Ottawa Inuit Children’s centre’s Tukimut afterschool program and donated gifts to 5 children which the students bought, wrapped, and delivered. All attempts were made to collect emergency supplies for the community of Attawapiskat, but the transport truck left early and we were unable to follow through with our original plans. A homeless shelter was very glad to receive our offerings.
After the holiday season was over, special guest, Christopher Snowboy, IRS survivor and musician, really brought everything together for us. Chris left us with a strong message that no matter what we encounter in our lives, there is always hope, and that music has the power to express our sorrow and heal our wounds.”
Thank you to Ms. Hunter and students who had an extremely successful term, and for making Project of Heart such a huge part of this. Thanks for your participation!