From Winnipeg, James Klassen is one of five 2016 NUFSICISUM winners from across Canada. Recognized for his leadership qualities through music, James recalls musical experiences and opportunities which have helped to distinguish him as a Youth4Music Ambassador.

Beginning piano lessons early on, James understands the benefit of having had access to music education at an early age. Currently a grade 12 high school student, James has completed his Grade 8 Royal Conservatory of Music studies in piano, and is currently studying grade 10 repertoire. James believes that having had a solid foundation in musical education has provided him with the opportunity to access a vehicle for self expression as a high school student. Music is an outlet of expression which he’s been able to continue cultivating in a variety of school ensembles, as well as in his own compositions. James was recently the emcee of a contemporary music evening presented at his school, River East Collegiate. The evening presented student compositions (including his own) and performances of an avant garde style – pushing musical boundaries and providing an opportunity for self expression not many high school students have the opportunity to pursue. James admits that he feels extremely supported by teachers at River East Collegiate, who congratulated him upon hearing the news of his award during the live Music Monday National Showcase broadcast. For James, it feels good to be recognized for personal accomplishments, and to be appreciated.

James is passing forwarding his knowledge and skills in any way possible. He is a musical mentor for a grade 10 student with Down’s Syndrome in his school. Every second lunch hour James helps this student with rhythmic patterns so he can be more comfortable during his regular rehearsals with the rest of his own grade 10 class. James says this has improved this student’s overall happiness and feeling of inclusivity during band class. James believes that this is a big part of being a youth leader – to have a youth voice which understands the current youth perspective and can speak to the issues and needs of his fellow classmates. To James, being recognized by this award is a good reminder that youth can and do have a voice in their schools and communities for what matters to them. James believes that qualities such as helping out in class, having a positive attitude, and making a difference where you can, describe a youth leader. “You’re part of something bigger, it’s not just about playing an individual instrument, but making a big impact. Even the smaller parts can make a difference for someone”, says James.

We asked James what advice he could pass along to other students who want to make a difference in their school. “Keep doing what you’re doing, try your hardest, keep practicing, and find places where you can help, doing so to the best of your ability” is the advice this Youth4Music leader hopes others will hear and put into action where they live. James realizes that not everyone has the opportunity to be a part of a band or choral program in their school, and believes that schools should be offering these experiences for students. “Not everyone is going to chase these opportunities, but if provided, students may enjoy them and find their passion”, says James, who believes that music is a great way to challenge oneself.

We are thrilled to have James join us as a Youth4Music leader and look forward to sharing more from him in the coming months.