By: Simon Proulx
Summer 2020 – In Manitoba COVID cases were down, society was opening up, and I had just completed my last year of high school in less than normal circumstances (what many liked to call “unprecedented times”). University was right around the corner, and I had to begin thinking about making some money. Lo and behold, I stumbled upon a posting for a Youth4Music Summer Student on Instagram. I applied and was interviewed… but, alas, the position was offered to an equally exceptional and deserving student.
Fast forward to June of this year – I had just completed a very challenging first year of university, COVID cases were back down again, and this time around we had vaccines which were touted as a way to get back to our normal lives! The position for not one, but two summer students popped back up again on my Instagram feed. Now one year older, and with some valuable experience under my belt, I applied for the job and was offered a position!
Having the opportunity to work for the Coalition this past summer has been a rewarding and enriching experience. It has given me valuable insight into the inner workings of a national organization, provided much needed social interactions with kind and passionate individuals, and broadened my outlook to what is possible with the music degree I will be completing in a few short years.
Throughout these eight weeks, I have been able to work on projects that have been intellectually stimulating, challenging, and creative. After a brief introduction to the Coalition team and the goals of Youth4Music, we jumped right into creating a toolkit for youth music advocacy. In a way, this was a herculean undertaking, with many components to consider, but with the underlying urgency about the future of music education in post-pandemic Canada, it was easy to find the motivation and passion to create a qualitative ressource to ensure that music programs will flourish for years to come.
Having the freedom to come up with ideas for projects and being able to see them through the entire creative process was something that I valued during my time here. Many of my favourite projects during this work term sprouted out of conversations over Zoom meetings and ideas tossed around on brainstorming documents.
Of these, my university newsletter series was the most time-consuming and personal. I had originally planned to write one short article, but as there was so much to discuss, it turned out to be a five-part series spanning the end of high school to this summer. As Youth4Music is a bilingual organization, I was afforded the opportunity to translate the entire series into French. All in all, the document I wrote the series on ended up spanning forty-two pages which is single handedly the longest piece of writing I have ever crafted. I was also tasked with creating social media posts and captions to present the series. After what was a frustrating and tumultuous year, this newsletter series provided some much needed catharsis and has helped prepare me for the year ahead.
Another project was the “Made in Canada” Playlist Series, which came out of my want to see content on streaming services that was geared towards celebrating Canada’s musicians in every province and territory (to my knowledge the major streaming services have still not put out something like it). Each playlist was a lot of fun to create and I learned a lot about the unique musical culture and history of every Canadian region.
Perhaps the most impactful resources we were able to brainstorm this summer were the multiple databases that were inspired by the post-secondary database which Youth4Music released earlier this year. I was given four databases to gather information for: Canadian youth summer music programs, Canadian music/arts grants, music festivals for school bands, orchestras, and choirs, and Canadian music scholarships and competitions. I believe that through these research activities I have been able to find qualitative information in a more efficient manner, something that will definitely be handy once university starts again.
Most excitedly, this summer, we worked as a group to plan three virtual workshops for the coming months. This gave me an inside look into how a large organization plans events and all of the elements that have to be considered. These included but were not limited to content, structure, method, promotional content, and outreach. I am looking forward to attending these events in the near future!
The Coalition is truly a special organization. Everyone who works here is deeply invested in the future of music education in our country. The energy and enthusiasm each individual brings to the table is indicative of the quality and hard work that is pumped into every single project each and every day. I am so grateful to have been surrounded by such kind and passionate individuals, particularly in the Youth4Music team, where I spent most of my time. It was wonderful to get to know everyone and I hope that the connections I made this summer will be long lasting, despite the distances that separate us.
I have always considered musicians to be solely focused on performance, but this work experience has taught me otherwise. Musicians as artists, have the obligation to be tuned into the events that surround us, to be at the forefront for positive change in the world of music and beyond. We cannot and should not be limited to only making music as we are advocates, writers, thinkers, educators, and most importantly, humans.
My straight and narrow path of performing in an orchestra has significantly broadened as I see music programs across the country being threatened by the effects of government policy and the pandemic. It would be disheartening for me to see youth across the country get less opportunities to make music than I did because of some heartless decision-making on the part of individuals who may not realize what a significant impact music education plays in people’s lives.
While I may not become a full-time music educator or advocate, my time at the Coalition has pushed me to consider why I am wanting to pursue music as a career in the first place. I believe that this opportunity has guided me towards finding my musical purpose, something I have been searching for ever since the pandemic began and all of the regular performance opportunities I was expecting dried up.
I am sad to be putting this wonderful chapter of my life behind me, but I know that everything I have experienced at the Coalition will help me with whatever I may face in the future, and for that, I am grateful.