Community music, though it may be an unfamiliar concept to many, has deep roots in many societies. From singing around a campfire to improvising music together with different instruments, community music takes on many forms. May Chook, currently working from her studio in Toronto, has taken an interest in this unique field of music in addition to teaching vocal technique. May describes her pedagogical approach as having a focus on creativity and expression.
Originally from Malaysia, May worked hard on her path to becoming a musician. Her musical studies began at the age of 12 when she became interested in composition and songwriting. With a dream to become a trained musician, May received a scholarship to study music in Canada. She expanded her interests to include jazz, improvisation and community arts while at York University in Toronto. Exposure to these classes ultimately led to her present career path.
‘It’s really about bringing people together and self-empowerment,’ explains May as she describes her inspiration. Growing up in a culture where music lessons were not easily accessible, May’s goal is to minimize the financial and social barriers associated with music education. She strives to reach out to those in underserved neighborhoods as well as newcomers to Canada. May tries her best to develop a stronger community by creating a safe space for people of all levels to learn and create music together.
A rewarding aspect for May is to see her students happy, especially when individuals accomplish things they didn’t think they could. “You can see in their face, it gets lit up.” May strives to expose children to music who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to pursue lessons. Music brings families together by ‘encouraging them to be creative and letting them see the possibilities’.
As a freelance teacher coming from a contemporary music background, May’s advice for others is to just keep working on something, no matter whether the milestones are big or small. Ambition is the motivation behind her success in building up others through music. “I believe that everybody can sing and all of us have a unique voice. We all can sing to express.”