Music Alive Program teaching artists come together to share, learn, and collaborate

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Teaching artists Walter MacDonald White Bear, Samantha Whelan Kotkas, and Andrew Balfour in an experimental jam session during a collaborative workshop in Edmonton. © Natasha Harwood
Group photo
Music Alive Program teaching artists from Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba. © Natasha Harwood

The NAC’s Music Alive Program, which brings local and visiting artists to mostly rural and remote schools and communities, was developed in partnership with local arts organizations and in consultation with school boards. It began in Alberta and Saskatchewan in 2008, then expanded to Nunavut in 2010 and Manitoba in 2011. In 2015-16, the program hosted full‑day workshops and performances with professional artists in 53 schools in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba.

From October 21 to 23, 2016, 10 exceptional teaching artists from Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba gathered in Edmonton for the Music Alive Program’s annual professional development weekend for the program’s teaching artists in Western Canada.

Participants included classical musicians and Indigenous artists who participated in peer-led sessions on topics like collaboration, engaging effectively with teachers, sharing music, encouraging student creativity, and incorporating Indigenous perspectives and Indigenous culture.

Cree composer and choral director Andrew Balfour, a teaching artist in  Manitoba who has attended the professional development weekend for the past six years, said the chance to learn and share new approaches is invaluable. He also said that the Music Alive Program, which offers Indigenous curriculum to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous schools, helps build bridges through the arts – a benefit cited in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report. 

"It can be a total commitment to drive hundreds of kilometres in all types of weather, set up and take down gear, communicate with schools and communities on a constant basis, and bring yourself and the arts to children and their communities – both to share, and to learn from them.  It is an ongoing process, and what I am able to learn and share with this small, dedicated, and caring group of outreach artists, from many backgrounds from the Canadian mosaic, I cherish dearly. It reaffirms my belief that the Music Alive Program is some of the most important creative musical outreach in this country."

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