Imagine more than 600,000 musicians, from all ages and backgrounds, performing one song at the same time all across Canada. The staggering size of the event is hard to comprehend, but on May 5, the 10th anniversary of Music Monday will bring this dream to life.
Music Monday is a nationwide celebration of music education in Canada, organized by the Coalition for Music Education. This year, Vancouver was chosen as the official location where the Music Monday song will be broadcast from.
Christin Reardon MacLellan, president of the Coalition for Music Education in B.C., believes that the large pool of participants shows that music is far from being a niche interest.
“No matter where you’re from, what language you speak, what your background is,” she says, “music is common to everyone.”
The Music Monday song, entitled I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing) was co-commissioned by the coalition and CBC Music, and written by Commander Chris Hadfield and Barenaked Ladies frontman Ed Robertson.
This year, Hadfield will be in Edmonton, participating in the nationwide performance led by Maestro Bramwell Tovey in Vancouver.
“I think the main goal of Music Monday is to show how much support there is for music across Canada,” says Tovey. “And to celebrate that role that music plays in young people’s lives while at the same time showing those in a position of power to help propagation of music in education to realize that there actually is a tremendous amount of support for music.”
The importance of music education hits close to home for Tovey, as he was deeply influenced by music education as a child. “I went to a state school in the U.K. I was able to join the orchestra, I was able to join the local band, to play piano at concerts, do a lot of accompanying of choirs, singing in choirs, all of this under the school system,” he says.
“Without that experience, and without that window on the wider world which was given to me in school, I probably would not have achieved what I’ve been very fortunate to achieve over the course of my career.”
While the live webcast is a large part of the event, there are a number of other activities planned. Tovey will be answering questions as part of a segment called “Meet the Maestro”. Reardon MacLellan, and others, will give speeches in favour of music education. Also, there will be a special segment in Vancouver called “Uniformed Musicians”.
“We have adults from any walk of life, you know, many different careers, many different backgrounds who still have music as an important part of their lives,” says Reardon MacLellan. “They dress up in their work uniforms, whatever that might be, and they perform with the kids. It’s to communicate the importance of lifelong music making.”
This event is coming at a tender time for the Vancouver school board. They will vote tonight (April 30), on a proposal by school board chair Patti Bacchus to give the elementary band and strings program a one-year reprieve and create a task force to analyze how the program can become sustainable for future years.
Tonight’s decision will turn Vancouver’s Music Monday into either a celebration or a lament. All that the musicians can do is hope for the best.
“I’m hoping that Patti Bacchus’s proposal is adopted unanimously by the school board,” says Tovey. “With that stay of execution, the importance of music can be evaluated in the calm of a year’s grace, and all who are interested in the state of music in the schools can support the VSB and lobby the provincial government to see if we can put music on a more secure permanent footing.”
Music Monday will take place at the Telus World of Science on May 5.