In an effort to raise awareness about music education in schools, a free public concert will take place at 10 a.m. in Robson Square on Monday, May 1 as part of a nation-wide celebration put on by the Coalition for Music Education.
Vancouver Symphony Orchestra music director Bramwell Tovey will conduct a mass performance of more than 200 young musicians from across the Lower Mainland alongside Canadian children’s singer Charlotte Diamond.
The Monday Music performance arrives just before the upcoming May 9 provincial election. And the Coalition for Music Education in B.C. has its eye on the candidates.
“We want to see a party that supports the arts both in their rhetoric and in their funding,” coalition president Christin Reardon MacLellan says. “We want to see a premier and a government that really puts their money where their mouth is. It’s completely crucial that there is a provincial policy through the Ministry of Education in which music is taught by a music specialist teacher in every school. That’s not happening.”
This year’s Music Monday performance comes almost a year after students gathered outside the Vancouver School Board office to protest the elimination of elementary band and string programs.
Every year Music Monday releases a new anthem to celebrate the occasion. This year, the song’s called “Sing It Together,” cowritten by Canadian songwriters Marc Jordan and Ian Thomas to honour Canada’s 150th anniversary.
Launched in 2005, Music Monday is the world’s largest single event dedicated to promoting music education.
MacLellan says she hopes the event prompts as many people as possible to get involved in music education. “There are really no rules in how participate,” MacLellan told the Straight in a phone interview. “We hope that some people will learn the anthem or do something musical on Monday in their schools and in their communities. Whatever way they feel is best for them,” she says.
Former Vancouver School Board chair Mike Lombardi said in March 2016 that senior management proposals called for the elimination of the program unless the provincial government provided the VSB with additional funding.
Not long after, on October 17, B.C.’s minister of education fired the entire school board, an elected body that had been at loggerheads with the province for months amid budget concerns and allegations of a toxic work environment, according to an external report carried out by Work Safe B.C.
The VSB’s choice not to employ music specialists in every elementary school has hugely affected students in Vancouver by not serving the mandate that every child learn music, says MacLellan.
“The VSB likes to make the claim that every elementary student is learning music but [we] have asked them for proof, which they were never able to provide,” she says. “As far as Vancouver, we have seen absolutely no action to reinstate those positions.”
But on the Lower Mainland the Vancouver School District is the minority. Currently, there are policies in place by the choice of each district in Burnaby, Richmond, Delta, Surrey, West Vancouver, and North Vancouver to require music specialists.
“We need to celebrate and commend the school districts that do place priority on music education,” says MacLellan.