Is Canadian Music Interesting?

By Kennedy, Mary | The Canadian Music Educator, Fall 2014 | Go to article overview

Is Canadian Music Interesting?


Kennedy, Mary, The Canadian Music Educator


I began to ponder this question when there were no entries in the Pat Shand Canadian Music Essay Competition this past December. Dr. Patricia Martin Shand spent a good part of her academic career championing the cause of Canadian music in schools. She researched and authored many selective repertoire guidelists for schools and managed the John Adaskin Project for many years. As a gift to the Canadian Music Educators Association on the occasion of her retirement, she graciously offered to sponsor a Canadian Music Essay Competition. Dr. Bernie Andrews was the winner in the first year and his essay was published in this column. Dr. Shand is eager to continue this contest and so I thought I might spur interest in it this year by suggesting some topics for such an essay. In addition Dr. Shand has expanded the scope of eligible applicants and so please see the new advertisement in this issue.

Is Canadian Music Interesting? Well, I certainly think so. In fact I considered the topic of CAN-CON in music curricula in a recent column where I offered examples of ways to incorporate Canadian music into classes. But what about essays on Canadian Music Education? Here are my thoughts.

Focus on a Composer-dead or alive!

Canada boasts many fine composers worthy of examination in an essay. Names that spring to mind immediately are Claude Champagne, Howard Cable, Ernest MacMillan, Harry Somers, Jean Coulthard, Violet Archer, Murray Adaskin, Barbara Pentland, Gilles Tremblay and others still with us like Murray Schafer, John Beckwith, Imant Raminsh, Christopher Butterfield, Alexina Louie, and Michael Conway Baker. The list is endless and the Canadian Music Center is a good resource for materials on all its Associate Composers.

Focus on a Musician-any genre will do

Once again, Canada has no shortage of internationally-renowned musicians in any genre you might want to select: opera (Richard Margisen, Benjamin Butterfield, Jon Vickers, Ben Heppner, Judith Forst, Pierrette Alarie); classical performance (Maureen Forrester, Lois Marshall, Jane Coop, Robert Silverman, Jon Kimura Parker); singer songwriter (Leonard Cohen, k.d. lang, Ian Tyson, Rufus Wainwright, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, Alanis Morrisette, Loreena McKinnet, Rita McNeil, Bruce Cockburn, Dan Mangan); group (Barenaked Ladies, Tragically Hip, Arcade Fire, Feist, Tegan and Sara); jazz (Oscar Peterson, Oliver Jones, Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Krall, Phil Nimmons, Phil Dwyer, Moe Koffman); rising star (Nellie Furtado, Michael Buble, Avril Lavinge); and folk music (Spirit of the West, the Rankin Family, Men of the Deep, Great Big Sea, Kashtin, Good Lovelies, The Wailin' Jennys).

Focus on an Issue in Canadian Music

Several come to mind. One could quite easily craft a paper on the interface between social justice and Canadian music; environmental issues and Canadian music (using quotes from Bruce Cockburn and Neil Young as starters); multiculturalism and Canadian music; Indie music in Canada; the role of the CBC in fostering Canadian talent, in particular musicians, groups, compositions, etc. Throughout its existence, the CBC and Radio Canada have mounted numerous programs which featured music played by or composed by Canadians. And what about First Nations music, which has become more prominent on CD labels and in the media in the past 20 or so years? This would make an excellent topic for a paper.

Focus on a Case Study

Selecting and interviewing a Canadian involved in music would make for an interesting paper too. I recall the time when I focused on four BC composers for my master's project. Interviewing Jean Coulthard, Michael Conway Baker, Imant Raminsh and Becky Bernson and getting to know these people and their history was a very rewarding experience for me. I found that composers are very happy to be contacted and interviewed. People like to share their stories and stories, with some thoughtful interpretation and context, make for excellent essays. …

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