Canadian Music Trade December / January 2023 | Page 9

From the Floor

MUSIC EDUCATION : Striving to Thrive !

By Carolyn Lewis

Music-making is essential for the joy and energy it brings into a school and for the unique learning and engagement opportunities it provides . It is unimaginable to think that music wouldn ’ t be heard through the halls of all our elementary and secondary schools and shared within our communities . Music education and music-making is the cornerstone of a vibrant school community !

Music programs in Ontario , across Canada , and around the globe have been undeniably impacted during the pandemic . Over these past two years , music educators have undertaken the seemingly insurmountable job of navigating through this extremely challenging time . Some music educators faced reductions in teaching time , shuttered classrooms , reduction in staffing maneuvering through online and hybrid teaching models , and developing creative uses of technology to keep programs alive and students learning . During the pandemic , what music education looked like across the province varied from region to region based on local public health restrictions . In some regions , instruments sat idle while in other regions , playing and singing were permitted with appropriate safety protocols in place . Regardless of the circumstances , music educators ensured the safety and wellbeing of all learners based on the recommendation of health professionals , passion for the work , strength in curricular knowledge , and use of support networks .
All music educators are in the process of restoring vibrant programming for their learners . In its work , the Ontario Music Educators ’ Association ( OMEA ) prioritizes equitable and accessible music education for all learners and supports educators as they continue to work with and inspire their students . Education in music not only contributes to learning and developing skills in musicianship , creativity , and critical thinking , but it is widely acknowledged that engagement in music positively impacts the mental health and well-being of all learners and has a genuine , long-lasting effect on a student ’ s confidence and collaboration skills .
The OMEA champions the inherent value of music education as part of a holistic curriculum in schools and communities and provides advocacy , professional learning , and community to music educators across the province . Pre-pandemic , music education and musicmaking provided students with opportunities to build a strong sense of pride in oneself , and to connect with peers , their school , and the wider community . Throughout this pandemic , music educators have honed skills in creativity , flexibility , and collaboration , as they safely managed the stringent protocols recommended by health professionals .
Despite the significant challenges faced by music educators , it was through innovation , creativity , and perseverance that music education continued , on some level , in most regions . The OMEA represents more than 1,000 music educators across Ontario in both secondary and elementary schools as well as public , Catholic , and French school boards , and continues to be a support network for music educators throughout this time of rebuilding . At the outset of the pandemic , the OMEA formed a COVID-19 Response Committee in May 2020 to address the pandemic ’ s impact on school music programs in Ontario . The committee was charged with investigating and creating a resource with recommended procedures to assist elementary and secondary teachers navigate the various teaching scenarios in the safest ways possible .
As a result , documents were created based on current research regarding the COVID-19 virus and music-making , Safe Singing and Playing in Ontario Music Classrooms , V . 3 , Fall 2021 , A Framework for the Return to Music Classes 2020-21 V . 4 . Music educators , administrators and school board leaders across Ontario and Canada used these documents as a support to assist them in music curriculum planning . The OMEA held workshops to provide forums to network and learn from educators across the country . These workshops offered opportunities to share ideas and best practices to support them while working in strenuous circumstances . In addition , advocacy efforts included communicating with government
officials , health professionals , schools board chairs and directors and curriculum leaders to support the planning and return to more “ normal ” school music programs .
Music educators are now in the process of advocating for , revitalizing , and rebuilding programs . Particularly during this critical period of renewal , it is important for educators to receive support from all stakeholders including learners , educators who teach music , parents and guardians , administrators , decision-makers and policy-makers , and community partners in order to return to full , vibrant , and creative programs !
The importance of music-making and music education to the lives of students and in communities cannot be understated . Equitable and accessible music programs are essential for all students and the OMEA is leading the charge ! The OMEA continues to create and curate resources to support school educators , to facilitate opportunities for professional learning through workshops and conferences , and to build connections through networking with members , affiliates and corporate members . Together we are stronger ! Experiences in music make us better humans ! Together we can ensure music education thrives in our schools and communities !
Carolyn Lewis is the current President of the Ontario Music Educators ’ Association . The OMEA is a Canadian Not-for-profit organization that provides advocacy , professional support , and community to music educators . For more information , go to www . omea . on . ca .