Music festival resonates with students and teachers alike
BEAVER CREEK–Maybe not every noise emanating from one of the nearby buildings was what one might think of as a virtuoso music performance but make no mistake, when it comes to the Resonate Music Conference, it hits all the right chords.
It was an all-too-rare, balmy spring afternoon. The surrounding valley and woods were bathed in rich sunlight, and you would be hard-pressed to find a more idyllic way to spend a Friday afternoon. You could deduce this just by the smiles on the faces of the teachers from the Prairie Spirit School Division who were on hand, as well as the more than 400 music students and the clinicians.
It didn’t take long to understand why the school division had received the 2018 Premier’s Board of Education Award for Innovation and Excellence in Education, with this all-encompassing approach to music that has been so embraced by those involved.
This three-day extravaganza (and that’s not counting the yeoman work required to haul out equipment to this somewhat out-of-the-way locale and set up) incorporates music, digital recording, composing, vocals and just about anything music related.
Two of those who have been integral to the music program at Prairie Spirit and this event in particular, Kendra Worman and Dave Carter, were in their glory sharing the good news.
Worman, who has been individually recognized as the winner of the Builders Award from the Canadian Music Educators’ Association, was the one who came up with the idea initially. Carter is a coordinator with Prairie Spirit–and it seems almost superfluous to say, both are big-time music fans.
Worman mused that while this is the fifth annual such event, the idea itself was germinated nine years ago “but it took four years until we could put all the pieces together, and we needed a team to make that happen,” she recalled.
The thought came to her when attending a music conference in Chicago with the goal in mind of helping a student back home with his guitar aspirations. At that time it was one instrument in which she didn’t have much expertise.
“I just felt a responsibility to learn more for myself so that I could get things right. What happened was then I started thinking, why can’t we do something like this for our kids?”
That was when she realized such an ambitious venture would require a full-fledged team on board, and Worman noted that remains the key to the enduring success of this event.
Carter chimed in that while this conference is open to all students in the province, it has been pivotal to have the support of the Saskatchewan Music Educators Association and to secure sponsorships so that it is free for kids to attend. It also happens to be a win-win when it comes to providing professional development for the teachers.
As the two chatted on the porch of one of the camp buildings, they echoed each other’s thoughts when it came to how the backdrop provides the best-possible setting.
“It definitely helps to make this a fabulous experience. Right from the start we wanted a site where we could take the kids out of a school or institution setting and make use of the land and the environment. That’s what the students’ feedback told us as well,” Worman said.
Carter said the vibe that is generated in such a setting, with music as the recurring theme, just puts everyone in such a relaxed state of mind that there have been no issues whatsoever from students. For the most part, they have free choice of which sessions they want to attend and so they plan their day accordingly.
Although there are instru- ments provided, Worman said the vast majority of the students bring their own and that is just part of what she acknowledges is a big job.
“Our group is very hands-on; we’re the roadies and just about everything else,” she laughed. Everyone has such a passion for music and teaching so it’s not just that we talk it, we make it [music]. Absolutely you’re tired at the end, but in a good way.”
Carter noted that while there is much to do, that’s not a worry for the organizers. “You don’t notice because there is such energy out here that you just run on such adrenalin and you’re excited. This is one of those events that really brings people together. People are talking about it well in advance. Each of us, in our own way, are musicians,” he added.
According to Carter, another real success of the festival is having clinicians on hand who not only can share knowledge, but also illustrate to students how they can actually make a living from music, and so it can be a source of inspiration.
“This is an example of what we are seeing more of in music in our schools, the whole performance-based approach, and it really broadens their range,” Carter offered.
Indicating that some students have attended all five years thus far and that several clinicians are repeats as well, Worman said it has been a great help in building relationships and connections.
“It has become a bit like a big family and it’s amazing to witness and be a part of,” Carter stressed.
“Absolutely, this has grown into something so far beyond what I could have imagined,” Worman said. “Every year we add another piece to what was once just a dream I had. Our team has such creative people and the kids feed off that and buy in.
“And it’s not just the kids who benefit and get better from this; I’m a better musician just from what I have learned out here. It’s been such an amazing growth experience for me too.”