NEW GLASGOW – Twenty-five years ago, music programming in the schools took on a whole new direction.
It was during this time that three full-time music teachers were hired by the Pictou District School Board after the community lobbied for an increase in musical education in their schools.
In the past, core curriculum general music programs stopped once students left elementary school while a select number of after-school band and choral programs were offered to junior and senior high students.
However, when the new junior high program was introduced in 1988, instrumental music became part of the core curriculum and students were taught band during regular school hours as well as participating in some after-school sessions.
“The parents got together and decided that this should be part of the school’s regular programming,” said North Nova Education Centre music teacher Andrew Alcorn, who was hired with David Pos and Alan Sutherland to get the program off the ground.
Considered a pilot project 25 years ago, the three men faced the challenge head-on and proved that music was necessary part in the education system.
“We learned that music was important to Pictou County because we are still here,” said Alcorn. “The first seven or eight years, we had to justify our jobs each year by going to the school board and reporting on the success of the program. We eventually stopped having to go to those meetings.”
Sutherland credits a lot of the program’s success to the camaraderie of the three men and students’ ability to work together. He said the music programs would often join together for mass concerts or workshops in addition to meeting up at various performances and class trips.
He said having three full-time teachers also helped it grow because their dedication and focus was solely on promoting this one program rather than being split between subjects.
Sutherland and Alcorn continue to teach at the two larger high schools in the county while Pos has retired from full-time teaching, but is still very involved in the music community.
The men say the success of the program is evident when students further their musical education in university or return home for jam sessions with their former teachers.
But the day-to-day interactions with the students continue to prove that while having music in the school system might not be important to everyone, it can mean a lot to some people.
“We hear from students all the time that music is the reason why they come to school,” said Alcorn. “They will say, ‘when we don’t have music, school is so boring.’”
The men said the music program has also provided students with a non-competitive environment where they not only learn from their teachers, but also one another.
They say students in the program have formed lasting friendships, not only among themselves, but with other groups they have met during trips and performances.
Pos said this bond is evident when the students return to visit their former schools or jam with their instructors for community events.
The three men still gather one Sunday a month at the Captain’s Helm in New Glasgow for afternoon performances and during the Christmas holidays they were joined by former students home from university.
“Our music students are very well prepared for university,” said Alcorn. “Some kids have very little training or nothing, but what we have here, we take for granted.”
In honour of their 25th anniversary, Pos, Alcorn and Sutherland will be performing this Sunday from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Captain’s Helm. Some special guests may also join the trio as they celebrate this milestone.