Yesterday, for the sixth straight year, the event known as Music Monday celebrated the joy of singing and the importance of music programs in Canada’s schools. For the sake of the kids, I surely hope there have been some significant changes in the 30 years since I graduated!
I attended Kindergarten through Grade 2 in Oregon, Ohio (a suburb of Toledo). We sang “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” every morning. In kindergarten, music instruction consisted of me and my 35 classmates marching around the room to recorded military music playing hi-tech instruments such as wood blocks and kazoos made with combs and wax paper. Our teacher, Mrs. W., was in her mid-60’s, and never put up with any nonsense! She was probably all of 5 feet tall, but we were all terrified of her! It was a special privilege if Mrs. W. chose you to play the triangle in our ragtag marching band!
I don’t remember much about music in Grades 1 and 2, except the “Do-Re-Mi” song and “On Top of Old Smoky” which we changed to “On Top of Spaghetti”, and square dancing in the gym (which subject that was is unclear – music or gym?). I did like to square dance, even though I wasn’t very good at it…that old coordination thing.
Our family moved to Canada after I finished Grade 2…I had to learn a new morning song, “God Save the Queen.” The song that always takes me back to Grade 3 is “English Country Garden.” There was something about the tune I liked, although the words escape me. After many hours, I taught myself to play it on the old pump organ at our new home.
I went to a three-room school for Grades 4 to 6, Rednersville Public School. Mrs. G. was our music teacher. She was almost as wide as she was tall and wore dresses with large floral prints. Mrs. G. pulled her reddish hair back in a tight bun, and smelled old-ladyish. I’ll never forget her “batwing” upper arms jiggling as she “counted” music notes in her own special way, “Ta, ta, tee-tee, ta.” I thought that most of the songs we had to sing in class were stupid, with the exception of two native-inspired songs that stick in my mind: “Land of the Silver Birch” (you could sing that one in rounds), and the “Huron Carol.” I enjoyed singing the “Huron Carol” as part of our Christmas Concert with the school choir at Rednersville Church one year. I liked choir, except when I was put beside some poor tone-deaf girl (did I mention I can’t stand bad singing?).
When it was time for junior high, we were bused up the hill to Kente Public School. It was a big school housing kindergarten to Grade 8. Mr. C. was the Art/Music teacher. I’m pretty sure that his musical training was non-existent – I think he was probably told to teach music just because he was an artist. We all thought Mr. C. was cool – he was one of the youngest teachers we had. He also had the longest hair (blond), and a moustache! Mr. C. would bring in records from home, and we would sing along with them. Whenever I hear the song “Teen Angel” from the early 1960’s, I remember that class: those lyrics are embedded in my brain: “Teen angel, can you hear me?, Teen angel, can you see me?, Are you somewhere up above?, And am I still your own true love?” I think Mr. C. had a bit of an obsession with tragedy songs…we learned “Last Kiss” too. We were sometimes allowed to play our own records…I wonder what the administration would have thought had they known that we were listening to Cheech and Chong routines…
Music instruction (and band) in high school at Belleville Collegiate Institute and Vocational School was a whole new world! Under Mr. Williams (a trained musician/conductor), we studied a nice mix of classical and contemporary music (see https://writerwoman61.wordpress.com/2010/04/19/sounds-that-soothe-my-soul-part-1-the-first-20-years/). A song that always takes me back to those years is “The Hustle” – it was fun to play the flute part. In Grade 11, we got to arrange a piece for a full orchestra – I aced that assignment and pulled off 100%! Even though it was a lot of work, I loved it! Our band used to play quite a bit at local elementary schools – I was horrified to see a photo of us one day – there I was in the front row wearing my black band sweater and a skirt, and my knees were wide open! I was more of a jeans kind of girl…