Music Monday…

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!

We all wanted to play the triangle...

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.

Opening Bars of "Do-Re-Mi" Song...

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.

Queen Elizabeth II - it's a good thing she didn't count on our singing to "save" her...

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?).

Rednersville Church...

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…

Teen Angel 45...

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  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…

This flute reminds me of my own...

From what I can see, standards in music education have been raised since I was in elementary school – both my younger daughters had the opportunity to learn violin through school programs, and they have both participated in choir.  There is a strong music festival here in New Brunswick where most of the school choirs compete.  The music teachers I have met are committed to what they do, and all have a high level of training.  I hope the government continues to recognize the value of music in children’s education, and that the programs are still intact by the time my granddaughter begins school in 2014.

Elise...Musician of the Future...


Filed under memories, music, rants

4 responses to “Music Monday…

  1. planejaner

    where would this world be without the thread of music to bind us together? It’s the one thing you don’t have to know the language of to “feel” and truly understand, you know? I, too, remember the “ta ta tee tee ta” business, and the utter…borning-ness that some teachers brought to this most magical area.
    from one who is thankful every day for music,

    • Wow…that Mrs. G. got around!

      On a serious note, I’m so glad to have gotten a chance to be in Mr. Williams’ band (and class), even though I had no aspirations of becoming a professional musician! Thank you, Mr. Williams, wherever you are!


  2. I, too, remember square dancing and had as my partner Richard who sweat a lot. And I also remember “The Little Brown Church in the Wildwood” – “O-oh, come, come, come, come, Come to the church in the wildwood, Oh, come to the church in the vale. No thought is so dear in my childhood, As the little brown church in the vale.” Now that’s since 4th grade!

    I also remember in 7th grade having to teach the class “Goodbye, Old Paint.” I hated the song and was embarrassed to death to sing in front of the class.

    And, I loved the triangle, too!

    See, how ordinary our memories are and how extraordinary our connections!


  3. Edit: dear to my childhood.

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