Archives: Projects |

Project news and reviews

Improvisation game: Four!! and Empty Repeating Canvas

As part of the Edu­ca­tion Sec­tor Focus, pub­lic school music teacher Doug Friesen shares a few impro­vi­sa­tion games his stu­dents love to play.

GAME 1: Four!!

After a cue, each par­tic­i­pant tries to make short sounds, one at a time, when no one else is play­ing or singing.

Every time you make a sound, when no one else is, you get a point.

When­ev­er you make a sound at the same time as some­one else you must start back at zero.

Once you have col­lect­ed four points you yell “FOUR!!” and the piece is over.

Ears wide open!!

See 2:12 in the video below for instruc­tions giv­en by Doug, fol­lowed by an exam­ple of his stu­dents play­ing the game.

GAME 2: Emp­ty Repeat­ing Canvas

Put two emp­ty 4/4 mea­sures (or just the num­bers 1 through 8) with a repeat sign up on the board.

Each per­sons picks a sound and a moment in these 8 counts to make it.

Repeat your sound in the same spot each time.

Count it in and let the groove settle.


- Add a hand sig­nal that cues a change of sound and/or placement.
— Add chang­ing dynamics.
— Make sounds “more musi­cal” by decid­ing on a chord or a scale to choose from.
— Extend the num­ber of measures.
— Change the time signature.
— Try adding long notes for part of the group or every oth­er time through.
- Make sounds less musi­cal by adding a sound­scape theme.
— Decide togeth­er on a nice open­ing and clos­ing section.

This is heav­i­ly inspired by a work­shop with Fred Frith in which he intro­duced my stu­dents and I to a com­po­si­tion of his called Screen. It was a pho­to­graph with two emp­ty bars of 5/4 sketched on top.

For more games such as these, see the Edu­ca­tion Sec­tor Focus co-direct­ed by Doug Friesen and Louise Campbell.

Nelson Mandela High School: Creative music making in a secondary wind band program

This project explores cre­ative music mak­ing in a sec­ondary wind band pro­gram Nel­son Man­dela High School, one of Alberta’s des­ig­nat­ed High School Redesign Schools. In a redesign school, tasks are designed not only to assess cur­ricu­lum out­comes, but also to help devel­op core com­pe­ten­cies in our stu­dents. Each course devel­ops dif­fer­ent com­pe­ten­cies – for music specif­i­cal­ly, the com­pe­ten­cies are Cre­ativ­i­ty, Col­lab­o­ra­tion, and Per­son­al Growth. Music teacher Keshi­ni Senanayake and her stu­dents share and reflect on cre­ative music mak­ing in their classroom:

Hi, my name is Keshi­ni Senanayake (she/her). I live and teach on Treaty 7 Ter­ri­to­ry, specif­i­cal­ly in Cal­gary, Alber­ta. I cur­rent­ly teach Grade 10–12 Music at Nel­son Man­dela High School. Our pro­gram includes a wide vari­ety of the fol­low­ing – Instru­men­tal Music, Con­cert Band, Choir, Guitar/Rock Band, Cham­ber Music, and Strings Ensemble. 

Cre­ative Challenges

I use “Cre­ative Chal­lenges”, or cre­ative music mak­ing tasks, to assess not only spe­cif­ic musi­cal skills/curriculum out­comes, but also the stu­dents’ abil­i­ties to col­lab­o­rate togeth­er to cre­ate their own orig­i­nal music, using a set of guide­lines giv­en to them. These cre­ative chal­lenges have become a reg­u­lar part of my pro­gram, to ensure stu­dents not only learn and devel­op their musi­cal skills, but also have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to devel­op their own cre­ativ­i­ty. I have found immense val­ue in cre­at­ing a cul­ture where cre­ativ­i­ty is a reg­u­lar part of the music pro­gram – an increase in con­fi­dence of stu­dents exper­i­ment­ing and prob­lem solv­ing in class activ­i­ties, and cre­at­ing a music pro­gram where stu­dents are co-cre­ators in pro­gram deci­sions and the class/rehearsal process. Here are two such cre­ative challenges: 

  1. Sym­bols and Visu­al ScoreThis exer­cise can be used with any skill lev­el of stu­dents. It has worked effec­tive­ly with my senior stu­dents, as well as my begin­ners. Stu­dents are giv­en a set of cards with dif­fer­ent shapes and sym­bols. Their chal­lenge is to arrange the shapes/symbols into a visu­al score to rep­re­sent their orig­i­nal composition. 
  2. Com­pos­ing with Reper­toire Excerpts: An exer­cise used specif­i­cal­ly with band stu­dents, com­pos­ing with reper­toire excerpts asks stu­dents are to mix and com­bine melod­ic excerpts from their band pieces to cre­ate their own com­po­si­tion, or “remix” as the stu­dents like to call them. This task is great not just to get stu­dents being cre­ative, but also gets stu­dents prac­tis­ing and rehearsal parts of their band pieces! 

Suc­cess­ful Music Mak­ing at Nel­son Man­dela High School: Five ‘Look-fors’

This video explores what a suc­cess­ful music pro­gram means to me. My thoughts on this will be con­stant­ly evolv­ing, but these are the main pil­lars of what I hope stu­dents will take away from their expe­ri­ence in the Nel­son Man­dela music program. 

Tran­scrip­tion: “When I was hired to build the pro­gram at the school I’m cur­rent­ly at, I had some time to reflect and think about, ‘what do I want stu­dents to take away from tak­ing music at Man­dela?’ Slow­ly along the way, this was­n’t right at the begin­ning, but through­out my years of teach­ing, I’ve devel­oped five ‘look-fors’, or traits, or big­ger ideas that I want stu­dents to be able to take away from my program. 

  1. The first was for stu­dents to devel­op life­long skills to be suc­cess­ful in any life pur­suit. Know­ing that, regard­less of if my stu­dents choose to con­tin­ue on to a career in music or not, know­ing that they’re going to be devel­op­ing life skills or com­pe­ten­cies that would help make them suc­cess­ful no mat­ter what they decide to pur­sue next. For exam­ple, the time man­age­ment piece of being able to jug­gle var­i­ous ensem­bles along with their home­work and ath­let­ics and oth­er things, the abil­i­ty to col­lab­o­rate and work togeth­er, or the abil­i­ty to take cri­tique or feed­back and apply it so that they can improve their skills. So that was one of the ‘look-fors’ I was hop­ing kids would get out of my pro­gram: devel­op­ing those life­long skills to be suc­cess­ful humans wher­ev­er they go next. 
  2. The sec­ond trait I was hop­ing for was for stu­dents to devel­op musi­cal skills so that they can pur­sue their own musi­cal endeav­ors, know­ing that stu­dents come into the class­room with their own inter­ests and their own ideas already of what they want to accom­plish. Whether they want to be able to per­form a song or they want to be to com­pose a song, how can I teach them musi­cal skills for them to be able to pur­sue their own musi­cal goals? 
  3. The oth­er goal that I had was to be able to pro­vide enrich­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents, whether that was through per­for­mances, work­shops, con­certs, being able to pro­vide those oppor­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents who may not have access to if it was­n’t for a school music program. 
  4. The oth­er one was to build a pos­i­tive com­mu­ni­ty, to cre­ate this pos­i­tive com­mu­ni­ty in the school where stu­dents can feel includ­ed and a space where they can feel safe to be them­selves and to come togeth­er with a com­mon goal of cre­at­ing music together. 
  5. This last goal, which has become more so now than when I start­ed, was to help stu­dents devel­op an anti-oppres­sive lens through music, through study and the pur­suit of music, help­ing them devel­op an equi­ty and anti-oppres­sive lens so that they can devel­op empa­thy and be pro­duc­tive allies and con­tribute to pro­duc­tive change in our world. 

When I think about what is suc­cess­ful music edu­ca­tion, and what does that mean to me and my stu­dents, those are the five that I have over the years built as ‘look-fors’ for when I think about what I want stu­dents to get out of my program.” 

The Val­ue of Cre­ative Music Making

This video explores my thoughts on the val­ue of cre­ative music mak­ing, and what drew me towards ensur­ing cre­ative music mak­ing is an inte­gral part of the music pro­gram. Explor­ing cre­ative music mak­ing in my own teach­ing prac­tice has not only high­light­ed some of the gaps in tra­di­tion­al music edu­ca­tion, but also open my eyes to the pos­si­bil­i­ties and ben­e­fits for stu­dents, when we are will­ing to ven­ture out­side of the colo­nial struc­tures and prac­tices embed­ded in tra­di­tion­al music education. 


“When I grad­u­at­ed from my BA pro­gram, I was left with some prompts from our pro­fes­sor Doug Friesen, and was also reflect­ing on what I was able to observe and see with­in my own teach­ing practicum. The com­bi­na­tion of that plus the first cou­ple of years of my teach­ing made me real­ize that if you’ve got a pro­gram that fol­lows the tra­di­tion­al Euro­cen­tric clas­si­cal music direc­tion, there are not many oppor­tu­ni­ties around stu­dents actu­al­ly cre­at­ing orig­i­nal music. 

Doug has a very famous quote that always kind of stuck with me: ‘What’s cre­ative about telling kids where to breathe in holes?’ So that made me real­ize that we spend a lot of time prepar­ing kids to play in band and for per­for­mances, but do we nec­es­sar­i­ly make time for stu­dents to cre­ate their own music? Usu­al­ly any form of music-mak­ing came after learn­ing mul­ti­ple units and years of music the­o­ry, or music per­for­mance first. There’s such a heavy empha­sis on learn the the­o­ry, learn the per­for­mance first, and then you get to cre­ate, rather than cre­at­ing a cul­ture in our music pro­grams of being able to cre­ate from day one and acknowl­edg­ing the musi­cal knowl­edge that stu­dents already bring in the classroom.

In the first cou­ple of days, I’m ask­ing stu­dents, ‘What is your pre­vi­ous music expe­ri­ence’ and a lot of stu­dents right away say, ‘I don’t have any’. I’m like, ‘Well, actu­al­ly you do because you lis­ten to music, you love it and appre­ci­ate it. You know what you like and dis­like, you can already tell what sounds good and what does­n’t sound good.’ 

So I chal­lenge my stu­dents that they real­ly come into the class­room with exper­tise and it’s just a mat­ter of devel­op­ing their lis­ten­ing ear and music lit­er­a­cy. It’s already devel­op­ing from that base knowl­edge of what they do already know. So that chal­lenged me to think: are there ways for stu­dents to prac­tice mak­ing music from Day One? Rather than hav­ing to wait after ten the­o­ry lessons, are there oppor­tu­ni­ties for them to cre­ate music from Day One? And now when we start teach­ing about music the­o­ry and per­for­mance and tech­nique, it’s with the idea of ‘Here’s some skills and tools to help you con­tin­ue cre­at­ing music. Here are some more things to help you under­stand it and for you to be able to com­pose and cre­ate your own.’ 

One of the great things work­ing in my school is that we assess both out­comes and com­pe­ten­cies. So the out­comes are from the cur­ricu­lum and every options class iden­ti­fies three com­pe­ten­cies. For exam­ple, I eval­u­ate stu­dents on cre­ativ­i­ty, col­lab­o­ra­tion and per­son­al growth. Each class has a list of nine pro­vid­ed by Alber­ta Ed. You pick two or three that are most rel­e­vant for your class con­tent and you have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to eval­u­ate stu­dents on those skills. Using that com­pe­ten­cy-based assess­ment, I was able to use, as we call them, cre­ative music chal­lenges. It was an oppor­tu­ni­ty for stu­dents to be giv­en dif­fer­ent tasks and chal­lenges to help cre­ate their own music again, from Day One. I don’t wait until kids know how to play an instru­ment, but from Day One. Then they can actu­al­ly see their growth and process, their progress and their abil­i­ty to take more things that they’ve learned from class and apply it to these cre­ative music chal­lenges and assess them more on the process of how they cre­at­ed the prod­uct: tak­ing away that pres­sure from the final prod­uct and eval­u­at­ing them on the process, eval­u­at­ing them on their under­stand­ing of the cre­ative process, and eval­u­at­ing them on their abil­i­ty to col­lab­o­rate and work togeth­er to cre­ate a final musi­cal project. 

What I found was that there was quite a bit of a shift in my pro­gram cul­ture. We cre­at­ed a cul­ture in our music class­es of cre­at­ing music from Day One, and have been inte­grat­ing it and allow­ing it to be part of the pro­gram. Stu­dents were less anx­ious about exper­i­ment­ing with music, around tak­ing risks, even when they were tak­ing risks with play­ing tests or per­for­mance tasks that we’re doing in class. It almost alle­vi­at­ed some of that anx­i­ety that stu­dents get. They’re more eager to exper­i­ment and try and if it goes wrong, like hey, okay it went wrong, espe­cial­ly when we start­ed talk­ing about jazz improv and when­ev­er I start­ed cre­at­ing tasks around com­po­si­tions in my upper years for them to cre­ate. For exam­ple, in our pop song unit, they actu­al­ly have to com­pose and write their own pop songs and per­form it. So they they’re less anx­ious­ness or hes­i­tan­cy to actu­al­ly try it, because we’ve cre­at­ed this cul­ture of exper­i­ment­ing and try­ing from Day One through cre­ative tasks. 

I see the val­ue in offer­ing these tasks to stu­dents and inte­grat­ing it into our pro­gram rather than let­ting it be this one off task that you do, but rather inte­grate it as part of your pro­gram and know­ing too that you can assess so many oth­er out­comes. For exam­ple, if you do a cre­ative music chal­lenges with instru­ments right away, you can assess stu­dents’ under­stand­ing of their instru­ment tech­nique and musi­cal phras­ing. There’s always ways to con­nect those out­comes back to the cur­ricu­lum. I see the val­ue in the results of the stu­dents and the cul­ture of my pro­gram, inte­grat­ing cre­ativ­i­ty as part of your music pro­gram, and valu­ing it as much as you val­ue the­o­ry, per­for­mance and history. 

My hope for music edu­ca­tion is that we can begin to move for­ward to decon­struct­ing that idea of ‘Here’s the music, I am the con­duc­tor, I tell you what to do, and you lis­ten to those instruc­tions’, decon­struct­ing that idea of music edu­ca­tion and inte­grat­ing dif­fer­ent gen­res of music, dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives and dif­fer­ent ways to cre­ate music.”

Taking It Outside: Making Music Inspired By Nature

Whether your school or com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tion is in an urban, rur­al or remote area, the nat­ur­al envi­ron­ment is full of inspi­ra­tion for cre­ativ­i­ty and learn­ing. Louise Camp­bell leads par­tic­i­pants in explor­ing and con­nect­ing with their nat­ur­al sur­round­ings through sense walks on school grounds, pub­lic parks, and your own front stoop, bal­cony or back­yard, and activ­i­ties inspired by music.

Tak­ing it Out­side: Mak­ing Music Inspired by Nature 
Cul­tur­al medi­a­tion activ­i­ty for Sources, an album and instal­la­tion fea­tur­ing music inspired by the St. Lawrence Seaway

PART ONE: Sense walks 

Sense walks are a vari­a­tion of sound walks, or walks in which par­tic­i­pants bring their atten­tion to the sounds around you. For the pur­pos­es of this project, par­tic­i­pants are asked to tap into three sens­es: sound, sight and touch (See down­load­able pdf for a print-able worksheet).


  • Pen
  • Hand­out (see down­load­able pdf)
  • Weath­er-appro­pri­ate clothes and shoes

Start with where you are: 

  1. Ask par­tic­i­pants pay atten­tion to their sur­round­ings and to write down: 
    • one sound that they hear (e.g. a sneeze, a car honk­ing, a bird chirp­ing etc.)
    • one item they see (e.g. a pen, a friend, a car, a tree)
    • a sen­sa­tion they feel (e.g. a breeze on their skin, warm, cold etc.) (n.b. par­tic­i­pants often take this as an emo­tion, which is fine)
  2. Ask vol­un­teers to share one of their observations.
  3. Note the sim­i­lar­i­ties and dif­fer­ences between vol­un­teers’ obser­va­tions. Rein­force observ­ing sound and sen­sa­tions — oth­er­wise, most obser­va­tions will be sight-based. Encour­age obser­va­tion with greater detail (e.g. I heard the car honk­ing too — how far away do you think it was? I missed the bird — can you describe its call to me? What colour was the car you saw? Can you describe the sound it made?)
  4. Explain the con­cept of a sense walk — a walk done with­out speak­ing in which each per­son makes obser­va­tions of what they hear, see and feel. Ask par­tic­i­pants to name places that look, sound and feel dif­fer­ent than where they are right now.
  5. Brain­storm pos­si­ble routes and des­ti­na­tions for a sense walk. For example: 
    • School: through school hall­ways, past gym, and out front doors; des­ti­na­tion: school yard;
    • Neigh­bour­hood: out front door, down street to alley, des­ti­na­tion: halfway down alley as far from city traf­fic as possible
    • Park: on or off paths, close and far from water, trees and traffic
  6. When the route and des­ti­na­tion has been decided: 
    • Give a hand­out and pen or pen­cil to each participant
    • For out­door sense walks, pre­pare weath­er-appro­pri­ate cloth­ing and footwear

Sense walk:

Remind par­tic­i­pants that the goal is to make obser­va­tions with­out speak­ing. Shar­ing will hap­pen at the end of the sense walk.

  1. Par­tic­i­pants write their obser­va­tions through­out the walk, stop­ping as nec­es­sary. Stop for a few min­utes along the route in 2–3 par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing places. These can be pre­de­ter­mined or spon­ta­neous, fol­low­ing any unex­pect­ed events that hap­pen en route. At the des­ti­na­tion, stop and con­tin­ue observ­ing for 4–5 minutes.
  2. Ask vol­un­teers to share one of two obser­va­tions of what they heard, saw and felt over the course of the sense walk.
  3. Go on mul­ti­ple sense walks! Exper­i­ment with: 
    • dif­fer­ent routes and destinations,
    • indoor and out­door spaces,
    • times of day, and
    • sea­son.


  • Assign a leader and a sweep. The leader leads rel­a­tive­ly slow­ly so par­tic­i­pants have a change to write, and so the group stays fair­ly close togeth­er. The sweep keeps an eye on the route and the rest of the group so that the par­tic­i­pants who have the most to write don’t get left behind. Both the leader and the sweep should know the route and destination.
  • Make sure all par­tic­i­pants know where you are going and about how long the activ­i­ty will take in advance. This helps par­tic­i­pants under­stand how long they are being asked to observe for and not chat with each other.
  • Con­sid­er how far the walk is. With the aid of the hand­out and a var­ied walk, I find par­tic­i­pants be atten­tive for up to 20 min­utes with­out speak­ing, depend­ing on age. If chat­ting starts (which usu­al­ly hap­pens around curios­i­ty about each other’s obser­va­tions), give a few min­utes to par­tic­i­pants to share with a friend, or with exchange as a group. Adapt the length of time to your group. I pre­fer start­ing with sev­er­al obser­va­tion peri­ods of short­er time frames, and giv­ing the oppor­tu­ni­ty for par­tic­i­pants to share their obser­va­tions, so they under­stand quick­ly how var­ied obser­va­tions can be from per­son to per­son. As the activ­i­ty con­tin­ues, I usu­al­ly length­en obser­va­tion time frames for the places par­tic­i­pants have named as par­tic­u­lar­ly interesting.
  • When at a stop along the sense walk, name how long you are going to observe your sur­round­ings for (e.g. 3 min­utes). Use a visu­al aid to show where you are in the time peri­od to avoid the inevitable ques­tion ‘how much longer?’

PART TWO: Imag­in­ing place from music 

While lis­ten­ing to a piece of pre-com­posed music such as Louise’s work Song­bird for inspi­ra­tion, ask par­tic­i­pants to cre­ate an imag­i­nary place, describ­ing this place through obser­va­tions of what they see, hear and feel.

Obser­va­tions from the sense walks can be used as nec­es­sary. Some par­tic­i­pants mix and match obser­va­tions from mul­ti­ple sense walks to cre­ate a new imag­i­nary place; oth­ers alter or make vari­a­tions of obser­va­tions, still oth­ers launch into sto­ry­telling about an event or a place from their past, while oth­ers invent an entire­ly new world with fresh obser­va­tions. All of these ways are good. Once par­tic­i­pants are ready, ask vol­un­teers to describe their imag­i­nary place to each other.

This activ­i­ty is part of the cul­tur­al medi­a­tion activ­i­ties for Sources, Louise’s solo album and out­door instal­la­tion fea­tur­ing music inspired by the St. Lawrence Sea­way. Co-cre­ation process­es based on sense walks have led to impro­vised sound­scapes, radio dra­mas and pod­casts, as well as Sources.

“Close your eyes and imag­ine this scene. You walk along the bright orange and red sandy shores of the Mag­dalen Islands… pay atten­tion to the sounds, to the wind, observe and then gath­er some of those sounds and craft those into a sto­ry. That’s part of what’s been hap­pen­ing at the Grosse Ile School with Teach­ing Artist Louise Camp­bell…” Ali­son Brunette, CBC Break­away (2019)

For exam­ples of cre­ative process­es fol­lowed by var­i­ous dif­fer­ent groups, see media below for:

  • Novem­ber Storm, a radio dra­ma cre­at­ed by Gr. 7 stu­dents at Grosse-Île School, Mag­dalen Islands
  • Tak­ing It Out­side, a music video cre­at­ed by Que­bec Home­school­ers of imag­i­nary places inspired by sense walks and Louise’s Songbird
  • Images cap­tured dur­ing sense walks

Inter­est­ed schools and orga­ni­za­tions are invit­ed to con­tact Louise at mlouisecampbell(at) for details. Facil­i­ta­tion is avail­able in-per­son and vir­tu­al­ly via zoom. Lis­ten to excerpts of the album HERE.

The album and instal­la­tion ver­sions of this project are sup­port­ed by Inno­va­tions en con­cert and the Cana­da Coun­cil for the Arts.

Exploring First Nations Ways of Knowing, Doing and Being Through Composition

This col­lab­o­ra­tive project took place in the spring of 2022 with Den­nis Shorty and mem­bers of the Fid­dle­heads, a youth fid­dle ensem­ble in White­horse. The project focused on find­ing ways to inte­grate a local First Nations sto­ries and musi­cal expe­ri­ences into pri­vate lessons and ensem­ble music classes.


Pri­vate Fid­dle Teacher Kei­tha Clark: 

Kei­tha Clark lives and teach­es in White­horse, Yukon, on the tra­di­tion­al ter­ri­to­ry of the Kwan­lin Dün First Nation and the Ta’an Kwäch’än Coun­cil. Her stu­dents range in age from 7–15, and her prac­tice focus­es on con­nect­ing com­mu­ni­ties and cul­tures through fid­dling. Kei­tha has a a pri­vate stu­dio with 25 stu­dents in White­horse and has also found­ed fid­dle pro­grams in Tes­lin and Haines Junc­tion. She is cur­rent­ly work­ing on her Mas­ters of Edu­ca­tion with a focus on how to improve arts pro­gram­ming deliv­ery in remote north­ern communities. 

Elder Den­nis Shorty:

Den­nis is a Kas­ka musi­cian, artist and knowl­edge keep­er from the com­mu­ni­ty of Ross Riv­er, Yukon. His music is writ­ten in the Kas­ka Dena lan­guage and cel­e­brates the land, ani­mals, respect, ances­tors and tra­di­tions. Den­nis and his part­ner, Jen­nifer Fröh­ling, per­form as Dena Zagi. They have played venues in Cana­da and Ger­many, and their album, Gucho Hin, was nom­i­nat­ed for both an Indige­nous Music Award and a Cana­di­an Folk Music Award.


 I have worked with Den­nis and Jen­ny for sev­er­al years. I first met them at a com­mu­ni­ty BBQ while teach­ing fid­dle at the school in Ross Riv­er, and we end­ed up jam­ming in their garage that evening (super fun!). I went on to be part of their band and played at var­i­ous fes­ti­vals and com­mu­ni­ty gath­er­ings in the Yukon with them.

This project grew out of a com­mis­sion I received to arrange a ver­sion of Den­nis’ song, Gucho Hin (Ancestor’s Song), for the All City Band (with The Fid­dle­heads) for their spring 2022 con­cert. This was a large ensem­ble arrange­ment for 60 musi­cians with 25 dif­fer­ent instru­men­tal parts. (The All City Band suc­cess­ful­ly applied for fund­ing from the Yukon Gov­ern­ment to cov­er fees for Den­nis and Jen­ny, the com­mis­sion, trav­el costs, venue and recording.)

Check out the video clip of the All City Band/Fiddleheads per­form­ing Gucho Hin.

This com­po­si­tion project was devel­oped out of a desire to cre­ate addi­tion­al oppor­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents to explore and respond to Den­nis’ story.


Project Goals

  • Cre­ate a short, orig­i­nal com­po­si­tion that responds to the expe­ri­ences, sto­ries and cul­ture Den­nis Shorty shares in this learn­ing video.
  • Reflect and engage with dif­fer­ent cul­tures using non-Euro­cen­tric ways of know­ing, doing and being. 
  • Explor­ing how you can use the ele­ments of music to express your own ideas and emo­tions, as well as reflect the ideas and emo­tions of others.

Project Stages

Stage One — Col­lab­o­ra­tive Brain­storm­ing (via Zoom — 45 minutes)

Stu­dents gath­ered on Zoom to watch Den­nis’ learn­ing video, dis­cuss the main themes and ideas, and explore how they want­ed to con­nect those ideas to their own cre­ative response using the ele­ments of music. 

Stage Two — Inde­pen­dent Com­po­si­tion Devel­op­ment (2–4 hours per student)

Stu­dents used the basic ele­ments of music (pitch, rhythm, tim­bre, temp, dynam­ics, etc.) to con­vey their ideas. Exam­ples include using ascend­ing scale frag­ments to con­vey the moun­tain pass Den­nis’ fam­i­ly would climb; using pizzi­ca­to to con­vey Den­nis’ Grand­ma pick­ing berries;  incor­po­rat­ing minor scales and bars with extra beats to con­vey the uncer­tain­ty and sad­ness of Den­nis being tak­en away to res­i­den­tial school.

(See below to view and down­load the Cre­ative Para­me­ters Hand­out used in this project.)

Stage Three – Instruc­tor Feedback/ Record­ing Prep (1 hour)

Stu­dents worked in Garage Band to record and arrange their com­po­si­tions inde­pen­dent­ly. (We were hon­oured to have Den­nis and Jen­ny cre­ate a spe­cial tra­di­tion­al drum track for the stu­dents to work with as they were writ­ing as well.) 

Once stu­dents had a first draft com­plet­ed, they emailed Kei­tha the audio for feed­back. Stu­dents then had two days to make the final adjust­ments on their com­po­si­tions and clar­i­fy their arrangements. 

Stage Four- Record­ing the com­po­si­tions (15–30 min­utes)

For the video, stu­dents were asked to intro­duce them­selves and their top­ic, the land­scape or expe­ri­ence they were writ­ing about, thank Den­nis for shar­ing his sto­ry, include an expla­na­tion of how they used the ele­ments of music to express their ideas and briefly describe how this project changed how they think about music. 

Stage Five — Stu­dent Feed­back (30 minutes)

After watch­ing each other’s per­for­mances, stu­dents were asked to pro­vide feed­back to their peers. (Because the project was most­ly online, stu­dents cre­at­ed writ­ten feed­back on Padlet for this.)

Feed­back cri­te­ria included: 

  • A com­pli­ment-  Be spe­cif­ic, did you like how they used a cer­tain scale, dynam­ic, rhythm etc. to con­vey their idea, or a unique per­spec­tive they brought to their tune idea? 
  • A com­ment on a way that they ref­er­enced Dennis’s sto­ry or idea- What did you like about the way that they did this? Is there any­thing you would like to see more of?
  • A ques­tion — What kind of ques­tion would encour­age the com­pos­er to take their work to the next lev­el? Exam­ples include: What would you change about your piece if you were writ­ing this again? What was your favourite part about this project? Has this project changed how you view music? 


I loved doing this project with the fid­dlers! They cre­at­ed work that showed a lot of lis­ten­ing and learn­ing; both about the sto­ries and expe­ri­ences Den­nis shared, and for how to find mean­ing­ful ways to reflect and respond to those expe­ri­ences through music.

It was also amaz­ing work­ing with Den­nis and Jen­ny for this project! I was hon­oured to have this oppor­tu­ni­ty, and grate­ful to Den­nis and Jen­ny for their will­ing­ness to share their music and sto­ries with our community.

Below are three exam­ples of what the fid­dlers com­posed and reflec­tions on their learning:


Here are a few thoughts about this project and why com­po­si­tion is an impor­tant part of cre­at­ing cul­tur­al under­stand­ing (view video here).


I thought this project was real­ly suc­cess­ful because the kids are real­ly engaged in the work, and we were able to reflect Den­nis’ sto­ries and expe­ri­ence in real­ly mean­ing­ful ways. I think one of the most pow­er­ful things we can devel­op as musi­cians is the abil­i­ty not just to cre­ate but to lis­ten in a real deep and mean­ing­ful way. I think the kids were able to do this with this project, and show true lis­ten­ing to Den­nis’ sto­ries and then show a real mean­ing­ful response by how they approached writ­ing their tunes and what they reflect­ed in their pieces. 

To me that was the most sat­is­fy­ing part of the project, get­ting to see them devel­op those lis­ten­ing skills and then be able to respond with their own cre­ative voic­es to what Den­nis’ sto­ries and expe­ri­ences were. I think that’s such a gift of the cre­ative process: to be able to give young musi­cians the chance to lis­ten to expe­ri­ences and sto­ries from dif­fer­ent cul­tures and find ways to mean­ing­ful­ly respond to those with the musi­cal skills they have and that they can devel­op through these projects.

“In a way the world is a huge com­po­si­tion – a huge musi­cal com­po­si­tion that’s going on all the time, with­out a begin­ning and pre­sum­ably with­out an end­ing. We are the com­posers of this huge mirac­u­lous com­po­si­tion that’s going on around us and we can improve it, or we can destroy it. We can add more nois­es, or we can add more beau­ti­ful sounds. It’s all up to us.” (R. Mur­ray Schafer in Lis­ten (2009), a doc­u­men­tary film.)

VIVA Singers Toronto: A Community Choir Program Connects Virtually

In this project, music edu­ca­tor Edmee Nat­aprawira and her stu­dents in the Prep Choir of VIVA Singers Toron­to build com­mu­ni­ty vir­tu­al­ly through cre­ative singing and music making: 

Hi, my name is Edmee Nat­aprawira. I use she/her pro­nouns. I live and teach in Toron­to, Ontario.

My stu­dents are in the Prep Choir, the youngest divi­sion of singers at VIVA Singers Toron­to. Though a small group this year, we come from many dif­fer­ent back­grounds, with diverse gen­der iden­ti­ties, cul­tur­al her­itages, needs, and strengths. For the past two years, we had a ful­ly online sea­son due to the ongo­ing pan­dem­ic. We are look­ing for­ward to mak­ing music in-per­son again, start­ing next sea­son. For most of the stu­dents in the Prep Choir, VIVA is their first expe­ri­ence mak­ing music with oth­ers in an ensem­ble setting. 

Our pro­gram includes the inte­gra­tion of cre­ative music-mak­ing and com­po­si­tion with the devel­op­ment of choral per­for­mance skills. We sing a vari­ety of reper­toire, often work­ing close­ly with guest artists — like Suba Sankaran and Autorick­shaw in our most recent sea­son. New to the VIVA pro­gram is our Cre­ation Stream, which builds com­po­si­tion skills through a vari­ety of medi­ums. The fol­low­ing are two activ­i­ties we use in the Cre­ation Stream: 

Cre­ation Stream

  1. Start­ing well with pre-school vir­tu­al choir: This is an activ­i­ty that high­lights how we often begin our rehearsals. The goal is to set the tone for stu­dent cre­ation and to encour­age stu­dents to hold expan­sive def­i­n­i­tions of music, so that they see that music is every­where. Using found objects from their home envi­ron­ment, stu­dents explore and share per­cus­sive sounds. They then inte­grate their sounds into the B Sec­tion of our wel­come song. View video below or see this link.
  2. A cre­ative approach to teach­ing choral reper­toire: This is anoth­er exer­cise that demon­strates a cre­ative approach to teach­ing choral reper­toire. We had been work­ing on the tune “Don’t Wor­ry Be Hap­py” in prepa­ra­tion for the spring con­cert; in this video, we are cre­at­ing a coda for the song. The video shows the kids mak­ing con­nec­tions to things that make them hap­py in their own lives. We then draw out key words from these per­son­al con­nec­tions and use rep­e­ti­tion to cre­ate rhyth­mic pat­terns, speak­ing the words before apply­ing them to our found instru­ments. The stu­dents then use rhythm syl­la­bles to notate their cre­ations and lat­er explored com­pos­ing short melodies as well. 

Suc­cess­ful music edu­ca­tion?

Click here to view video or read on for transcription.

Tran­scrip­tion: “What is a suc­cess­ful music edu­ca­tion? I asked my stu­dents at Viva Singers Toron­to in the prepara­to­ry choirs, the youngest singers, what they real­ly love about choir or what they real­ly love about music. Three major themes came out: singing, instru­ments and happiness. 

  1. Singing: The first came as no sur­prise that the stu­dent said that they loved to sing in choir. Singing is the main medi­um through which we make music and so it’s real­ly what we’re doing most of the time when we’re rehearsing. 
  2. Instru­ments: The sec­ond is a lit­tle more lay­ered and a num­ber of stu­dents brought up that they real­ly like play­ing instru­ments. The instru­ment that came up a lot was piano, specif­i­cal­ly pri­vate piano lessons tak­en out­side of choir time and out­side of school time. I do want to note that dur­ing choir prac­tice, we often incor­po­rate found instru­ments such as tin cans, soap box­es, paper tow­el rolls, Kleenex box­es, all sorts of found unpitched per­cus­sion. I also want­ed to note that those found objects were also part of this category. 
  3. Hap­pi­ness: Third, although sim­ple, I think this is the heart of music edu­ca­tion. The kids said that choir makes them feel hap­py, that they feel hap­py when they are singing. I think that is the core of what suc­cess­ful music edu­ca­tion is. 

For me, in reflect­ing on that ques­tion on that prompt, three major themes came up as well. com­mu­ni­ty and con­nec­tion, process ori­ent­ed prac­tice and a life­time prac­tice.

  1. Com­mu­ni­ty and con­nec­tion: The first, com­mu­ni­ty and con­nec­tion, for me is all about how music mak­ing, espe­cial­ly music mak­ing in an ensem­ble, so in choir or in class, you’re with oth­er peo­ple, and you have to be able to work with oth­er peo­ple, cre­ate with oth­er peo­ple, com­pose, rehearse, share one’s music. It’s not some­thing that you can do by your­self. And I think that is at the core of suc­cess­ful music edu­ca­tion. This remind­ed me of a study that I heard about a num­ber of years ago and I looked at the the peo­ple behind the study, Kirschn­er and Tomasel­lo, on joint music mak­ing pro­mot­ing pro-social behav­ior in kids. The premise of it is that being togeth­er in time and hav­ing shared musi­cal expe­ri­ences helps peo­ple want to be more help­ful, altru­is­tic, empa­thet­ic. Aren’t those all things that we want in our com­mu­ni­ty? Pret­ty out­stand­ing, I think that music can play a role in that. 
  2. Process-ori­ent­ed music edu­ca­tion: The sec­ond ele­ment of music edu­ca­tion being process-ori­ent­ed, has to do with the steps that are tak­en in the lead up towards a prod­uct. So I think often we think about music edu­ca­tion as being all about the per­for­mances. While I do think per­for­mance is valu­able, and can be real­ly quite mag­i­cal, I think that the way you get there is more impor­tant than the con­cert itself. So for me, process-ori­ent­ed music edu­ca­tion involves stu­dents mak­ing deci­sions that impact the expe­ri­ence itself. So stu­dents mak­ing deci­sions either in terms of com­pos­ing and cre­at­ing the music, or in terms of the rehearsal process, or direc­tion that the rehearsal takes, the pac­ing. All of those dif­fer­ent deci­sions are empow­er­ing stu­dents to be part of that process. I think that’s real­ly key to suc­cess­ful music education. 
  3. A life­time prac­tice: The third idea of a life­time prac­tice goes to some­thing that Dr. John Feier­abend calls the 30 year plan. Here the idea is that as a music teacher, you aren’t only teach­ing the chil­dren in front of you, you’re teach­ing them such that they might become adults who feel com­fort­able singing hap­py birth­day with their friends, who feel com­fort­able danc­ing at the wed­dings they attend, and should they choose to have chil­dren of their own some­day, that they would feel com­fort­able singing a lul­la­by to the kids in their life as adults when they grow up. So that is anoth­er impor­tant part of suc­cess­ful music education. 

I want to pull up the core val­ues of Viva Singers Toron­to. So there is that ele­ment of per­for­mance artistry, high­light­ing a singing vocal music edu­ca­tion, the idea that music edu­ca­tion needs to be for every­body. Lead­er­ship and men­tor­ing can be a key aspect of music edu­ca­tion, and com­mu­ni­ty. Again, it’s all about rela­tion­ship. In order to have a suc­cess­ful music edu­ca­tion pro­gram, it has to be about community.” 

Thoughts on cre­ative music-making 

See here to view video, or read on for transcription.

Tran­scrip­tion: “What drew me towards cre­ative music mak­ing in my own teach­ing prac­tice was, to be hon­est, the pan­dem­ic. I think that when music edu­ca­tion as I had known it no longer was pos­si­ble, I was real­ly chal­lenged to reflect on what the pur­pose of music edu­ca­tion was. Why was I doing what I was doing before the pan­dem­ic? And is that some­thing that I want to be doing after, if there ever real­ly is an after? 

In reflect­ing on the pur­pose of music edu­ca­tion and find­ing myself with more ques­tions than answers, what I found was that I had more room to exper­i­ment. I had more room to try dif­fer­ent things out, to let my stu­dents try dif­fer­ent things out and I’d dis­cov­er that that’s actu­al­ly a lot of fun, and real­ly, real­ly valu­able. So what drew me to cre­ative music mak­ing prac­tice was an inabil­i­ty to do music as it always has been, and space, time, ener­gy and cre­ativ­i­ty from my stu­dents to exper­i­ment with some­thing new. 

How might cre­ative music mak­ing help access the cen­ter of music, lis­ten­ing and sound­ing prac­tices that my stu­dents bring to the class­room? Well, I think as teach­ers, one of our biggest jobs is to get out of the way of stu­dents’ learn­ing. That is not a con­cept that I’ve come up with myself, but that a very respect­ed col­league of mine has shared with me in the past, and I just think it’s such a great phrase: get out of the way of stu­dents’ learn­ing. Cre­ative music mak­ing helps us make room for the stu­dents and it helps us step back as their teachers.

What are my hopes for music edu­ca­tion for my stu­dents as of broad­er prac­tice? Well, I would real­ly love for more peo­ple to expe­ri­ence the joys of music mak­ing. My hope is that all stu­dents feel able to engage ful­ly and stretch them­selves in music at a high lev­el, and not just those who have been tra­di­tion­al­ly suc­cess­ful, often with the sup­port of pri­vate lessons or spe­cial pro­grams. I feel like every­body should be able to expe­ri­ence music in its most won­der­ful form. 

And my hope is that we move away from the mis­con­cep­tion that cre­ative music edu­ca­tion com­pro­mis­es the qual­i­ty of the chil­dren’s musi­cal expe­ri­ences. I don’t think that’s true. I think in actu­al­i­ty, cre­ative music edu­ca­tion enhances it. And so that’s some­thing that I want to explore more and that I hope as teach­ing prac­tice as a broad­er prac­tice, we’re able to explore and exper­i­ment with togeth­er as well.” 

For more infor­ma­tion, con­tact Edmee at edmee.nataprawira(at)

Jean Lumb Public School: An Urban Elementary Public School Explores Improvisation

Ele­men­tary Music School Teacher Kather­ine Fras­er and her stu­dents lis­ten, impro­vise, com­pose, and reflect on these cre­ative school music experiences:

“Hi, my name is Kather­ine Fras­er. I live and teach in Toron­to, ON. My stu­dents are Grades 1–8 at Jean Lumb Pub­lic School. Our music pro­gram includes lis­ten­ing, cre­at­ing, mak­ing sounds, mak­ing sounds sound dif­fer­ent, exper­i­ment­ing, dis­cov­er­ing, danc­ing, and celebrating, 

Here are some games that focus on lis­ten­ing and cre­at­ing:

Here is anoth­er exer­cise that builds a groove with impro­vised loops

Here is a video of stu­dents com­pos­ing using their own orig­i­nal notation

What Does Suc­cess­ful Music Ed Mean To You?

Here is  a video of my stu­dents and me reflect­ing on what suc­cess­ful music edu­ca­tion means to us, or read on for the transcription:

Kather­ine Fas­er: “Today we are dis­cussing what suc­cess­ful music edu­ca­tion means to you. So, any ideas?

Stu­dent #1: “It means any­time that we get to come in here and learn about music and play dif­fer­ent instruments.” 

Stu­dent #2: “ I also think that in a pro­gram like this, you come here and you explore what you want, even if you’ve nev­er done it before. [The pro­gram] has a big impact on the music itself, and I think it’s a real­ly great expe­ri­ence if you to come here to learn and prac­tice and just express your­self in music.” 

Kather­ine Fras­er: “Express your­self. And for me, a suc­cess­ful music pro­gram is that my stu­dents come in and they feel real­ly self con­fi­dent to take risks when we are impro­vis­ing, com­pos­ing, but also when we’re rehears­ing and per­form­ing. That they see them­selves as musi­cians in this space. Any­thing else?” 

Stu­dent #1: “I think it’s impor­tant that we’re actu­al­ly learn­ing the cor­rect thing. Like when you teach us a song, we learn where it orig­i­nat­ed, or who made it and things like that So we’re actu­al­ly prop­er­ly learning.” 

Kather­ine Fras­er: “I agree. Do you have any­thing else you want­ed to add?” 

Stu­dent #2: “I could add that I think it is real­ly fun that we come here and you teach us cer­tain music styles and then you give us a chance to turn it around and maybe com­pose some­thing that we thought of and use the impor­tant facts and feelings. 

Kather­ine Fras­er: “Love it. And the last thing I want­ed to say was that it is real­ly impor­tant to me that my stu­dents feel seen and heard and the com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers as well, and that they’re rep­re­sent­ed here in the room and in the pro­gram, and that I don’t make all the deci­sions on where the units are going next, where the lessons are going next, what songs we do for shows. We decid­ed that togeth­er. Any last thoughts? 

What’s your favorite sub­ject in the whole school? (laughs) That’s a loaded ques­tion. All right. Thank you.”

What brought you to cre­ative music? 

View this video for my thoughts on cre­ative music mak­ing or read on for the transcription:

“Hel­lo, my name is Kather­ine Fras­er and I am the grade one to eight music teacher here at Jean Lumb Pub­lic School in down­town Toron­to. I’m here to answer a cou­ple of questions. 

The first one is, ‘What drew you towards this music mak­ing in your own teach­ing prac­tice?’ The answer to that is twofold.

First, it’s cir­cum­stances. This con­tract I’m in now is my thir­teenth con­tract in my fourth province in sev­en­teen years. So every music job I’ve had has had dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties, dif­fer­ent stu­dents, dif­fer­ent expec­ta­tions, dif­fer­ent instru­ments. I’ve had to become a very cre­ative teacher and adapt. That has also giv­en me the oppor­tu­ni­ty to rein­vent myself every cou­ple of years or two, and there­fore I have been able to try new things. 

The sec­ond part of it is curios­i­ty because I noticed that lis­ten­ing games and activ­i­ties and com­po­si­tion impro­vi­sa­tion units def­i­nite­ly inspire more cre­ativ­i­ty and excite­ment than tech­nique-based lessons work­ing up to a per­for­mance. So with cre­ative music mak­ing, more stu­dents became involved in my pro­gram, and it became our music pro­gram. It was less teacher-dri­ven, less mine. 

Cre­ative music mak­ing has moved in my teach­ing prac­tice from one aspect of the pro­gram to the main focus. 

Also, I’ve found ways of cel­e­brat­ing cre­ative music mak­ing in con­certs. A con­crete exam­ple is this year I part­nered with the awe­some music project here in Toron­to. It  is a Toron­to-based orga­ni­za­tion that cel­e­brates music sto­ries, and fundrais­ers to ben­e­fit men­tal health. I had the stu­dents go home and fill out a Google form with their fam­i­lies inter­view­ing some­one about their favorite song and the sto­ry behind that song. Then the class­es and I lis­tened to the song selec­tions, chose one per class. We arranged and learned a ver­sion of it with the instru­ments avail­able to us. For the con­cert, it was a video where it had the cho­sen song’s fam­i­ly mak­ing  an intro­duc­tion about why it was impor­tant to them, fol­lowed by the class’ per­for­mance of that song. It real­ly brought the com­mu­ni­ty voic­es in and it was a very cre­ative, whole school, long project. 

How am I help­ing cen­tre my stu­dents’ music lis­ten­ing and sound­ing prac­tices? I find when stu­dents cre­ate their own music, they’re bring­ing their own music pref­er­ences into their projects. So right now, Jean Lumb Pub­lic School stu­dents are work­ing on a com­po­si­tion unit. The first part is done in Sound­trap and Garage­Band, They were encour­aged to import files into their pieces so they could either record them­selves mak­ing music or bring in some YouTube sound files. Then the next part of the project had them using West­ern Euro­pean clas­si­cal music nota­tion. So they were writ­ing on a staff with notes but they were able to choose what­ev­er instru­ment that they want­ed that we explored before the unit. That free­dom real­ly helps them find success. 

Right now we’re on the last part, which is orig­i­nal scores and so the stu­dents can devel­op their own nota­tion. Some are inspired by graph­ic scores, and they are real­ly ris­ing to the occa­sion. Their orig­i­nal scores are so intrigu­ing, so cre­ative, and so their own. 

And last­ly, what are your hopes for music edu­ca­tion? That music teach­ers find the sup­port and con­fi­dence they need to demon­strate to their stu­dents, their admin­is­tra­tion and the com­mu­ni­ty that music edu­ca­tion does not have to focus sole­ly on the prepa­ra­tion and exe­cu­tion of Remem­brance Day, win­ter and spring con­certs fea­tur­ing West­ern Euro­pean com­posers and instruments. 

There’s more. Stu­dents deserve more, and though per­for­mance might be a pas­sion for some, it’s not for all. Stu­dents and teach­ers need to lis­ten to more music, more sounds, and more voic­es. Pro­grams need to be com­pre­hen­sive and cov­er all aspects of Music Edu­ca­tion: cre­at­ing, lis­ten­ing, cel­e­brat­ing, per­form­ing, research­ing heal­ing, reimag­in­ing, and won­der­ing. Thanks for listening.” 

For more infor­ma­tion, con­tact Kather­ine at Katherine.fraser(at)

Preserving Language Through Music and Film

A music video project by the duo Siijuu Jaadas Cool Ladies, con­sist­ing of Hai­da Elder, weaver, and lan­guage teacher Jiixa (age 84), along with set­tler Julia (age 25). Julia makes the music and film for Jiix­a’s lan­guage-shar­ing. The two share a deep bond and a sense of humour that com­mu­ni­cates the Hai­da lan­guage in cre­ative new ways. They are inspired by Hai­da laws and ways of being, by the pow­er of food and laugh­ter in bring­ing peo­ple togeth­er, and by the land and oth­er beings that they share home with on Hai­da Gwaii.

Pre­serv­ing Lan­guage Through Music and Film
Behind the Scenes: Siijuu Jaadas Cool Ladies — Hai­da Lan­guage Rap Duo
By Julia Wed­er, May 2022

Intro: Here is a brief guide on how I approach mak­ing music videos with Hai­da Elder and lan­guage teacher Jiixa (Gladys Van­dal), involv­ing the Xaay­da kil (Hai­da lan­guage, Skide­gate dialect).

Quick con­text on the peo­ple involved: Jiixa is like a nanaay (grand­moth­er) to me. Despite being an adopt­ed mem­ber of her clan, Skide­gate Gidins Naa ‘Uuwans Xaayda­Ga, it is not my place as a set­tler to claim a sense of own­er­ship of the lan­guage. This lan­guage project was intend­ed to sup­port Jiixa in her own lan­guage-shar­ing and cre­ative visions, as she is huge­ly moti­vat­ed to share the lan­guage now that she is diag­nosed with ALS and has lim­it­ed mobil­i­ty. As a res­i­dent of Hai­da Gwaii and some­one com­mit­ted to advanc­ing Hai­da sov­er­eign­ty and respect­ing Hai­da law on these lands, I see learn­ing the Hai­da lan­guage as an impor­tant part of this life­long com­mit­ment. I car­ry this grat­i­tude and priv­i­lege with me through­out these cre­ative projects with Jiixa. And gee, we have a lot of fun.

STEP 1: Reflect on your place, respon­si­bil­i­ties, and the nuances of your pro­posed project.

What is your posi­tion­al­i­ty with­in the com­mu­ni­ty or folks you are engaged with? What are the prop­er pro­to­cols to fol­low when engag­ing with the Hai­da lan­guage (or any Indige­nous lan­guage or cul­tur­al prac­tice)? What are you doing to ensure you are mov­ing beyond “good inten­tions” and prac­tic­ing real self-aware­ness? What is your knowl­edge on the top­ic, and what kind of author­i­ty do you have on it? What is the qual­i­ty of the rela­tion­ships you have built? Who has con­trol over what is shared, and how? Who ben­e­fits from (or is harmed by) the work?

STEP 2: Think of a theme or sub­ject for your music video.

We thought of handy phras­es that fam­i­lies on Hai­da Gwaii might use in every­day life — eg. around the house, in the kitchen, on a trip. We want­ed to mix these in with expres­sions of love and friend­ship, as well as prayers and wise phras­es from Hai­da Elders that have been pre­served. We chose themes like “Food and Friend­ship”, “Trav­el­ing to the City”, and “Remem­ber­ing Lost Children”.

STEP 3: Have fun and exper­i­ment with film

We didn’t take our­selves too seri­ous­ly at all when mak­ing these rap songs. At spon­ta­neous moments — say, after a meal while sit­ting on the couch — I’d take out my iPhone and ask if Jiixa want­ed to record snip­pets of video for our next rap song. “Sure!”, she’d smile. We didn’t wor­ry about mim­ing lyrics or any­thing in these snip­pets — we just grooved our heads or hips to an imag­i­nary beat, maybe wear­ing a pair of sun­glass­es or a hat that was lying around.

STEP 4: Work on the lyrics.

Jiixa wrote the lyrics for each of our songs, some­times get­ting inspi­ra­tion from Hai­da lan­guage books pro­duced by the group of Elders involved in the Skide­gate Hai­da Immer­sion Pro­gram. I would write down phras­es or words that she’d speak out, and repeat them back to her until she was hap­py with the flow and con­tent. Some­times Jiixa want­ed me to speak/sing the lyrics. Once we had the lyrics writ­ten, we’d audio-record our­selves on the Voice Record­ing app on our phones.

STEP 5: Work on the music.

In Garage­Band (free on Apple devices), I made sim­ple beats from the com­put­er-key­board with­in the soft­ware (you can choose from a whole range of instru­ment sounds). I’d make a sim­ple tune over top of a bassy beat, then I’d adjust the tem­po of the music until it rough­ly matched the tem­po of our speech / singing / lyrics.

STEP 6: Edit

This is a fair­ly time-con­sum­ing process but lots of fun. I used free soft­ware (iMovie) on my Mac­book to edit togeth­er the audio clips, video clips, and music. First I export­ed the song and lyrics from Garage­band, and import­ed it into iMovie. Then I import­ed all the video clips and matched them up with the lyrics and music. We added intro and clos­ing slides with our names and every­one who helped out with the project.

STEP 7: Add sub­ti­tles / captions

It’s good prac­tice to include cap­tions in any video, regard­less of lan­guage, so that it’s acces­si­ble to non-hear­ing folks. Since our videos are in Hai­da, and the goal was to help peo­ple become more famil­iar with the lan­guage and pick up new words and phras­es, we’d spell out Hai­da cap­tions in large font and Eng­lish under­neath, in small­er font.

STEP 8: Share with the community!

We share our videos on Face­book and Youtube, and invite our friends and com­mu­ni­ty to give it a watch. We hope that these videos help moti­vate oth­ers to tell sto­ries and use the Hai­da lan­guage in their own cre­ative ways.

Juli­a’s email is Feel free to get in touch!

James Lyng High School: An Education Rooted in Popular Music

Nathan Gage and his stu­dents describe and reflect on their cre­ative work as musi­cians, bands and pro­duc­ers in their class­room record­ing spaces.

Here is a descrip­tion of a sec­ondary music pro­gram that draws upon pop­u­lar music in an effort to engage stu­dents with mean­ing­ful music mak­ing expe­ri­ences. The program’s empha­sis on musi­cal cre­ation cul­mi­nates in the annu­al release of an album-length “mix­tape” of orig­i­nal songs which the stu­dents have cre­at­ed. Cur­rent and pre­vi­ous mix­tapes can be found at

James Lyng music stu­dents choose between two “streams” to best match their musi­cal pref­er­ence and ambitions:

  • the “band” stream, with an empha­sis on instru­men­tal per­for­mance of rock and pop music, col­lec­tive song­writ­ing and recording
  • the “stu­dio” stream, in which stu­dents work alone or in small groups on song­writ­ing, record­ing or beat-mak­ing projects, usu­al­ly, but not exclu­sive­ly in the Hip Hop or R&B genres.

This is pre­sent­ed not nec­es­sar­i­ly as a mod­el to imi­tate but an illu­mi­na­tion of the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the many forms a stu­dent-cen­tred, com­mu­ni­ty based pro­gram can take in a cur­ric­u­lar context.


Hi, my name is Nathan Gage. I live and teach music in the south-west of Mon­tre­al, Que­bec. James Lyng is a pub­lic high school that caters to a small, diverse stu­dent pop­u­la­tion, most of whom face sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges. Many of our stu­dents come from neigh­bour­hood fam­i­lies liv­ing at or below the pover­ty line. Our school also hosts pro­grams that give addi­tion­al sup­port to stu­dents with spe­cial needs and behav­iour­al chal­lenges. Approx­i­mate­ly 80% of our stu­dent pop­u­la­tion is cod­ed with some kind of behav­iour­al or aca­d­e­m­ic chal­lenge. Here is a research arti­cle about our pro­gram.

Here is an intro video about our music pro­gram: The High School With A Hip Hop Program.

When I first sought to cre­ate a music pro­gram cen­tred around pop­u­lar music, I came to the con­clu­sion that if I want­ed to hook my stu­dents, I need­ed to give them con­trol in deter­min­ing what sort of music-mak­ing activ­i­ties they were car­ry­ing out, as well as what gen­res of music they were engag­ing with.


The ini­tial infra­struc­ture for the pro­gram was finan­cial­ly sup­port­ed by a McGill Uni­ver­si­ty research project. A pro­fes­sion­al-qual­i­ty record­ing stu­dio was installed in the base­ment of our high school, and for the first three years of the pro­gram, the research project’s bud­get paid to hire pro­duc­ers / rap­pers with whom I col­lab­o­rat­ed in the edu­ca­tion of my music stu­dents. Since the com­ple­tion of McGill’s involve­ment four years ago, we’ve man­aged to keep the vision of the music pro­gram alive, through ever-chang­ing sources of fund­ing — var­i­ous grants avail­able to us because of our sta­tus as a “have-not” school, as well as pock­ets of fund­ing from with­in our school board.

What it sounds and looks like

  • James Lyng Stu­dio Creation

This video shows stu­dents at work in a typ­i­cal class of our “stu­dio” stream. Stu­dents work­ing on the stu­dio side work almost exclu­sive­ly on music cre­ation projects — either beat-mak­ing or writ­ing and record­ing orig­i­nal songs. They work indi­vid­u­al­ly or in small groups.

  • James Lyng Instru­men­tal Creation

This video shows a small por­tion of the cre­ative work that goes in our “band” stream. While much of our school year is devot­ed to learn­ing cov­ers of pop and rock songs, each of our band class­es will write and record a song annu­al­ly to be includ­ed on the mix­tape. Songs are writ­ten col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly by the whole group.

This video focus­es on two groups. The first is my grade 7 class. The class had already com­posed chords and a riff for two sec­tions of the song. One was a chord pro­gres­sion which we col­lec­tive­ly com­posed by ana­lyz­ing and rear­rang­ing the chords from Bill With­ers’ song “Just The Two Of Us”. The class sug­gest­ed and audi­tioned a num­ber of com­bi­na­tions of the chords before vot­ing on a final chord pro­gres­sion. A riff for the sec­ond sec­tion of the song was brought to the group by one of the class’s gui­tar play­ers. The class had also col­lec­tive­ly writ­ten four lines of lyrics based on their expe­ri­ences in quar­an­tine. To write these lyrics, they brain­stormed a num­ber of words and phras­es based on the theme and used them to cre­ate a series of rhyming couplets.

The video starts with some of the stu­dents “MIDI-record­ing” melodies over a “mock up” record­ing of the two sec­tions that I pre­pared. The key­board has been recal­i­brat­ed so that stu­dents can focus on the white keys to cre­ate their melodies. This is some­thing I do with my youngest stu­dents so that their cre­ativ­i­ty isn’t sti­fled by tech­ni­cal con­sid­er­a­tions. Once all will­ing stu­dents have record­ed, we lis­ten back to the record­ings and try to iden­ti­fy the best moments so that we can try set­ting our lyrics to the stu­dents’ melodies.

This video shows an inter­est­ing moment when one of my stu­dents latch­es onto a com­bi­na­tion of lyrics (“I didn’t even know”) and melody and express­es that he thinks the lyrics should be repeat­ed. Some of the oth­er stu­dents object, as the rep­e­ti­tion wouldn’t work with the lyrics that the class had already cre­at­ed. The stu­dents then have to find a res­o­lu­tion (col­lec­tive song-writ­ing at its best!).

The sec­ond group fea­tured in the video is my Grade 9 class. Unlike the Grade 7 class, these stu­dents opt­ed not to write lyrics until after they’d cre­at­ed some melodies. My Grade 9 stu­dents are more expe­ri­enced and com­fort­able on their instru­ments. The chord pro­gres­sion was writ­ten by one.

  • What does suc­cess­ful music edu­ca­tion mean at James Lyng?

This is a video of myself and two of my stu­dents reflect­ing on what makes a suc­cess­ful music edu­ca­tion in the con­text of a pro­gram focused on pop­u­lar music and on stu­dent choice (Tran­scrip­tion June 27, 2022):

Nathan Gage: “As a music teacher, one thing that we often think about in the music edu­ca­tion world, or as teach­ers in gen­er­al, we think about what makes a good edu­ca­tion. Then you start think­ing about a per­son who’s well edu­cat­ed, what qual­i­ties or what have they learned, what makes them well edu­cat­ed, right? So then, as a music teacher, you start to think, what makes a per­son well musi­cal­ly edu­cat­ed, what kinds of things do they have to know? And I think tra­di­tion­al­ly, even some peo­ple still believe this, but there’s a kind of a set of rules set out by a bunch of like old white guys basi­cal­ly, say­ing, okay, you have to be able to read music, read tra­di­tion­al nota­tion, you have to be able to play a musi­cal instru­ment real­ly pro­fi­cient­ly, you have to know a bunch of Ital­ian phras­es, that kind of thing.

So then, for us, we do a pop­u­lar music pro­gram and the whole point of the pop­u­lar music pro­gram is that we take the cues of the stu­dents as to what they want to do musi­cal­ly. The idea is then, for me, when I think about what makes some­one well edu­cat­ed musi­cal­ly, maybe there are some things that are maybe absolute, but a lot of it comes from what does the stu­dent want to do? Where do they want music to kind of fit in their life after high school?

So, my first ques­tion for you guys is what do you guys think makes a per­son well edu­cat­ed musi­cal­ly? What kinds of things do you think could be there? And then my sec­ond part of the ques­tion is, where do you see music fit­ting into your life after high school? And as a school of Music, are we doing our part to get­ting you where you want to be? Like, musi­cal­ly, for after high school? You see what I’m say­ing? So what do you think the first part is?”

Stu­dent #1: “For the first part, I think being able to play with oth­ers or learn­ing how to play with oth­ers is a very impor­tant skill. But I def­i­nite­ly agree with what you’re say­ing in that you don’t need to know how to read music in order to be like pro­fi­cient in what you’re doing. But I do think that when we get more advanced, I think it def­i­nite­ly helps at least to know how to do some of these things. Maybe not read music, but like scales, or what­ev­er, I think that’s impor­tant in what you learn how to do.

Nathan Gage: “And so you’ve been read­ing tab. You read tab, and I think you learned to do that here. Right? And so do you think that’s impor­tant? When we say read­ing music, it includes that, so say, do you think in the future you want to go on the inter­net and find a song and learn to play it?”

“I think all those things are def­i­nite­ly a help, but you nev­er real­ly need to do those things if you don’t want to, because I think, real­ly, what music should be about is just being fun for you. I think imme­di­ate­ly once you have some­thing that you need to do, it’s more of a chore and not some­thing that’s fun. And that’s why if you’re not hav­ing fun doing music, you’re not real­ly doing any­thing. It touch­es on what I was say­ing before. When you start to get more advanced, you think you start to know what you’re doing, then yeah, those things will def­i­nite­ly help but I don’t think it’s nec­es­sar­i­ly required if you just want to have fun play­ing music.”

Stu­dent #2: “He basi­cal­ly just said every­thing. Every­thing that went through my mind, just came out of his mouth.” (laughs).

  • On Musi­cal Cre­ation at James Lyng

In this video, our stu­dio ani­ma­tor, Jason New­comen and I dis­cuss why song-writ­ing and music cre­ation are so impor­tant to James Lyng’s music pro­gram, as well as our hopes for music edu­ca­tion in the broad­er sense.

Nathan Gage: “I’m here with Jason New­comen, who is our stu­dio ani­ma­tor. He works on the stu­dio side with our stu­dents who want to focus on hip hop and R&B music. I thought it’d be good to have him in on this con­ver­sa­tion: what drew you towards cre­ative music mak­ing in your own teach­ing prac­tice? Maybe I’ll start.

For me, I would say that it goes hand in hand with this idea of the pop­u­lar music edu­ca­tion pro­gram, it goes hand in hand with a pro­gram that’s try­ing to ele­vate stu­dent voice. Part of the pop­u­lar music rev­o­lu­tion was that the per­former could be the song­writer, the per­former could be the com­pos­er. It sets itself apart from clas­si­cal music where you have the com­pos­er and you have a con­duc­tor and below them were the per­form­ers. It just flipped around, espe­cial­ly with punk rock music in the 70s, you know, the idea that you did­n’t even have to play a gui­tar that well, you could just bring out a gui­tar and if the song had enough pas­sion and the right hook or what­ev­er, this is could still be a song that was still lis­tened to 40 or 50 years later.

In my back­ground as a musi­cian, as a per­former, song­writ­ing and express­ing myself through music has been so impor­tant to my own musi­cal prac­tice. I want­ed to pass that on to my students.

On the instru­men­tal side, on the band side, we also do a lot of learn­ing to play our instru­ments through learn­ing cov­ers of rock and pop songs. On the stu­dio side, almost all of what you do is cre­ation. That’s all you do: song­writ­ing, beat mak­ing, all that cre­ation stuff.”

Jason New­comen: “In the last ten years, record­ing equip­ment and record­ing soft­ware has been so acces­si­ble to every­body on the Hip Hop side to the point where the biggest Hip Hop artists in the world are mak­ing songs in their base­ment with the same equip­ment that we’re using. It’s an oppor­tu­ni­ty for the kids on my side to learn a skill that they can con­tin­ue on their own time, and be pas­sion­ate about on their own time as well. I come from an era where we had to save up to get stu­dio time, you had to pay some­body who prob­a­bly would make some­thing dif­fer­ent with our music. Just to empow­er the kids by telling them that this is some­thing that they’re able to do on their own with very sim­ple tools, and use it as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to exer­cise their free­dom in cre­ation and their free­dom to express themselves.

Nathan Gage: “For me, I would say that’s very impor­tant. If we go back to the clas­si­cal par­a­digm with the com­pos­er, the con­duc­tor, the per­form­ers, and how that is entrenched so much in tra­di­tion­al music edu­ca­tion, think what that does to stu­dents. When we focus so much on music of the dom­i­nant cul­ture, we’re real­ly rein­forc­ing that cul­ture. You have to think for my stu­dents, for a stu­dent body that is very diverse, what that would do to them. It’s basi­cal­ly putting on a pedestal one cul­ture and not their own, and how they would feel about that over time. That’s why I think it’s so impor­tant. I hope what we do and I think what we try to do at all times is to flip that par­a­digm so that it cen­ters the stu­dents at the top of the par­a­digm, where the stu­dents’ voice and the stu­dents’ musi­cal pref­er­ences are what is ground­ing all of their music education.

I do know that music edu­ca­tion has done a lot of work in gen­er­al and a lot of teach­ers are work­ing hard to incor­po­rate music from dif­fer­ent cul­tures, but I still think that the struc­ture inher­ent in that clas­si­cal music par­a­digm is still very, very active in music edu­ca­tion and it’s very dif­fi­cult to get away from that.

For me, that’s why it’s real­ly, real­ly impor­tant to do these cre­ation projects because just nat­u­ral­ly when the stu­dent is doing the cre­ation and maybe work­ing through their own expe­ri­ences or try­ing to express their own expe­ri­ences through song, it nat­u­ral­ly cen­ters them so that their own expe­ri­ences are what are validated.”


Nathan Gage (he/him) is a music edu­ca­tor liv­ing and work­ing in Mon­tre­al, Que­bec. Hav­ing come to the pro­fes­sion lat­er in life, he has a wealth of expe­ri­ence in the music indus­try, as a per­former and as a com­pos­er from which he can draw. He holds a bach­e­lor’s degree in music com­po­si­tion and has many years of expe­ri­ence as a pro­fes­sion­al jazz per­former, play­ing upright and elec­tric bass. He has toured exten­sive­ly through­out North Amer­i­ca and Europe with indie rock bands Shapes & Sizes (Asth­mat­ic Kit­ty Records) and Elfin Sad­dle (Con­stel­la­tion Records). He found­ed, man­aged and owned Pho­nop­o­lis, an inde­pen­dent record store, which the Mon­tre­al Gazette referred to as “an insti­tu­tion in the Mon­tre­al music scene.” He sold the store at the start of his teach­ing career. Nathan is pas­sion­ate about pop­u­lar music edu­ca­tion and stu­dent-cen­tered music edu­ca­tion and he strives to con­tin­ue his own edu­ca­tion as a music teacher.

For more infor­ma­tion, con­tact Nathan at ngage(at)

Music Takes You Higher: Collaborative Song-Writing with People Living with Dementia

What does col­lab­o­ra­tive music-mak­ing mean to you?

“I quick­ly real­ized that that was the point, in a way it was just to bring peo­ple togeth­er. I would arrive as myself where I was at as an empa­thet­ic human being and all of the mem­bers would meet me there with their indi­vid­ual life expe­ri­ences and how they were feel­ing on the day. And we would engage with each oth­er and the art that we would bring to the space.” (Artist, The Bitove Method)


Pur­pose: To use col­lab­o­ra­tive song-writ­ing to under­stand what music means to peo­ple liv­ing with demen­tia, build and nur­ture com­pas­sion­ate rela­tion­ships with peo­ple liv­ing with demen­tia, artists, vol­un­teers, stu­dents and oth­ers, and chal­lenge stig­ma­tiz­ing approach­es used with peo­ple liv­ing with dementia.


The Project and Approach: Most approach­es to music with peo­ple liv­ing with demen­tia are ground­ed in the bio-med­ical mod­el or per­son-cen­tered care. The bio­med­ical mod­el focus­es on dis­ease, symp­tom man­age­ment, and func­tion­al out­comes, where­as per­son-cen­tered care focus­es on the indi­vid­ual and uni-direc­tion­al inter­ac­tions. Both of these approach­es fail to cap­ture the cen­tral­i­ty of rela­tion­ships to growth, qual­i­ty of life and well-being. Our approach is ground­ed in rela­tion­al car­ing, where we inten­tion­al­ly attend to rela­tion­al process­es and use music for life enrich­ment, as a means to sup­port rela­tion­al capac­i­ties for con­nec­tion, and to fos­ter com­pas­sion­ate and rec­i­p­ro­cal rela­tion­ships among diverse peo­ple. See the Trans­lat­ing Rela­tion­al Car­ing into Rela­tion­al Arts hand­out and short video clip called “Music and Rela­tion­al Car­ing” for more information.


Music Takes You High­er orig­i­nat­ed as a musi­cal co-cre­ation between song­writer and Gram­my award win­ner, Simon Law, and mem­bers of the Dot­sa Bitove Well­ness Acad­e­my (DBWA), now known as The Bitove Method. You can learn about Simon Law, the facil­i­ta­tor of our col­lab­o­ra­tive music-mak­ing process, in the short video clip “Meet Simon”. You can also meet some of the mem­bers liv­ing with with demen­tia that were involved in our process by watch­ing the video clips “Meet Allan”, “Meet Robert”, and “Meet Sheru”. 

The DBWA is an arts-based acad­e­my for peo­ple liv­ing with demen­tia where the arts are val­ued not as ther­a­py or clin­i­cal inter­ven­tion but as a medi­um for rela­tion­al car­ing and life enrich­ment. The song was part of a larg­er project con­duct­ed by Chris­tine Jonas-Simp­son, Sher­ry Dupuis, Pia Kon­tos and Gail Mitchell and fund­ed by the Alzheimer’s Soci­ety of Cana­da Research Pro­gram, to explore expe­ri­ences of musi­cal engage­ment and the mean­ing of music in the lives of acad­e­my mem­bers. The project cul­mi­nat­ed in the cre­ation of a doc­u­men­tary film to cap­ture those mean­ings and expe­ri­ences and chal­lenge the stig­ma asso­ci­at­ed with demen­tia. You can view the trail­er or the full doc­u­men­tary film by click­ing on the video links below.


Our Process:


Step 1: Start with a rela­tion­al activ­i­ty that helps the mem­bers in your groups con­nect with one anoth­er. It could be as sim­ple as play­ing record­ed music or live col­lab­o­ra­tive music and then hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion about the music and what it means to them. Alter­na­tive­ly invite peo­ple to be involved in a shar­ing cir­cle of curios­i­ty where mem­bers con­tribute thoughts on how they are feel­ing and sup­port each oth­er in those feel­ings. What­ev­er activ­i­ty you choose, use it as way to tran­si­tion between what peo­ple were doing before arriv­ing and their involve­ment in your col­lab­o­ra­tive song-writ­ing session/class/engagement.


Step 2: Begin the lyric writ­ing engage­ment using a brain­storm­ing ses­sion. You can explore any top­ic of inter­est to your group; ours was what music means and we asked ques­tions, such as:


  • “What does music mean to you?”
  • “What is it like to have music in your lives?”
  • “How does music relate to you?”


Before you begin, explain what you are doing and why. Record all the respons­es on a flip chart. To embody the rela­tion­al car­ing prin­ci­ples, you will want to be sure to include all mem­bers of your group in this cre­ative process. To help mem­bers think about what music means, engage them active­ly in music-mak­ing through singing, drum­ming, danc­ing, play­ing ukulele etc., and then ask what that expe­ri­ence felt like to draw out more ideas of what music means to them. You can use what­ev­er cre­ative process fits your group and facil­i­tates  free­dom to par­tic­i­pate and express ideas in diverse ways.

Here are some exam­ples of our mem­bers’ answers to the ques­tions that were asked:


  • Music to me is like when you eat a nice piece of cake […]; it just comes to me and I just love it.”
  • To me, music is the great­est equal­iz­er because music light­ens the room.”
  • “Music is my whole world.”
  • “[Music] makes you hap­py and takes the sad part away.”
  • Music is soul connection.”
  • Music is a mes­sage sent to the brain to enjoy happiness”


Step 3: Col­lab­o­rate in the writ­ing of the lyrics. The respons­es to the ques­tions (Step 2) and the brain­storm­ing session(s) become the basis for the col­lab­o­ra­tive writ­ing of song lyrics. Review the words, phras­es and images record­ed on the flip chart sheets, and invite mem­bers to look for com­mon themes, words, and ideas, or quotes. Ask what ideas go togeth­er; you may find one lead­ing idea emerges. For us it was “music takes you high­er”. This ideas stage, where you are explor­ing dif­fer­ent words and lyrics is a key stage. This is your mem­bers’ own expres­sion of an idea, which should always be cen­tral. Work col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly with your group to devel­op phras­es based on com­mon themes; you can choose to rhyme or not. Your role is to open up paths to cre­ative expres­sion for peo­ple liv­ing with demen­tia and find ways to make their con­tri­bu­tions work together.


Step 4: Cre­ate the music, which you can do by start­ing with either the melod­ic line and then adding har­mo­ny, or with a series of chords. Depend­ing on your famil­iar­i­ty with writ­ing music you can choose for the melody to reflect the lyrics, or not. Start by ask­ing the group ‘What emo­tions do you feel from our lyrics?’ ‘What emo­tions do you want our song to cap­ture?’ Answers to these and sim­i­lar ques­tions help estab­lish the tone and style for the music. This step can be under­tak­en col­lec­tive­ly with a facil­i­ta­tor or work­ing with a musi­cian who cre­ates the melody and then uses the col­lab­o­ra­tive process for feed­back and devel­op­ment. Whichev­er cre­ative route you take for the music, you will want to ask your entire group what they think of the melody line and be open to their sug­ges­tions and ideas for how it might go dif­fer­ent­ly, leav­ing open the pos­si­bil­i­ty of change and reassess­ment so that the music is owned by every­one. Active, care­ful lis­ten­ing, and repeat­ing words your group is using will help you to embody rela­tion­al caring.


Step 5: Com­bine the music and lyrics, share, prac­tice and “per­form” with your group. Using the musi­cal and rela­tion­al tal­ents with­in your group will sup­port build­ing con­nec­tions and being open to mutu­al influ­ences and learn­ing. Invite your par­tic­i­pants to share if they play an instru­ment (or have done so in the past) and look for ways to include that con­tri­bu­tion. Include them in devel­op­ing rhyth­mi­cal riffs for the song, for exam­ple. Your com­mu­ni­ty will sing their words from the heart. If you choose to record your song, the rela­tion­al car­ing phi­los­o­phy will guide you to include all mem­bers of the group, by embrac­ing their abil­i­ties, sup­port­ing the cre­ativ­i­ty of your group, and remem­ber­ing not to wor­ry about any per­ceived inac­cu­ra­cies. Simon describes more about our process in the video clips “Trans­for­ma­tion­al Pow­er of Music Mak­ing” and “Col­lab­o­ra­tive Cre­ative Process”. Con­sid­er teach­ing your group Music Takes you High­er using the Karaoke Sing-Along ver­sion avail­able below.


Tips and strate­gies for sup­port­ing rela­tion­al music-mak­ing can be found in the Trans­lat­ing Rela­tion­al Car­ing into Rela­tion­al Arts handout.

Let’s Reimagine: Challenging the Stigma of Dementia Through Collaborative Song-Writing

 “There’s a human con­nec­tion, despite what some peo­ple like to think… Despite age or dis­abil­i­ty, there’s a human­ness amongst all of us if you look for it. And that’s what we’re try­ing to do with this song.” — Wal­ly Cox (Reimag­in­ing Demen­tia coali­tion member)


The Coali­tion: Reimag­in­ing Demen­tia: A Cre­ative Coali­tion for Jus­tice is an inter­na­tion­al group of demen­tia activists and allies, includ­ing peo­ple liv­ing with demen­tia, fam­i­ly mem­bers, pro­fes­sion­als, artists, researchers, pol­i­cy mak­ers and oth­ers – all of whom share a vision of life, care and sup­port that pro­motes inclu­sion, rela­tion­al­i­ty, cre­ativ­i­ty, joy and the pos­si­bil­i­ty of growth for every­one liv­ing with demen­tia.  


The Project: Let’s Reimag­ine is a co-cre­at­ed song and video project that aims to chal­lenge stig­ma, and show how peo­ple liv­ing with demen­tia can engage, con­nect and live a vibrant cre­ative life in com­mu­ni­ty with oth­ers. The song and video devel­op­ment process was facil­i­tat­ed entire­ly online by two-time Gram­my award win­ning musi­cian Simon Law, who also pro­duced the song in col­lab­o­ra­tion with over 700 musi­cians, song-writ­ers, peo­ple liv­ing with demen­tia, fam­i­ly care part­ners, and oth­er mem­bers of the coali­tion from dif­fer­ent parts of the world.  


Guid­ing Prin­ci­ples:  


Let’s Reimag­ine was ground­ed in two key par­tic­i­pa­to­ry approach­es: 


1. Lib­er­a­to­ry Arts: Lib­er­a­to­ry arts uses the arts for social jus­tice pur­pos­es to chal­lenge assump­tions, expose harm­ful prac­tices and social rela­tions, and imag­ine and effect new pos­si­bil­i­ties for address­ing inequities and enhanc­ing qual­i­ty of life. Lib­er­a­to­ry arts are par­tic­i­pa­to­ry, inclu­sive of diverse (and all) voic­es, cre­ative, dia­log­i­cal, trans­for­ma­tive, con­scious­ness-rais­ing, de-cen­tring, com­mu­nica­tive, and eval­u­a­tive.   


2. Authen­tic Part­ner­ships: Authen­tic part­ner­ships rec­og­nizes the capac­i­ties of peo­ple liv­ing with demen­tia and seeks to work in part­ner­ship with diverse stake­hold­ers, includ­ing peo­ple liv­ing with demen­tia, to chal­lenge stig­ma and pro­mote inclu­sion and social jus­tice for all peo­ple with demen­tia. Co-cre­at­ed with peo­ple liv­ing with demen­tia, the approach artic­u­lates what is essen­tial to sup­port and sus­tain authen­tic col­lab­o­ra­tive deci­sion-mak­ing that is inclu­sive of peo­ple liv­ing with demen­tia (see the Authen­tic Part­ner­ship hand­out for more infor­ma­tion).


Co-Cre­at­ing Let’s Reimag­ine: To make this project tru­ly inclu­sive of diverse per­spec­tives, and to cen­ter the voic­es of peo­ple liv­ing with demen­tia, the song-writ­ing and pro­duc­tion process includ­ed the fol­low­ing: 

  • series of online arts-based and play­ful activ­i­ties with coali­tion mem­bers aimed at iden­ti­fy­ing key mes­sages to be reflect­ed in the song. Draw­ing on the diverse tal­ents of coali­tion mem­bers, we worked in small groups, using break­out rooms to dis­cuss and cre­ative­ly rep­re­sent how they “re-imag­ine demen­tia” by ask­ing: “what do you want the world to know about demen­tia?” “What does re-imag­in­ing demen­tia mean or look like for you?”
    • For instance, group mem­bers rep­re­sent­ed their dis­cus­sions through poems, spo­ken word, art, and songs. You can try this activ­i­ty with any group by ask­ing them “What do you want the world to know about .…?”, “What do you need to live well?” etc. Then ask them to come up with images and words that reflect their answers to the ques­tions. These images can be pulled togeth­er into a col­lab­o­ra­tive col­lage or you could work with the group to cre­ate a poem out of the words they come up with. The col­lage and/or poem can then be the start­ing point for a song.
  • Record­ing inter­views with coali­tion mem­bers liv­ing with demen­tia to explore their expe­ri­ences of stig­ma which were direct­ly includ­ed in the song.
  • Col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly ana­lyz­ing dis­cus­sions and out­puts pro­duced dur­ing those activities/interviews which were used to inspired the lyric cre­ation and the devel­op­ment of musi­cal riffs for the song. 
  • Work­ing with peo­ple liv­ing with demen­tia and oth­er mem­bers of the coali­tion to audio-record dif­fer­ent parts of the song, pri­or­i­tiz­ing the voic­es of peo­ple liv­ing with demen­tia as soloists for the vers­es of the song. 
  • Invit­ing coali­tion mem­bers, orga­ni­za­tions, and broad­er com­mu­ni­ty part­ners from around the world to share pho­tos, video clips, and art rep­re­sent­ing what it means to live well with demen­tia that were then used for a music video to accom­pa­ny the song. 

Sup­ports: The Coali­tion uti­lized the fol­low­ing strate­gies to sup­port the col­lab­o­ra­tive song-writ­ing process:  

  • Form­ing a small­er song-writ­ing com­mit­tee (approx­i­mate­ly 7 peo­ple) respon­si­ble for con­sol­i­dat­ing the ideas formed at the larg­er mem­ber gath­er­ings, and draw­ing on these to cre­ate ini­tial song lyrics. In an iter­a­tive process, ideas were shared with the larg­er group for feed­back and used to help to devel­op the lyrics, and this process con­tin­ued until every­one was hap­py with the lyrics.
  • Draw­ing on the diverse tal­ents of mem­bers to cre­ative­ly explore mes­sages impor­tant to share in the song.  
  • Draw­ing on Coali­tion mem­ber net­works to bring in more per­spec­tives, inputs and voic­es (i.e., reach­ing out to com­mu­ni­ty choirs and musi­cians from dif­fer­ent coun­tries to sing and play parts of the song; invit­ing mem­bers to share pho­tos and videos of them­selves, friends and/or fam­i­ly mem­bers liv­ing well with demen­tia; part­ner­ing with ther­a­peu­tic recre­ation­ists, life enrich­ment staff, and music ther­a­pists in day pro­grams, res­i­den­tial aged care set­tings, and oth­er pro­grams to sup­port peo­ple liv­ing with demen­tia in learn­ing and singing parts of the song, danc­ing to the song, and/or cre­at­ing art­work or plac­ards that chal­lenge the stig­ma asso­ci­at­ed with demen­tia and show­case the cre­ativ­i­ty of peo­ple liv­ing with demen­tia). To see exam­ples please refer to the gallery.  
  • Sup­port­ing mem­bers to learn about and nav­i­gate Zoom, and use tech­nol­o­gy to record parts of the song (i.e., host­ing learn­ing ses­sions on Zoom to prac­tice the song and how to record it on dif­fer­ent devices; cre­at­ing and email­ing a hand­out to mem­bers with instruc­tions on how to record vocals; hav­ing 1:1 Zoom meet­ings with mem­bers who need­ed extra sup­port in the record­ing process).  

Con­sid­er­a­tions: Remem­ber­ing the pur­pose and goal of this project while col­lab­o­rat­ing with over 700 peo­ple was chal­leng­ing at times. For exam­ple, we found that hav­ing input from so many peo­ple gen­er­at­ed many more ideas than could be reflect­ed in the song, which made it dif­fi­cult to ensure that all voic­es were includ­ed. We found it was impor­tant to remind our­selves of our authen­tic part­ner­ship phi­los­o­phy and to engage in crit­i­cal reflec­tion about our pri­or­i­ties and objec­tives. With this reflec­tion we re-affirmed the impor­tance of cen­tring the voic­es of peo­ple liv­ing with demen­tia in both the cre­ation and record­ing of the song, which was piv­otal to our deci­sion to extend the project time­line to ensure that peo­ple liv­ing with demen­tia were fea­tured as soloists in the song. You can hear about what it was like to be involved in this process for one of our soloists liv­ing with demen­tia by watch­ing the short video clip “Inspir­ing Hope Through Col­lab­o­ra­tive Engage­ment”. Oth­er mem­bers of our team share their expe­ri­ences in the full “Launch Par­ty” video. You can hear the song Let’s Reimag­ine and watch the video by click­ing on the link to “Let’s Reimag­ine” below. 


Broad­en­ing Engage­ment: To inspire broad­er glob­al social engage­ment, we includ­ed resources on our web­site (i.e., song lyrics and audio files) for any­one who want­ed to cre­ate their own ver­sions of the song and/or video. For exam­ple, Reimag­ing Demen­tia Malaysia cre­at­ed their own lyrics and music video from the audio tracks pro­vid­ed on our web­site. We invite oth­ers to cre­ate their own or new ver­sions of the song and share those with us. Please refer to the lyric sheet and audio tracks pro­vid­ed on this page 


Quotes From The Project:

  • “Every­one can thrive if we believe it and are bold enough to try it”
  • “I use music to chase away the brain fog on those days where I can’t real­ly think straight. […] I do a lot of reimag­in­ing, espe­cial­ly on rough days, and it was great and a won­der­ful oppor­tu­ni­ty to do this.”
  • What’s impor­tant is to […] go for­ward and be loved and love, and I think that this kind of thing shows that.”
  • I hope that it brings about free­dom, and edu­ca­tion for those who have a stereo­typ­i­cal view of what demen­tia looks like and how it can be reas­sur­ing to turn it around to see how peo­ple can live hap­pi­ly […]; they can still express them­selves and they can still have fun.”
  • Music is such a pow­er­ful thing; it’s just one of those things that goes into your soul […] and I wish more peo­ple would do this — dis­cov­er things that they can enjoy, but that also brings them peace and calm.”

At home with Ira Lee — Freestyle rap, participatory music, and improvised musicking — Skill building for digital artists, creatives, and the curious.

Through an inclu­sive and expe­ri­en­tial lens, this project intro­duces Freestyle rap, par­tic­i­pa­to­ry music, and impro­vised musick­ing through group skill build­ing activ­i­ties for dig­i­tal artists, cre­atives, and the curi­ous. Our par­tic­i­pa­to­ry project brings togeth­er holis­tic approach­es to art ther­a­py, social con­struc­tivism, and non ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion using improvisational/ freestyle cre­ativ­i­ty. Skillsets cru­cial to all gen­res and medi­ums of con­tem­po­rary art, with a spe­cif­ic val­ue to arts edu­ca­tors, per­form­ers, dancers, musi­cians, singers, poets, rap­pers, visu­al artists and all cre­atives. Rec­og­niz­ing the many artists, employ­ees and arts orga­ni­za­tions, and their loved ones whose health and liveli­hoods have been dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly affect­ed by the glob­al spread of COVID-19, this project can be facil­i­tat­ed ‘live’ in per­son, as a hybrid, ‘teacher live / young artists at home’ or asyn­chro­nous­ly — at artists own time via free, step by step work­shop down­load — avail­able in HERE. ‘At Home with Ira Lee’ is designed to resource BIPOC/Si2+LGBTQ cre­atives fac­ing bar­ri­ers such as; lim­it­ed access to mean­ing­ful edu­ca­tion­al expe­ri­ences and oppor­tu­ni­ties and rural/ remote artists with lim­it­ed broad­band access. 


*Please con­tact Ira Lee at if you’d like to know more about the project.*

Work­shop Breakdown


Dura­tion: 1 hour 

Lan­guages: EN/FR

Sug­gest­ed ages —  5 to 12 years of age, 13 to 18 years of age, Adults, Seniors, Intergenerational

Ped­a­gogy — Equi­ty Cen­tred Content/ appro­pri­ate for SI2+LGBTQ and excep­tion­al learners.

Work­shop Contents


SAM AND IRA WORKSHOP LINKS and PD DL (FREE)  for a more flu­id, dynam­ic and mean­ing­ful cre­ative learn­ing experience. 


(Ref­er­ence Slide 1/pdf.) 


Intro­duc­tion:  Who the fudge is? (Insert instructor/ artist/ educator’s name, bio, his­to­ry and high­lights  here)



(Ref­er­ence Slide 2/pdf.)  


What is Musick­ing? (10 — min sug­gest­ed, solo or in groups ) 


2.b Activ­i­ty Description


Goal: Group dis­cus­sion. What do you think par­tic­i­pa­to­ry music, ‘freestyle’, and impro­vi­sa­tion­al cre­ativ­i­ty means, why learn, and where to start? Build­ing on social con­struc­tivism dis­cus­sion points, ask group for exam­ples, opin­ions, and guess­es. Then pro­vide gener­ic def­i­n­i­tions, inclu­sive goals, and cre­ative applications. 


 (Ref­er­ence Slide 3/pdf.) 


A beginner’s guide: Top 3 most impor­tant tips to suc­cess­ful improvisation 


3.b Goal:  Review and dis­cuss.  (5 min­utes, group discussion)


4.b Goal, Review sam­ple  (3:00 minutes)

‘Do your­self, the cre­ators truth’s’ — Sam and Ira Lee’s (‘Do your­self’ freestyle sto­ry­telling vs instru­men­tal impro­vi­sa­tion) FREE DL/ ‘LINK HERE’ 


(Ref­er­ence  Slide 4 in pdf)


4.b Activ­i­ty :  Learn to Let go  (20 mins total sug­gest­ed time, solo or in groups, no ‘isms’ ie: sex­ism, racism, tokenism, ableism, etc. ) 


Activ­i­ty Description/ Goal 


  • For three min­utes, try to rap, rhyme, sing, dance, or impro­vised — for 3 min­utes straight, out loud. If you make a mis­take, keep going, for 3 whole min­utes. Try your best, and prac­tice hav­ing fun, mak­ing hilar­i­ous mis­takes, and exper­i­ment­ing with ideas, the tone, rhythm and ener­gy of your voice, and try to impro­vise a sto­ry / con­cept that is com­plete­ly spon­ta­neous! (solo, no rhythm, beat)


  • Now - For three min­utes, try to rap, rhyme, sing, dance, or impro­vise in groups of two or more — for 3 min­utes straight, out loud. If you make a mis­take, keep going, for 3 whole min­utes. Try your best, and prac­tice hav­ing fun, mak­ing hilar­i­ous mis­takes, and exper­i­ment­ing with ideas, the tone, rhythm and ener­gy of your voice, and try to impro­vise a sto­ry / con­cept that is com­plete­ly spon­ta­neous! (no rhythm, or beat) 




For 3 min­utes, try to rap, rhyme, sing, dance, or impro­vise in groups of two or more — for 3 min­utes straight, out loud, to a rhythm or beat, or musi­cian, or even a beat­box!  If you make a mis­take, keep going, for 3 whole min­utes. Try your best, and prac­tice hav­ing fun, mak­ing hilar­i­ous mis­takes, and exper­i­ment­ing with ideas, the tone, rhythm and ener­gy of your voice, and try to impro­vise a sto­ry / con­cept that is com­plete­ly spontaneous! 


        c) Goal:  Review and dis­cuss favourite moments, fun­ni­est moments, best mis­takes, pain points and over­all feel­ings about the last two min­utes of impro­vis­ing in small . large groups.


 ( Ref­er­ence Slide 5.pdf.)   


       5.  I wish my favourite pop­u­lar artists weren’t racist, sex­ist, homophobes.


 Activ­i­ty sample/ review/ video — Sam and Ira Lee’s (‘Dig­i­tal Lit­er­a­cy vs. Com­put­er Sci­ence) FREE DL/ mp4/wav ‘LINK HERE’ 


 5.b Activ­i­ty Descrip­tion : Group dis­cus­sion. Respon­si­bil­i­ty, account­abil­i­ty and per­son­al pow­er in art. Dis­cus­sion points, ‘appro­pri­a­tion, racism, sex­ism and dis­crim­i­na­tion, and how taste/ style/ orig­i­nal­i­ty, and hon­esty serve to grow artists beyond stereo­types, and remove bar­ri­ers for all to create. 


Thought starters — 


  • Ask the group for exam­ples of favourite dancers, singers, writ­ers, poets and artists.

  • Ask  the group to name their favourite under­ground Cana­di­an artists.

  • Ask the group for their favourite local/ artists in the city.

  • Dis­cuss–  if and how dig­i­tal lit­er­a­cy and STEM can play trans­for­ma­tive roles in both skills devel­op­ment, access to edu­ca­tion and pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment tools, brand­ing and reach skill sets, and how to cre­ate more oppor­tu­ni­ties to use your art to make a sus­tain­able dif­fer­ence in your com­mu­ni­ty — dig­i­tal­ly and in person. 


    5c.  The Fugue State vs. The Flow State  Review and dis­cuss slide (5 min­utes, group discussion)


(Ref­er­ence Slide 6 in pdf)


6.  No BS Chal­lenge  (20 mins total sug­gest­ed time, solo or in groups, no ‘isms’ ie: sex­ism, racism, tokenism, ableism, etc. ) 


 What you need — Any kind of record­ing device ie: PC, Cell­phone, com­put­er mic, etc) and 

your favourite beat, rhythm, instru­ment, or song! (to dance, paint, or par­tic­i­pate with)


 Activ­i­ty Description


  • For thir­ty sec­onds, try to rap, rhyme, sing, dance, or impro­vise — a sto­ry. With at least one char­ac­ter, one loca­tion, and one prob­lem — not using any deroga­to­ry lan­guage. Don’t be afraid to make a mil­lion, a bil­lion mis­takes. The only goal is to do your best, and not stop impro­vis­ing for 30 seconds. 


  • Now - For 1 minute, try to rap, rhyme, sing, dance, or impro­vise — a sto­ry. With at least one char­ac­ter, one loca­tion, and one prob­lem — not using any deroga­to­ry lan­guage, while record­ing it. Don’t be afraid to make a mil­lion, a bil­lion mis­takes. The only goal is to do your best, and not stop impro­vis­ing for 30 seconds. 


  • Final­ly! —  for 2 full min­utes, try to rap, rhyme, sing, dance, or impro­vise — a sto­ry. With at least one char­ac­ter, one loca­tion, and one prob­lem — not using any deroga­to­ry lan­guage, while record­ing it. Don’t be afraid to make a mil­lion, a bil­lion mis­takes. The only goal is to do your best, and not stop impro­vis­ing for 30 sec­onds. Then, lis­ten either in small groups, or pri­vate­ly. GOAL: Learn to get used of your voice, find your favourite parts, favourite moments, and hear your­self the way the world does. 

6.b   Non Ver­bal Com­mu­ni­ca­tion in freestyle rap, par­tic­i­pa­to­ry music, and impro­vised musicking


Activ­i­ty Description


 Watch Sam and Ira Lee’s (I had a pret­ty weird week) FREE DL/ mp4/wav on the CMC youtube chan­nel ‘LINK HERE’  


  • Break into groups of two and prac­tice telling a sto­ry with no words. Using facial expres­sions, space, actions, move­ment and emo­tion! Tell a sto­ry, with no words!


Dis­cus­sion point — How did this activ­i­ty make you feel? Was it more dif­fi­cult to par­tic­i­pate? Do you feel all peo­ple who com­mu­ni­cate dif­fer­ent­ly deserve a chance to com­mu­ni­cate how they choose? What are some of the ways we can learn to lis­ten, and lis­ten to learn?


At home with Ira Lee END 


Freestyle rap, par­tic­i­pa­to­ry music,  and impro­vised musick­ing —  Skill build­ing for dig­i­tal artists,  cre­atives, and the curi­ous.

Thank you for your time and for hav­ing fun learn­ing and doing with us!  For more free arts, cul­ture and devel­op­ment resources, please see 

Bringing Everyone Together: Music in Long term care during a Pandemic

This project brought music to res­i­dents of Colum­bia For­est Long Term Care (LTC) dur­ing the COVID-19  pan­dem­ic, a time of incred­i­ble unpre­dictabil­i­ty, iso­la­tion, fear, and change. The project trans­formed into using music to bring togeth­er LTC staff, res­i­dents and fam­i­ly mem­bers in a stress­ful time where there was more focus on “dis­tance” than unity.

The Project Goals were:

  • To cre­ate a sense of uni­ty and belonging
  • To unite and bring togeth­er res­i­dents and staff in long term care (LTC )homes
  • To empow­er res­i­dents in express­ing them­selves through musi­cal creations
  • To encour­age and empow­er staff to use music through­out their work day
  • To use music as an oppor­tu­ni­ty for staff and res­i­dents to engage and relate to each other
  • To use adapt­able music expe­ri­ences when need­ed to fit an ever chang­ing environment

This project hap­pened organ­i­cal­ly, but in 3 phases.

1. Phase one: Using Music to bring Res­i­dents together. 

In this phase, musi­cal expe­ri­ences were used as a forum to encour­age social engage­ment. Week­ly music groups were con­duct­ed for the res­i­dents by a trained music ther­a­pist who was work­ing in the recre­ation depart­ment. The music groups pro­vid­ed var­i­ous inter­ven­tions such as singing famil­iar songs, instru­ment play­ing, and move­ment to music and were cre­at­ed to fit the needs of the res­i­dents. Music groups includ­ed a week­ly bell choir which brought togeth­er res­i­dents from the same floor but dif­fer­ent units. Please see the video below to watch an excerpt of the bell choir (.13sec) .

2. PHASE TWO: Music expe­ri­ences for the res­i­dents and staff/family care­givers in indi­vid­ual settings 

When groups were not allowed due to COVID infec­tion con­trol poli­cies, music expe­ri­ences for res­i­dents were cre­at­ed in indi­vid­ual set­tings. Staff and fam­i­ly mem­bers were encour­aged to engage and par­tic­i­pate with the res­i­dents when pos­si­ble.  Per­son­al Sup­port Work­ers ( PSWs)  and I col­lab­o­rat­ed to sing togeth­er for res­i­dents indi­vid­u­al­ly. Please see video for an exam­ple of col­lab­o­rat­ing with a PSW to bring a spe­cial musi­cal expe­ri­ence to a res­i­dent in their room (.58). Music was also incor­po­rat­ed in fam­i­ly video calls with res­i­dents which allowed res­i­dents to engage in music with their loved ones even through the dis­tance.  One fam­i­ly mem­ber shared that the music in the video calls were com­fort­ing and important.

The video calls were a chal­lenge for my Mom as she was not used to them. When­ev­er there was music as a part of the call, Mom would stay on the call longer and it was a won­der­ful expe­ri­ence for me at home to watch her sing. ”

3. PHASE 3: Music becom­ing part of the LTC home environment

In this phase, music organ­i­cal­ly became part of the LTC envi­ron­ment. Staff musi­cal  pref­er­ences and dif­fer­ent instru­men­tal music was played dur­ing res­i­dent meal times ( break­fast and lunch) on iPads and Won­der­boom speak­ers.  This not only allowed for a more plea­sure expe­ri­ence the res­i­dents, but also allowed the staff to enjoy some of their favourite music at work. It allowed for staff to bond over some of their favourite songs as well and increased the enjoy­ment of the work­day. Music in the LTC became more com­mu­ni­ty focused and all those involved in the home were wel­come to engage in musi­cal activ­i­ties with res­i­dents: house­keep­ers, nurs­es, fam­i­ly care­givers and pri­vate for­mal care­givers. Music became part of events in the home such as staff bond­ing activ­i­ties  and  cel­e­bra­tions. This was high­light­ed when res­i­dents and staff col­lab­o­rat­ed in choos­ing music to sing for a nurse retire­ment par­ty ( see video expert at 2.52).

Required sup­plies needed:

  • Hand­bell set
  • Var­i­ous per­cus­sion instruments
  • key­board
  • gui­tar
  • A device to play record­ed Music ( iPad and Won­der­boom speak­ers were used)

Silent Rhythms

This activ­i­ty intro­duces par­tic­i­pants to cre­at­ing music by pay­ing close atten­tion to the qual­i­ty of anoth­er person’s movement.

 The activ­i­ty devel­ops the abil­i­ty to lis­ten and notice one’s respons­es to the sur­round­ing world. In fact, one’s mind, one’s imag­i­na­tion, one’s sens­es, always respond to exter­nal stim­uli. Silent Rhythms is an exam­ple of a viable way of giv­ing voice to such per­son­al and unique responses.

 Silent Rhythms is an extreme­ly ver­sa­tile activ­i­ty. I shared it with very young chil­dren (5–6 years old) and elders; with teenagers and adults; with peo­ple in sit­u­a­tions of men­tal vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty and for­mer prison inmates. 

 The clips form­ing the video tuto­r­i­al are tak­en from a work­shop for dancers. That work­shop aimed specif­i­cal­ly to pro­vide that com­mu­ni­ty with tools to bridge dance and music cre­ation. Although every dancer had an inti­mate con­nec­tion to music through move­ment, often they were obliv­i­ous as to how to trans­late the move­ments of their body into an embod­ied kind of sound pro­duc­tion. The fol­low­ing process helped them do just that:



  1. “Lis­ten­ing with the eyes”

Par­tic­i­pants organ­ised in a cir­cle, each per­son stand­ing a cou­ple of metres from the peo­ple next to them. Par­tic­i­pants are invit­ed to “lis­ten with their eyes” to what is about to hap­pen. The whole activ­i­ty takes place in silence. Each indi­vid­ual, in turn, steps a lit­tle for­ward clos­er to the cen­tre and per­forms a repet­i­tive move­ment with their body. The per­son per­forms the move­ment a few times and then stops and walks back to her or his place. At that point, the next per­son steps in and per­forms a new move­ment, and so on until every­body per­forms a silent body pattern.


At the end of the cir­cle, the facil­i­ta­tor would ask the par­tic­i­pants if, by “lis­ten­ing with their eyes” (mean­ing: by pay­ing close atten­tion to the qual­i­ty of the mover’ move­ments) they heard any­thing in their imag­i­na­tion. Usu­al­ly peo­ple express that indeed they heard something. 


  1. Voic­ing

At that point the facil­i­ta­tor per­forms a repet­i­tive move­ment and invites a vol­un­teer to give voice to what she or he “hears” with their eyes. In turn, the facil­i­ta­tor asks dif­fer­ent peo­ple to give voice to the same movement. 


After this demon­stra­tion, the group goes back in a cir­cle and repeats the exer­cise from the begin­ning. Yet, this time, the per­son oppo­site in the cir­cle to the per­son mov­ing, voic­es what she or he hears by “lis­ten­ing with their eyes”. The sequence usu­al­ly pro­ceeds fol­low­ing this order: a per­son steps in the cir­cle, starts per­form­ing a repet­i­tive move­ment (the mover). After a lit­tle, the per­son in the cir­cle oppo­site to the mover will start singing what she or he hears (the singer). When the mover stops, also the singer stops, and the activ­i­ty moves on to the next cou­ple mover/singer. 


  1. Debrief­ing 

The expe­ri­ence is fol­lowed by a debrief­ing to allow par­tic­i­pants to express the emo­tions, thoughts and con­sid­er­a­tions pro­duced by the experience. 

These are some of the obser­va­tions offered by par­tic­i­pants in the past:


  • Each per­son “hears” the move­ment differently

  • Inter­pre­ta­tions can dif­fer great­ly and yet it is evi­dent a clear rela­tion­ship between the move­ment and the sound was created 

  • Each inter­pre­ta­tion feels unique and legitimate

  • The singing appears to be the prod­uct of a part­ner­ship between mover and singer


Peo­ple at times point out the effort­less­ness of the process. Oth­ers observed that a person’s voice can empha­sise and make appar­ent details of a move­ment that would have passed oth­er­wise unno­ticed to them.


I per­son­al­ly observed also that more expres­sive move­ments usu­al­ly offered more inspi­ra­tion for the singers, as if a move­ment full of inten­tion com­mu­ni­cates more information. 


Fur­ther Developments 

Silent Rhythms offers dif­fer­ent lines of devel­op­ment. While I encour­age each facil­i­ta­tor to fol­low their intu­ition and fur­ther devel­op this activ­i­ty in their own ways, here are two pos­si­bil­i­ties that I often use.

  • Mul­ti­ple peo­ple voice one person’s move­ment. The activ­i­ty pro­ceeds exact­ly as described above in the “Voic­ing” sec­tion. Yet, after the first per­son begins to voice the moment, the per­son in the cir­cle stand­ing next to him or her will add her or his voice too. I invite the sec­ond singer either to express parts of the move­ment that the first singer left out, or maybe by cap­tur­ing with the voice a dif­fer­ent qual­i­ty or aspect of the move­ment. There is also the option of adding a sec­ond voice that does not refer any­more to the move­ment but that sim­ply responds to the first voice. Up to four voic­es can be added per mover. 

  • Move­ment-to-Voice-to-Move­ment. In this vari­a­tion, the sound pro­duced by the singer is the inspi­ra­tion for a new move­ment per­formed by a sec­ond mover. In this vari­a­tion the par­tic­i­pants are dis­placed in a line: the first mover faces the singer, while the sec­ond mover is shoul­der to shoul­der with the singer (in order to not see the move­ment of the first mover). The sequence can be video record­ed and the three par­tic­i­pants can watch it after­ward and com­pare the con­ti­nu­ity and diver­gences in the inter­pre­ta­tions of move­ment and voice. 


Deep­er Implications 

In peo­ple’s appre­ci­a­tion of this activ­i­ty I dis­cov­ered some­thing beyond its intend­ed pur­pose. Most times a sense of relief and a soft sense of exci­ta­tion per­vade the space.The com­mon sen­ti­ment is well expressed by par­tic­i­pant Nadia Stevens: “It is nice to see and rec­og­nize my move­ment in a person’s voice.” 

A sim­i­lar feel­ing was expressed by for­mer inmates at a work­shop for the asso­ci­a­tion Com­mu­ni­tas, which sup­ports for­mer pris­on­ers’ rein­te­gra­tion in soci­ety. The organ­is­er of the gath­er­ing Jeri expressed that Silent Rhythms pro­duced a sooth­ing effect of mutu­al recog­ni­tion between par­tic­i­pants, which was pre­cious for this spe­cif­ic com­mu­ni­ty of peo­ple at risk of social isolation. 

Han­nah Arendt says that we can­not know who a per­son is by gaug­ing what a per­son does. Who a per­son is can instead be dis­cov­ered only by attend­ing the person’s spe­cif­ic way of mov­ing or act­ing, speak­ing or inter­act­ing. Yet human beings are also con­front­ed by the conun­drum that no one can see him­self or her­self from the out­side. We can only see our­selves reflect­ed in the behav­iour of the peo­ple who inter­act with us. I believe that this activ­i­ty makes evi­dent the webs of reci­procity that entan­gles the peo­ple in a group. Silent Rhythms invites peo­ple to inten­tion­al­ly and play­ful­ly look at oth­ers’ ways of mov­ing, pay­ing atten­tion to details, and there­fore opens the pos­si­bil­i­ty for a sense of recog­ni­tion and encounter.

Piece of Mind — Understanding and Communicating Parkinson’s Disease through Music and Poetry


With­in the con­text of the Piece of Mind project (details at the bot­tom of the page), we describe a col­lab­o­ra­tive activ­i­ty in which we trans­lat­ed a poem about the lived expe­ri­ence of Parkin­son’s dis­ease (PD) to music and then put it onto the stage. In col­lab­o­ra­tion with the author Lili Saint Lau­rent, musi­cian Car­o­line Bar­bi­er de Reulle ini­tial­ly com­posed a song based on the orig­i­nal text, and by draw­ing inspi­ra­tion from exchanges with oth­er Piece of Mind par­tic­i­pants. The cre­ative process then went through sev­er­al iter­a­tions, includ­ing incor­po­rat­ing the many voic­es of our project, and becom­ing the start­ing point for the final scene of Piece of Mind: Parkinson’s.

Below we break down our process of co-cre­ation, with the hope that it can be adapt­ed to oth­er texts and contexts.

Activity Breakdown

Goal: to depict a lived expe­ri­ence (in our case, Parkin­son’s dis­ease) using dif­fer­ent forms of artis­tic expres­sion. We aimed to add new dimen­sions to the ini­tial text by mix­ing dif­fer­ent artis­tic styles and points of view, while remain­ing true to its orig­i­nal meaning.

Where: On a vir­tu­al plat­form such as Zoom, through direct mes­sag­ing, and/or in person.

Dura­tion: Plan for a min­i­mum of sev­er­al ~1–2 hour ses­sions, spread over mul­ti­ple weeks or months. This type of col­lab­o­ra­tive process requires time to build rela­tion­ships and lis­ten to all participants.

Par­tic­i­pants / Tar­get Audi­ence: In our case, this activ­i­ty was car­ried out in a col­lec­tive includ­ing peo­ple with lived expe­ri­ence of PD, care­givers, neu­ro­sci­en­tists, dancers, cir­cus artists and musi­cians. This activ­i­ty could be adapt­ed to oth­er groups.

Group size: We sug­gest that the pri­ma­ry col­lab­o­ra­tion be between 2 to 4 peo­ple (small group), in order to ensure that mean­ing­ful com­mu­ni­ca­tion can be estab­lished and that the exchanges will be fruitful.


  1. Choose a work (a poem or oth­er text) that fits your final objec­tive and rep­re­sents the spir­it of the project, while con­sid­er­ing the musi­cal pos­si­bil­i­ties. In our case, the poem “Sur le fil” by Lili Saint Lau­rent, a woman liv­ing with PD, became a com­mon thread for our group as it cre­at­ed a nat­ur­al link between the lived expe­ri­ence of PD and the cir­cus arts through which we want­ed to depict it.
  2. Take the time to lis­ten to and under­stand the piece. Ask your­selves what it means, what key feel­ings or mes­sages are con­veyed in the work, and which musi­cal ele­ments might best cor­re­spond to the desired feel­ing. Based on this reflec­tion, the musi­cian can com­pose and pro­pose an ini­tial musi­cal inter­pre­ta­tion of the text.
  3. Fol­low­ing this ini­tial pro­pos­al, plan an exchange between the musi­cian and the author of the text so that the lat­ter can express his or her reac­tion to it. This will allow the author to have an idea of the musi­cal style pro­posed, and to ver­bal­ize what works and what does not. Be open to exper­i­ment­ing with pos­si­ble avenues, and going through sev­er­al drafts and iter­a­tions — some­times you have to go in the wrong direc­tion at first to find a com­mon path! As an exam­ple, have a lis­ten to the first and sec­ond ver­sion Car­o­line pro­posed here.
  4. Once you are hap­py with the com­bi­na­tion of text and music, share it with the oth­er artists, to allow them to form their own asso­ci­a­tions with it. If you are work­ing in a group, find ways to incor­po­rate the oth­er per­spec­tives or ideas so that the work becomes a col­lec­tive effort. In our case, this meant inte­grat­ing all the par­tic­i­pants’ voic­es into the sound­track, and adjust­ing the musi­cal com­po­si­tion to fit the chore­og­ra­phy for our per­for­mance.  You can check out the final ver­sion of the song here, and see the cor­re­spond­ing scene here.

To learn more about the cre­ative process of pro­duc­ing this piece of music, and hear direct­ly from Lili and Car­o­line, check out our lit­tle vignette (pri­mar­i­ly in French) here.

Quotes (trans­lat­ed from French):
“When I wrote the poem, it was with the idea of phys­i­cal­ly tran­scrib­ing the imper­ma­nence of my life with Parkin­son’s dis­ease. Every move­ment, every thing that I would do took on a new impor­tance, rec­og­niz­ing that where I would be in the next moment was unpre­dictable.”   — Lili Saint Laurent

“My first propo­si­tion to Lili was a melod­ic song — with piano, voice, vers­es and a cho­rus […] I sent it to her, and she said: ‘Lis­ten, your song is very love­ly, but it does­n’t cor­re­spond to what I feel and how I live in my body.’ ” — Car­o­line Bar­bi­er de Reulle

“This poem kept com­ing back to me, because it illus­trat­ed the theme of the project so well. So at the end of a Zoom ses­sion, I asked: ‘could I read some­thing to you?’ For me, it was just a lit­tle offer­ing… but it touched every­one so deeply, and kept com­ing up in dis­cus­sions after­wards, so it end­ed up being a nar­ra­tive thread for the per­for­mance.” — Lili Saint Laurent

“[…] What could cor­re­spond best to what Lili explained to me regard­ing how she feels? So then I thought about the vio­lin — the idea that “the wire” can also be a string, a chord — and I want­ed to use the vio­lin in a chaot­ic and noisy way, to rep­re­sent the mul­ti­tude of emo­tions in the poem…” — Car­o­line Bar­bi­er de Reulle

Piece of Mind

Piece of Mind uses the per­form­ing arts to syn­the­size and trans­late knowl­edge about Parkinson’s dis­ease (PD) and demen­tia. Our par­tic­i­pa­to­ry research-cre­ation project brings togeth­er artists (cir­cus per­form­ers, dancers, musi­cians, visu­al artists), researchers, indi­vid­u­als liv­ing with PD or demen­tia, and care­givers to co-cre­ate artis­tic works based on sci­en­tif­ic research and lived expe­ri­ence. The over­all goals are to:

  1. facil­i­tate knowl­edge cre­ation and exchange between the seem­ing­ly dis­parate com­mu­ni­ties par­tic­i­pat­ing in the cre­ative process and
  2. cre­ate per­for­mances that can engage a wide audi­ence on both an emo­tion­al and intel­lec­tu­al lev­el, and spark mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tions around PD and dementia.

We use an emer­gent and iter­a­tive process to iden­ti­fy the key themes and mes­sages to com­mu­ni­cate in our per­for­mances, and to ensure that mul­ti­ple per­spec­tives are incor­po­rat­ed along the way. Our research process has includ­ed numer­ous vir­tu­al work­shops, facil­i­tat­ed dis­cus­sions, and movement/music ses­sions to build rela­tion­ships and explore both sci­en­tif­ic and lived expe­ri­ence knowl­edge through cre­ativ­i­ty and embod­i­ment. You can see oth­er exam­ples from our project here:

Sound & Song: Collaborative Songwriting With Seniors & Elders

Since the start of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, Sound & Song pro­gram par­tic­i­pants have devel­oped an online col­lab­o­ra­tive song­writ­ing prac­tice ground­ed in indi­vid­ual sound­walks. Par­tic­i­pants use sound­walk­ing to gath­er lyri­cal mate­r­i­al for an orig­i­nal song, and write the song togeth­er through week­ly online sessions.

Based at the Round­house Com­mu­ni­ty Arts & Recre­ation Cen­tre, Sound & Song is part of Arts & Health: Healthy Aging through the Arts, which brings togeth­er pro­fes­sion­al artists with groups of seniors and Elders for col­lab­o­ra­tive art mak­ing projects. Our work takes place on the unced­ed, ances­tral ter­ri­to­ries of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlil­wə­taɬ (Tsleil Wau­tuth) Nations.


1. Par­tic­i­pants meet week­ly for 2 hour work­shops to learn singing tech­nique through singing pop­u­lar music, as well as dis­cuss and write about week­ly indi­vid­ual sound­walks. Hilde­gard Westerkamp’s writ­ing on sound­walk­ing is the start­ing point for these discussions.

2. A web-based hub is cre­at­ed where par­tic­i­pants can upload images and short videos they’ve cap­tured with smart­phones on their sound­walks for oth­ers to see. (We use the free, online-based soft­ware, “Padlet,” for this.)

3. These images and videos are watched and dis­cussed togeth­er, and a com­mu­nal word doc­u­ment is start­ed, where the lead artist writes down par­tic­i­pants’ expe­ri­ences of sound­walk­ing. If they have not had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to go out­side, par­tic­i­pants can also describe the scene out­side their win­dow, or respond to the media that oth­ers have post­ed. (See Brain­storm Draft in “Scores.”)

4. Par­tic­i­pants con­tin­ue to take week­ly walks on their own, and a com­mon theme usu­al­ly emerges by the third week. After a theme is cho­sen, par­tic­i­pants keep this theme in mind dur­ing their walks to build upon it in the col­lab­o­ra­tive writ­ing sessions.

5. Once theme has been estab­lished, par­tic­i­pants work togeth­er to build a four-line cho­rus on the theme, dis­cussing rhyme, rhythm, and con­tent of the lines.

6. Once the cho­rus lyrics are com­plete, the lead artist asks the group what style and mood of music they think would com­pli­ment the lyrics, and will say or sing them back rhyth­mi­cal­ly to the group accom­pa­nied by an instrument.

7. The lead artist takes the cho­rus lyrics home and sets them to music. The cho­rus is sung for par­tic­i­pants and edits to the lyrics or music are sug­gest­ed by the group.

8. The process of sound­walk­ing, post­ing to the Padlet, and writ­ing con­tin­ues until anoth­er song sec­tion has been devel­oped. Dis­cus­sions and instruc­tion around song struc­ture occurs as par­tic­i­pants decide what they want the song to sound like and accom­plish lyri­cal­ly. Par­tic­i­pants prac­tice singing the song sec­tions with the lead artist as they go.

9. The lead artist takes new sec­tions home to set to music, and the process con­tin­ues until par­tic­i­pants feel the song is com­plete, and final lyric and music edits are done to sat­is­fac­tion. Vocal har­monies may be devel­oped and taught.

10. The lead artist does a home record­ing of the whole song so par­tic­i­pants may prac­tice on their own and sing it along with the group in their week­ly session.

11. Using head­phones to iso­late their voice, par­tic­i­pants use a phone or com­put­er to record them­selves singing along with the lead artist’s track. Using audio soft­ware such as Band­camp or Audac­i­ty, par­tic­i­pants voice record­ings are then edit­ed togeth­er to form a choir.

12. (Option­al): Song tracks are giv­en to a remix artist for added beats and sound pro­cess­ing. The group can then edit a video togeth­er online using their media from the Padlet, or give this mate­r­i­al to a video artist for edit­ing. This process can be hands-on for par­tic­i­pants if desired, as they work on edits with the remix and video artists.

From a par­tic­i­pant: “Sound & Song has giv­en me a way to express myself in singing, using my brain to col­lab­o­rate with oth­er in writ­ing lyrics and giv­en me a sense of com­mu­ni­ty even though we were in our own homes. The pan­dem­ic is very stress­ful and Sound & Song gave us a way of work­ing through our anx­i­eties. Our song and video turned out fan­tas­tic and it gave us a sense of accom­plish­ment and happiness.”

Vintage Voices

Vin­tage Voic­es fea­tures the voic­es of res­i­dents liv­ing in the Long Term Care sys­tem shar­ing and respond­ing to music that they love; it brings these voic­es to the rest of soci­ety via short radio clips. Res­i­dents act as DJs; they intro­duce songs and share their plea­sure and thoughts like any oth­er radio DJ would do.

As a Psychotherapist/Music Ther­a­pist work­ing in the Long Term Care sec­tor, I believe that cre­ativ­i­ty does not nec­es­sar­i­ly have to be gen­er­a­tive, but can also be about the process of con­sum­ing and respond­ing to art; this is crit­i­cal to enabling indi­vid­u­als with com­plex health issues, such as those I work with in Long Term Care, to be able to con­tribute to the world of art and creativity.

In my work in Long Term Care, I wit­ness the neg­a­tive effects of our soci­ety’s ageism and ableism: Indi­vid­u­als liv­ing in Long Term Care, fam­i­lies, and health­care providers often strug­gle to have a voice, to be noticed, val­ued, and to receive the sup­port and recog­ni­tion that is need­ed. The tone of Vin­tage Voic­es is light and fun, how­ev­er it serves to ampli­fy sel­dom-heard voic­es and to put a face (or rather a voice!) to indi­vid­u­als liv­ing in these set­tings, allow­ing them to show the val­ue of life at every stage.


-portable audio recorder (I use a Zoom H4n)

-wind­sock to cov­er mic (to avoid plo­sive sounds dur­ing record­ing speech)

-iPad/speaker (to lis­ten to music together)

-com­put­er with audio edit­ing pro­gram (I use a Mac with Log­ic Pro)


1) I meet with inter­est­ed Long Term Care res­i­dents (from now on known as guest DJs) to engage in a music-lis­ten­ing inter­view in a pri­vate space. I explain that I’ll be record­ing our voic­es and then we engage in sim­ple greet­ings and intro­duc­tions, so the indi­vid­ual can get used to hav­ing a micro­phone held up to them while talk­ing. I will mod­el speak­ing into it, but then keep the micro­phone close to the guest DJ to make sure their voice is clear.

2) We lis­ten to music togeth­er! Some guest DJs may have a favourite song right away that they want to share. Some guest DJs may not be sure what to start with: in this case I might sug­gest a song or singer this DJ has expressed enjoy­ment of before, or sug­gest a style of music that I know is gen­er­al­ly pop­u­lar with the guest DJ’s age/cultural group to get the ball rolling… Often this stirs ideas for oth­er songs and music, or may allow the indi­vid­ual to share their response and love for that par­tic­u­lar song.

3) I may ask ques­tions like “What is it about music that is impor­tant to you?” “Why do you like music/or this song?” “What does it mean?” (lit­er­al­ly if in a dif­fer­ent lan­guage) or “What does it mean to you?” Or I may not ask any ques­tions at all, and just get into enjoy­ing the music with the guest DJ, sup­port­ing their respons­es and joy.

TIP: The most impor­tant thing is just to enjoy lis­ten­ing to the music togeth­er, so what­ev­er approach is most moti­vat­ing and enjoy­able for the guest DJ is the way to go. As such, it does not nec­es­sar­i­ly mat­ter if a guest DJ has advanced health and mem­o­ry issues… as long as they can express them­selves in some audi­ble way, I can take the sounds and edit them into an episode.

4) I import the raw inter­views onto a com­put­er and edit them.  I cut out any con­ver­sa­tion not relat­ed to music or any audio/words that are more pri­vate, keep­ing only the res­i­den­t’s greet­ings, intro­duc­tions, one or two song/artist choic­es, their reflec­tions or mem­o­ries about the songs or music that they want to share with oth­ers, maybe some singing along or excla­ma­tions of enjoy­ment, as well as goodbyes.

5) I then re-record or voice-over my own voice (using the Zoom portable recorder, which also acts as an audio inter­face, into Log­ic Pro) to intro­duce the show/DJ, and con­nect every­thing togeth­er and make it flow. I use a theme song under the intro­duc­tions and good­byes to  start and end the show.


Fin­ished episodes are mas­tered by pow­er­Sound, and our Vin­tage Voic­es episodes are aired week­ly on the won­der­ful radio show 33–45-78! (please see links). I also pro­vide a dig­i­tal copy to the fam­i­lies, but impor­tant­ly I remove the copy­right­ed song (I will leave a few sec­onds of the song fad­ing in and out instead).

Our guest DJs and their fam­i­lies have been over­joyed while engag­ing in the process and upon hear­ing the fin­ished episodes. Tony, who’s episode you can lis­ten to in the audio sec­tion, exclaimed dur­ing the record­ing process “this brings the music alive and makes life worth liv­ing!” Eleanor’s daugh­ter (you can also hear Eleanor’s episode in the audio sec­tion) com­ment­ed on keep­ing the episode as a trea­sured keep­sake, say­ing “It will be a beau­ti­ful mem­o­ry that I can always keep of mom.”


Many indi­vid­u­als liv­ing in Long Term Care have fam­i­ly mem­bers who are Sub­sti­tute Deci­sion Mak­ers or Pow­er of Attor­ney. I com­mu­ni­cate with both the guest DJ as well as their fam­i­ly mem­ber to ensure that they want to par­tic­i­pate. I have a con­sent form that must be signed before I start an inter­view. Also when I form the inter­view into a more fin­ished episode, I go back and play the episode for both the guest DJ as well as their fam­i­ly mem­ber to make sure they are both hap­py with it before it is shared publicly.

An inter­view and music-lis­ten­ing ses­sion can also bring up many mem­o­ries and emo­tions. I am avail­able in my role as a Psychotherapist/Music Ther­a­pist to pro­vide sup­port and pro­cess­ing as need­ed. Please under­stand that it is impor­tant to be able to con­nect a guest DJ with appro­pri­ate sup­port as need­ed, so please be aware of who in your facility/community you would con­nect a guest DJ to if they are in need of sup­port. These issues may come up dur­ing the inter­view and be record­ed: as such, I edit all of the record­ings myself and delete any­thing that should be private.

Composition Workshops

SUMMARY: A three-ses­sion work­shop series (45 mins each ses­sion) intro­duc­ing young peo­ple to com­po­si­tion­al ideas. Stu­dents ide­al­ly have one year of some musi­cal expe­ri­ence. Read­ing music is not necessary. 

Mate­ri­als: coloured pens, pen­cils, paper that has a few lines of staff nota­tion, but a LOT of blank space. An audio or video cap­ture device (i.e. smart phone / voice memo app).

Main ideas covered:

  • Notat­ing music the stu­dent hears — i.e. record­ed music
  • The­mat­ic musi­cal devel­op­ment using behav­iours or char­ac­ter­is­tics of a non-musi­cal idea (i.e. an ani­mal, the weath­er…); con­trast­ing ideas; evoca­tive titles; nar­ra­tive concepts.
  • Notat­ing an orig­i­nal musi­cal idea using an adapt­ed ver­sion of tra­di­tion­al nota­tion: left-to-right
  • read­ing of start­ing and mov­ing through time; indi­cat­ing length of time in different ways — size, space; indi­cat­ing high­er or low­er pitch­es with high­er or low­er dots + lines; indi­cat­ing two different with different colours
  • Inter­act­ing with a per­former who will play a new composition.

SESSION 1 — Notate what you hear; Write your own piece by start­ing with the drawing.

10 mins — intro, wel­come, names, instru­ments, venue information.


Teacher: Chose one or two short exam­ples of music to play. Three plays: Play once, just lis­ten­ing. Play again, draw the shape as it goes along. Play once more, add the different colour to show the different sound. 

Stu­dents: Write down music you hear. Show up, down, same notes with your hand! Give cards with hor­i­zon­tal line (time, as well as the start­ing note). Draw the shape of the music as it hap­pens in time. When the SOUND of the music changes (intro­duce ideas of tim­bre or dynam­ics or instruments/orchestration), use a different colour / shape / draw­ing to show the difference. You can use musi­cal sym­bols if you want, but don’t wor­ry about the exact notes or rhythms. Make up a name for the song — imag­ine an animal.

10 mins — group exercise

  • Trade cards, all play the cards togeth­er at the same time, with same start­ing note.
  • Choose a top­ic: ani­mal, an expe­ri­ence, some­thing in nature, some­thing you’ve learned about in school, MUST BE some­thing that you’re real­ly excit­ed about

5 mins — start own composition

  • Think of 2 char­ac­ter­is­tics of that topic’s behav­iour — write them down.
  • Now imag­ine how those char­ac­ter­is­tics would SOUND in music — ask for suggestions.

10 mins — Next steps

  • Instruc­tions for writ­ing your music — just write the shape! Write the start­ing note (note the name if they can).
  • Impro­vise on your shape, start on the start­ing note. Encour­age the music to be different every time you play it. Once you find some­thing you like, write down some­thing about it — note names, use colours, lines, shapes, tra­di­tion­al musi­cal nota­tion if they want. Use range, note length, loud­ness, different ways of play­ing the note. Ask mature stu­dent to be example
  • Key­board instru­ments — can add anoth­er hand, but keep it very sim­ple (i.e. one or two notes)

10 mins — Wrap up, next ses­sion, “home­work”

Give out sam­ple cue card- play­ing / com­pos­ing — have sam­ples on the back Next week, bring one com­po­si­tion that you want to work on
Record your­self try­ing things, can bring a video or audio to show

SESSION 2 — New piece / devel­op­ment of first piece. Adding details beyond notes.

5 mins

  • Review mate­ri­als from first ses­sion, answer any ques­tions. Impor­tant to review the idea that left to right “space = time”, and high and low “space = pitch”.

15 mins

  • Exer­cise: write a new piece with new theme OR keep work­ing on the first idea, add new parts, etc. Use the same for­mat of impro­vis­ing, and writ­ing down what they play.

10 mins

NEW: Add ways of indi­cat­ing HOW to play — different tech­niques i.e. ped­al, pizzi­ca­to, artic­u­la­tion, dynam­ics, tem­po. Can use different colours or shapes, word direc­tions, tra­di­tion­al musi­cal symbols.

ADDITIONAL if applic­a­ble: Add note names, rhythm nota­tion (space = time), per­for­mance direc­tions, etc.

Sug­ges­tion to Teacher:

  • as you go around to each stu­dent, video / audio record how the stu­dent is play­ing it. Often this is the BEST way to cap­ture their ideas in order to record in a more tra­di­tion­al nota­tion format.

15 mins

  • Per­form the works — each stu­dent per­forms their own work /Teacher to per­form / inter­pret if stu­dents are shy. Sug­ges­tion — video/audio record.
  • Look­ing ahead to Guest artist ses­sion — intro­duce the idea of the composer/performer rela­tion­ship, and how they will have the chance to inter­act with the guest.

Teacher’s fol­low-up work: Take the graph­ic nota­tions and put them in a more tra­di­tion­al / stan­dard West­ern nota­tion for­mat. Send these AND the match­ing graph­ic nota­tion scores to the guest artist. If the stu­dent is able to do this on their own, encour­age them to do it. It could be by hand or using soft­ware pro­grams (free ones include Mus­eScore, etc.)

SESSION 3 — Guest Artist

  • Intro­duce the guest artist, their back­ground, their instrument
  • Show the orig­i­nal graph­ic nota­tions, as well as any tra­di­tion­al ver­sions that the teacher (or stu­dent) has made.

5 mins — Guest Artist Intro

35 mins — Per­for­mance / Dis­cus­sion — 3–5 mins per piece (one piece per student)

  • Guest artist per­forms the work, either using the graph­ic or notat­ed score
  • Dis­cus­sion — Guest artist asks ques­tions of the stu­dent, encour­ag­ing them to sug­gest different choic­es or ideas i.e. tem­po, dynam­ics, range
  • Guest artist should have a cou­ple com­ments pre­pared for each piece — one find­ing a strength in the work, and one find­ing a sug­ges­tion or ques­tion that engages the student’s com­po­si­tion­al process again.
  • Stu­dents are encour­aged to ask ques­tions or make comments

5 mins

  • Wrap­ping up. Dis­cus­sion on larg­er idea of com­po­si­tions, per­form­ers, and music being passed from per­son to per­son, through time. Relate it to music they learn in oth­er places, i.e. tra­di­tion­al , pop…

Sup­port­ed by Prairie Debut — NACC — Black Ice Sound

Stories of Care: Making Connections With and Between People with Severe Physical Disabilities

The C.A.R.E. Cen­tre, a recre­ation­al orga­ni­za­tion for adults liv­ing with severe phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties, recog­nis­es the impor­tance of art and expres­sion for their clients, par­tic­u­lar­ly for those clients who are non-ver­bal. In addi­tion to incor­po­rat­ing art-mak­ing into dai­ly pro­gram­ming, C.A.R.E. has host­ed a num­ber of artist res­i­den­cies with Teach­ing Artist Louise Camp­bell, who has facil­i­tat­ed projects rang­ing in dura­tion from 4‑days to 6 months, giv­ing Louise, the clients and the care­givers an oppor­tu­ni­ty to get to know each oth­er, and per­haps more impor­tant­ly for Louise as a guest artist to under­stand the pro­gram and clients’ modes of communication.


The most ambi­tious of these projects was also the most sur­pris­ing: the pod­cast­ing project Sto­ries of Care was slat­ed to begin in per­son at the C.A.R.E. Cen­tre on March 23, 2020, ten days before the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic was declared in Cana­da. Luck­i­ly, pod­cast­ing is an ide­al project to do at a dis­tance. In addi­tion, one of the most beloved pro­grams at C.A.R.E. is C.A.R.E. Radio, which con­vert­ed well to Zoom. Care­giv­er Bruno moved seam­less­ly into being a fab­u­lous host, just as he is in per­son at C.A.R.E. The online video plat­form became the bridge to our clients and a way to move for­ward with the pod­cast­ing project. 


What real­ly made this pod­cast project fly was Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Olivia Quesnel’s amaz­ing abil­i­ty to think cre­ative­ly about how to con­nect with peo­ple. As a reg­u­lar part of her job, Olivia cul­ti­vates con­nec­tions and com­mu­ni­cates with C.A.R.E. clients using mul­ti­ple plat­forms, adapt­ing to each client based on their abil­i­ties and home sit­u­a­tions. Just one exam­ple of Olivia’s cre­ative use of stan­dard tech­nolo­gies is her phone con­ver­sa­tions with a client who is non-ver­bal. Olivia set up a dai­ly phone call with dur­ing which she asked yes-no ques­tions, to which he respond­ed by press­ing the touch­pad once for ‘no’ (beeeeep) and twice for ‘yes’ (beep-beeeeeep!!). 


Using the com­mu­ni­ca­tion plat­form that was most appro­pri­ate for the client, a series of ques­tions was used to prompt clients to talk, rem­i­nisce and share sto­ries. One of these ques­tions was ‘what do you hear around you right now?’ Clients’ obser­va­tions were record­ed and com­piled in Episode 3: Here and there. A com­bi­na­tion of archival record­ings, short instruc­tion­al videos of at-home record­ing activ­i­ties, and record­ed phone and Zoom calls, and musi­cal gifts cre­at­ed by musi­cians Louise Camp­bell, Amy Hor­vey and Tim Brady gave us what we need­ed for a pod­cast­ing series: audio material!


Each of the pod­casts was made in col­lab­o­ra­tion with C.A.R.E. clients and staff, with episodes being pub­lished and shared once final approval was giv­en by Olivia and/or the appro­pri­ate client. Client involve­ment includ­ed record­ing audio to very detailed edit­ing and author­ship by C.A.R.E. Cen­tre client Rachel and her care­giv­er Mis­cha in Episode 5: Tobii Sto­ries, a Day in the Life of Rachel to an episode craft­ed as a gift from the musi­cians and care­givers to a client who was very iso­lat­ed due to her liv­ing sit­u­a­tion in Episode 6: Bliss, Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and Giota’s Song

Of this project, Artist-in-res­i­dence Louise Camp­bell says, “I will remem­ber and trea­sure this project for what I have learned about the pow­er of human con­nec­tion – that is, our abil­i­ty and dri­ve to con­nect with the peo­ple we care about.” C.A.R.E. Cen­tre Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Olivia Ques­nel says, “Indi­vid­u­als with dis­abil­i­ties have so much to com­mu­ni­cate and are very moved by sounds and music. The oppor­tu­ni­ty for our non-ver­bal clients to work with artists and musi­cians to cre­ate pod­casts and to tell their sto­ries is excit­ing. This project enabled those who often are not heard to express their thoughts and share their experiences.” 

As Bruno would say at the end of a C.A.R.E. Radio episode: Stay tuned next time for more Sto­ries of Care. Peace!

And the chat­ter begins from the clients and fam­i­ly: That was so fun! I loved your jokes! Are you com­ing to the Zoom dance par­ty tomor­row? Hey, can we do a Zoom call lat­er? Bye, every­body! See you next time!

Lis­ten here to the pod­cast series: Sto­ries of Care

Sto­ries of Care is pro­duced by the C.A.R.E. Cen­tre, Inno­va­tions en con­cert, Brady­works, with fund­ing from Que­bec’s Schools Host and Artist of Cul­ture in Schools.

Facil­i­ta­tion, con­cep­tion & mon­tage by Artist in Res­i­dence Louise Camp­bell.

Passage Through Time — Creating Music-Inspired Visual Art

GOAL: to devel­op a deep­er appre­ci­a­tion of music and the visu­al arts and how they com­pli­ment each oth­er. In this par­tic­u­lar work­shop, par­tic­i­pants were inspired by the music of Jab­bour, using the music as a spark for their art.

ACTIVITY: Art mak­ing is enriched when lay­ered with a vari­ety of expe­ri­ences and techniques. 

First, a musician(s) presents their  his­to­ry and music, exchang­ing ideas that add anoth­er lay­er to the cre­ative process. In this case, Guil­laume Jab­bour describes his band, which includes Bill Gos­sage, Carl Rufh and Bill Col­lier. The group’s iden­ti­ty solid­i­fied dur­ing their tour of British Colum­bia in 2015, when the musi­cians began to under­stand that they had found their place on the Cana­di­an folk music scene, iden­ti­fy­ing them­selves par­tic­u­lar­ly with the offi­cial lan­guage minori­ties of the coun­try: the Eng­lish-speak­ing com­mu­ni­ties of Que­bec and the French-speak­ing com­mu­ni­ties of Cana­da. Refer to the video for how Guil­laume does this.

Next, we learn about the art tech­nique to be used in draw­ing and paint­ing. Then we lis­ten to the music and draw. Final­ly, we reflect and get and give feed­back. Next time, choose anoth­er musi­cians’ work to inspire your creativity.


  •       deep­er listening
  •       height­ened senses
  •       increased aware­ness of the con­nec­tion between music and visu­al art.
  •       ease, con­fi­dence, and joy in lis­ten­ing to music and cre­at­ing art.
  •       deep­ened rela­tion­ships amongst group mem­bers through shared expe­ri­ence and shar­ing artworks.
  •       a greater sense of con­nec­tion and ensem­ble with artist, musi­cian, and participants.

MATERIALS: paper with pen­cil, crayons, coloured pen­cils, mark­ers, oil pas­tels etc. and or paint and brush.


  1. Lis­ten to the music while think­ing about the theme, Pas­sage Through Time. What does it make you think about? What images or mem­o­ries come to mind? Using the music and the theme as inspi­ra­tion, cre­ate a nar­ra­tive draw­ing – a draw­ing that tells a visu­al story.
  2. Let us draw. I am using the exam­ple of draw­ing with a pen­cil. Pen­cil marks, Com­po­si­tion, Abstract and fig­u­ra­tive are con­cepts in paint­ing and draw­ing. Refer to the video for exam­ples. You choose your mate­ri­als of choice. Here are con­cepts to consider:
  • Pen­cil marks – Exper­i­ment with the side and point of the pen­cil, increase, and decrease pres­sure. You can cre­ate light, medi­um, dark, thin, and thick lines.
  • Com­po­si­tion in a draw­ing is the ‘what am I going to put and where am I going to place it on the paper’. When play­ing with com­po­si­tion, remem­ber that draw­ings can pass the edges of the paper and over­lap oth­er papers.
  • In draw­ing and paint­ing, abstract or non-fig­u­ra­tive is based on shape, tex­ture, colour, and val­ue (light and dark). Fig­u­ra­tive is based on a per­son, place, or thing. Fig­u­ra­tive abstrac­tion is a com­bi­na­tion of the two. Per­spec­tive – Objects that are clos­er usu­al­ly start at the bot­tom of the page, are big­ger with more detail and colour. The oppo­site is true for objects that are fur­ther on.

3. As you draw, peri­od­i­cal­ly stop the music, share thoughts, ideas and in process art­work to inspire each other.

4. When the music and art­works are fin­ished, share them and discuss.

You can pick any of Jabbour’s music as an inspi­ra­tion for visu­al cre­ation. Lis­ten to the music, what will you draw?

“Lis­ten­ing to the music was like tak­ing a peek into some­one’s life. I described it as “danc­ing through life”. The draw­ing start­ed with a bean (a cof­fee bean!) and evolved into a rain­bow dance burst­ing with new life. I real­ly enjoyed the art music class today.” Shan­non, work­shop participant

*Please con­tact Deirdre at  if you’d like to know more about the project.

To hear more of Jab­bour:

More links…

Jab­bour Round the Clock Album · 2016:

Les Fruits · Jab­bour ℗ 2019 Jab­bour Released on: 2019-05-13 Auto-gen­er­at­ed by YouTube:

Hon­ey · Jab­bour ℗ 2018 Jab­bour Released on: 2018-04-13 Auto-gen­er­at­ed by YouTube:

He Does­n’t Need You Jab­bour Album Round the Clock Licensed to YouTube by CD Baby (on behalf of Jab­bour), CD Baby Sync Pub­lish­ing:


Presence Warmups

These Pres­ence Warmups pre­pare the body, breath and mind for expres­sive and cre­ative music-mak­ing. They are most effec­tive when used at the start of a rehearsal and can eas­i­ly be incor­po­rat­ed into choral warm-ups, lessons, or your indi­vid­ual dai­ly prac­tice. They sup­port body aware­ness and increase pres­ence by con­nect­ing body, breath, sound and space.

The exer­cis­es are inspired by and have been adapt­ed from Body Map­ping, Alexan­der Tech­nique, Qi Gong, Con­tin­u­um Move­ment, and sound healing.

For more infor­ma­tion, con­tact Dina Cin­dric at


Con­struc­tive Rest is an effec­tive tool used by Alexan­der Tech­nique and Body Map­ping prac­ti­tion­ers to – among oth­er things – release ten­sion from the body and devel­op awareness.

It is nor­mal­ly done lying on your back and can take 10–15 min­utes. I have adapt­ed it here, com­bin­ing ele­ments of Alexan­der Tech­nique and Body Map­ping, into a short­er 3‑minute guid­ed med­i­ta­tion that can be done in a seat­ed posi­tion (or adapt­able for stand­ing), mak­ing it suit­able for the class­room, com­mu­ni­ty cen­tre, or rehearsal studio.

I begin all of my choir rehearsals and piano and voice lessons with a vari­a­tion of this guid­ed med­i­ta­tion and have wit­nessed the pos­i­tive effects it has on my stu­dents in mind, body, and expres­sion. Use the audio guide below to get you started!


This exer­cise comes from the prac­tice of Qi Gong which is an ancient Chi­nese exer­cise tech­nique that involves coor­di­nat­ing move­ment, breath, and mind to pro­mote the free flow of ener­gy around the body.

It is a per­fect open­ing warmup as it qui­ets the mind, increas­es ener­gy and focus, aligns the body, and con­nects body and breath.


  • Stand com­fort­ably with your feet shoul­der-width apart, knees soft, arms at your sides.
  • Feel your feet bal­anced and firm­ly plant­ed on the earth. Allow your spine to length­en. Take a moment here.
  • Inhale and float the hands out to the sides, shoul­ders relaxed. Imag­ine you are draw­ing ener­gy from the earth into your body.
  • Rotate the wrists, hands fac­ing up to the sky. Bend the elbows.
  • On the exhale, the palms wash down in front of the body. Imag­ine you are let­ting go of any ten­sion, wor­ries or stress.

Repeat the exer­cise 3, 6, 9, or 12 times.

3. WATER PLAY (15+ mins.)

”Water Play” is inspired by Con­tin­u­um Move­ment. Con­tin­u­um Move­ment is a prac­tice that uses move­ment, breath, the res­o­nance of sound and mean­ing. From Emi­lie Con­rad, founder of Con­tin­u­um Move­ment: “We are basi­cal­ly flu­id beings that have arrived on land… All liv­ing process­es owe their lin­eage to the move­ment of water.”

This exer­cise explores move­ment as imag­ined in, through and as water. It is pos­si­ble to do the exer­cise in a short­er peri­od of time, but it is most effec­tive when allowed as much time as need­ed. Give your­self 20 min­utes or more the first time you do it. The next time you do it, your body will recall what you did and you will find you’ll be able to dive into the work more quick­ly and deeply.

Your move­ments can be as big or as small as you like: from rais­ing an arm or leg and explor­ing the entire space around you, to sim­ply a sigh of the head or a release of a hand. Play. Explore. Enjoy the process and mar­vel at the beau­ty of the flu­id being that you are!

See scores for instruc­tions. Read all of the instruc­tions before you begin. The exer­cise can be done seat­ed or lying down.

4. BODY HUM (10+ mins.)

The “Body Hum” is inspired by both Con­tin­u­um Move­ment and oth­er sound heal­ing prac­tices. It uses sound – a gen­tle hum – to send vibra­tions through to areas of the body to retune it.

The vibra­tions will be more deeply felt if the exer­cise is done fol­low­ing “Water Play” but it can also be done on its own.

See scores for instruc­tions. Read all of the instruc­tions before you begin. The exer­cise can be done stand­ing, seat­ed or lying down.