McLachlan Music School celebrates over 10 years of meeting with students

SoM Vancouver began as an outreach program in partnership with Arts Umbrella in April 2002.

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Asked which of the programs at her own school she might have appreciated as a music student, Sarah McLachlan replies with a laugh.

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“Which one would I not want?”

The Vancouver-based singer grew up in Halifax, where she attended the Maritime Conservatory of Music. Today, she oversees the Sarah McLachlan School of Music (SoM), which recently celebrated its tenth year of teaching students in Mount Pleasant.

The school offers a wide range of programs, ranging from traditional skills such as playing an instrument and composing, as well as turntablism, beat-making and stage production.

“We look at what students enjoy, and listen to and strive for,” McLachlan said. “We have worked hard to ask the children what appeals to them and what they want out of it. Through their response, we have been able to create something truly powerful. ”

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SoM Vancouver began as an outreach program in partnership with Arts Umbrella in April 2002. In 2011, McLachlan opened its first physical location with support from the Wolverton Foundation, which is dedicated to helping children in BC with access to the arts and the City of Vancouver.

Since 2016, SoM has offered programming in Surrey, out of Forsyth Elementary and in Edmonton, out of Eastglen high school. A new SoM location is expected to open in the City Center Mall in Alberta’s capital this fall. Each year, the school welcomes more than 750 children, adolescents and adults 55 years of age (usually in a ukulele program). Over 70 percent of these students go to continuing education.

McLachlan was inspired to open the school after the success of the three Lilith Fair concert tours she helped organize in the late 90s.

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“It’s a very unusually strange job we have as working musicians,” she said. “We live and work in a microcosm. There is rarely the opportunity to meet all these other people who are doing similar things. So creating that community and being able to give back to the communities we went into were very valuable experiences for me and confirmed my desire to create something that would continue after that. ”

Along with the courses, the school’s teaching methods are designed to meet the students where they are.

“To keep the kids engaged, go to them and find out what they need and how to access them and keep them engaged,” McLachlan said. “It’s a huge part of what I think is innovative about our program. We tailor the classes around them, where their skills are, what their desires are, and how they learn. ”

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In terms of learning approaches, program director Andrea Unrau says it could mean introducing a “music discovery program” for younger or developmentally challenged students.

“There they’re just trying a whole lot of things,” Unrau said.

Unrau, both teacher and administrator, has a background in developmental neuroscience and music cognition.

They’re going to do something we call ‘entrainment’, which is basically where the beat is so strong that you have to dance with, sing along, play the drum together and you do not work on the cognitive part , thinking-about-thinking. It does not really come online until you are 11 or 12. If you are younger or facing some learning challenges, we have programs that are a little more exploratory. ”

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The school also emphasizes the importance of acquiring skills that go beyond composition and music making.

“When you learn music, what you really learn is the life skills you need to exist in the world in any capacity – such as learning to be creative and curious and working towards your goals and being flexible,” Unrau said.

These are the kind of lessons McLachlan could have appreciated during his years at the Maritime Conservatory.

“I later discovered that music is meant to be shared. To play with each other, to play instruments together, to sing together – there is just such a power and community in it. ”

Fourteen-year-old Nathan Nowak has learned to write and produce with his classmates in Global Hip Hop. When done, students upload the songs to the school’s YouTube channel.

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Before joining SoM four years ago, Nowak says he had no music playing ability. “Now I want to say I’m not bad.” He can play “a little bit of piano, a little bit of guitar. I’ve rapped. ”

A student at Burnaby South, he takes lessons at the music school one day a week.

“There are so many different things you can do at SoM,” Nowak said. “There are so many computers and there is so much different and updated technology. At my actual school, they have computers from the 1950s. ”

Nowak, who wants to be a rapper, might be able to move on to a career in music. But that’s not the point.

“We don’t really want to create career musicians,” Unrau said. “We work to ensure that people find their voice and can share their message.

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That said, with our help and support, it’s easier than ever for them to share their music with the world. They may be embarking on a completely different career, but they have a chance to get their creative message out into the world. ”

Local art education

• LeBlanc School of Acting. LeBlanc School of Acting specializes in workshops, camps and online courses for young people and has placed a number of teenagers and preteen artists in TV and film roles. (leblancschool.com)

• Art umbrella. The long-standing local group offers programs in art and design, dance and theater, music and film for students two-to-22 in four locations. (artsumbrella.com)

• Realwheels Acting Academy. On September 20, the Realwheels Theater launched its own professional training program. The program is tailored for those who identify with the disability community and / or who are D / deaf, including, but not limited to, the disabled, people with disabilities and neurodiverse individuals. (realwheels.ca/academy)

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