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Geremia Lodi – On Making Music With Former Inmates

As part of the Music in Incar­ce­ra­tion & Reha­bi­li­ta­tion Resource, Gere­mia Lodi des­cribes his expe­rience wor­king with for­mer inmates in a tran­si­tion com­mu­ni­ty pro­gram, the pos­sible bene­fits of imple­men­ting music pro­grams in com­plex situa­tions such as incar­ce­ra­tion and reha­bi­li­ta­tion, and various issues rela­ted to self-care.

On his first steps in wor­king with for­mer inmates

Hel­lo, my name is Gere­mia Lodi. I am a musi­cian and a music edu­ca­tor. My pur­pose in life is to use music to create a connec­tion bet­ween people, while at the same time using this connec­tion to create musi­cal sounds and more per­so­nal and inti­mate sounds together. 

My favo­rite tool to make music is body music – body per­cus­sion, sin­ging, and beat­boxing in other words. Eve­ry­thing that we can do direct­ly with our body and maybe without an ins­tru­ment. I like it because it allows eve­ry par­ti­ci­pant in my work­shop to direct­ly bring the music that is in their body, in their expe­rience. It’s an acces­sible approach to music.

My expe­rience with for­mer inmates is quite limi­ted and relates to my col­la­bo­ra­tion with com­mu­ni­ties based in Mon­treal, espe­cial­ly the ini­tia­tive Open Door. Open Door is a week­ly mee­ting and is open to for­mer inmates, some­times also to cur­rent inmates on a per­mit, to encoun­ter people of the com­mu­ni­ty and create a new connec­tion to sup­port their inte­gra­tion in society.

When I offe­red a work­shop for this asso­cia­tion, I encoun­te­red a group real­ly curious for what I had to offer, and real­ly rea­dy to take the chance to have a moment of fun toge­ther, a moment of interaction. 

The acti­vi­ty that I remem­ber them enjoying the most was one of my acti­vi­ties cal­led Silent Rhythms. I request each par­ti­ci­pant to per­form a silent and repe­ti­tive move­ment, but I ask to the other par­ti­ci­pants if they, by lis­te­ning with their eyes, can hear some­thing in their ima­gi­na­tion. If ima­gi­na­tion can pro­duce a sound. Gui­ded by this move­ment, and most of the time people can, in fact, pro­duce some­thing that responds to that movement. 

In the second round of people per­for­ming a move­ment, the people oppo­site in the circle to the mover give voice. We sing the move­ment that we hear in our ima­gi­na­tion. People com­men­ted that it was real­ly com­for­ting to hear your move­ment through the voice of some­bo­dy else. Hea­ring some­bo­dy giving voice to your body, it’s a way of loo­king, it’s a way of

paying atten­tion to the other but brings to the sur­face that web of reci­pro­ci­ty that connects eve­ry­bo­dy in a group, but which is not always evident. It’s not always easy to per­ceive and to feel. I think that that is also a hint of one of the ways that music can be of bene­fit to people that expe­rience peni­ten­tia­ry : to feel this recon­nec­tion to others in a dif­ferent way.

Why and how is music use­ful in the context of rehab and incarceration ?

So what can a music pro­gram bring to inmates or for­mer inmates ?

The first thing is ali­ve­ness. Consi­der someone who is facing a guilt, who is coming to terms with a pain that they might have cau­sed, and dif­fi­cult sto­ries. All of these come with a real­ly hea­vy bur­den to car­ry and upon which to elaborate.

In order to live this pro­cess, an indi­vi­dual needs to be able to connect back to the part of them­selves that is a mas­ter life. The part that can laugh, that can feel a joy, that can feel plea­sure is fun­da­men­tal to face a deman­ding pro­cess like the one that inmates are facing.

So, music can bring ali­ve­ness in the form of pas­sion, of groo­ving, of playing. Playing in the sense of playing an ins­tru­ment, but also having fun, which is real­ly impor­tant. Second, a music pro­gram can offer a way to connect to one­self and a way to connect to others. As I was saying, eve­ry per­son sen­ten­ced to peni­ten­tia­ry has pro­ba­bly the need to gain owner­ship over their own sto­ry, ela­bo­ra­ting what hap­pe­ned in the chain of events that brought them there, and at the same time fin­ding again their very own sub­jec­ti­vi­ty. Their own voice among the many voices that sen­ten­ced them and to label them to their posi­tion. It’s impor­tant to find full agen­cy by themselves.

Music and sup­port music pro­grams can help to regain a sense of self. A sense of inti­ma­cy, the sense of indi­vi­dua­li­ty, which is fun­da­men­tal for the pro­cess of ela­bo­ra­tion of the guilt and of gai­ning owner­ship. And final­ly, when most for­mer inmates are met, they car­ry a strong pro­tec­tive shell, which is a natu­ral res­ponse to hos­tile envi­ron­ment, such as the one of the penitentiary.

A music pro­gram within a peni­ten­tia­ry, after a pro­cess, or at the time of deten­tion can offer the par­ti­ci­pants a safe space, a sense of bro­the­rhood or sis­te­rhood, where mutual recog­ni­tion can hap­pen. Where reci­pro­ci­ty and nor­ma­li­ty, a nor­mal sense of warmth, of human warmth can be ins­tal­led, which can great­ly sup­port an expe­rience of huma­ni­ty. That can be hea­ling, in rela­tion to the more ins­ti­tu­tio­na­li­zed and more cold expe­rience of life as expe­rien­ced in a penitentiary.

Thank you so much.

Self-care before, during and after the project

Self-care before, during, and after the pro­ject. My own expe­rience about the self-care doesn’t come from wor­king in the peni­ten­tia­ry, but more wor­king in an urban com­mu­ni­ty. Which is a real­ly dif­ferent context but what is in com­mon with the peni­ten­tia­ry is that as an edu­ca­tor you will find your­self wit­nes­sing some real­ly chal­len­ging life expe­riences. A second ele­ment in com­mon is that these are expe­riences to which most people in socie­ty are not real­ly expo­sed, which will make you feel a bit more alone at some point. And we’ll talk about it in a minute. 

So the first thing that comes to mind about self-care is to make sure to be paid enough for this contract. Which may sound fun­ny but what I think is that when wor­king such a pro­ject, you need to make sure to allo­cate enough time for the brie­fing, for ela­bo­ra­ting what you’re expe­rien­cing, and to be fair­ly paid so that you can pay your rent without the pres­sure of loo­king for that extra contract to feel more safe, this will be real­ly impor­tant. It’s not a mat­ter of gree­di­ness, it’s just a mat­ter of giving your­self the time for ela­bo­ra­ting. Of course, this is also the second ele­ment, consi­de­ring that you will need time for elaboration. 

 The third ele­ment is consi­de­ring the resources in the asso­cia­tion or the ins­ti­tu­tion you will be wor­king for in terms of part­ner­ship. Which are the other indi­ca­tors and which is the rela­tion­ship you will be esta­bli­shed with them. Will it be a part­ner­ship also on debrie­fing and ela­bo­ra­ting the pro­ject toge­ther or not. How much time will you’ll be spen­ding ? The other per­son doing this job ? These are impor­tant things to know. What is the basis of this col­la­bo­ra­tion, and also what is your role in car­rying out this pro­ject. What is expec­ted from you, and how your role fits in the same ove­rar­ching struc­ture on which you’re an actor, but not ful­ly in charge of all the res­pon­si­bi­li­ty of the pro­ject. It is real­ly impor­tant to have cla­ri­ty around your world. To be able to place your­self in that project. 

 Ano­ther ele­ment is, before the end of the pro­ject, to ana­lyze your net­work, your own per­so­nal net­work which are the friends that can offer a good lis­te­ning part­ner, but also qua­li­fied or com­petent lis­te­ning. As I was saying, in my own expe­rience when I was living in the North, I felt some resis­tance to share cer­tain sto­ries to my friends about what I wit­nes­sed. It felt somew­hat dis­res­pect­ful to bring up cer­tain sto­ries without offe­ring a com­plete context in which that sto­ry took place. And this context is real­ly dif­fi­cult to pro­vide sometimes. 

 It is real­ly chal­len­ging to tell. There are so many things that I still couldn’t name or couldn’t figure out myself to explain the context I was living in, but it was dif­ferent if I was tal­king to some­bo­dy who actual­ly lived the same expe­rience and had alrea­dy a sense of what I was tal­king about. So, it’s real­ly good to veri­fy if you alrea­dy have some­bo­dy in your net­work with simi­lar expe­riences that could be a good part­ner to debrief, to have a lis­te­ning ear.

Final­ly, and espe­cial­ly if it’s a long-term pro­ject, it’s real­ly good to read ins­pi­ring expe­riences of other people that work in a simi­lar context and who faced simi­lar pro­blems. It’s real­ly soo­thing at times to make your­self be accom­pa­nied in this way, by some­bo­dy else that went through the same path. Actual­ly, there will be more with what they wan­ted to share and some­times also a real­ly good laugh. And you will be facing some real­ly hard life expe­riences and you need, in the week, to recon­nect to your own vita­li­ty, to wha­te­ver makes you feel real­ly alive. 

For the inmates, they need to connect to what is real­ly alive for them, what is real­ly fun and joy­ful and you will need to do the same for your­self each week. A col­league in the north told me that you need to make sure to be hap­py at least three times a day. It’s fun­ny but I think it’s such a pre­cious sug­ges­tion. To be sure to connect to your life ener­gy, to the most vital part of you each week, and if pos­sible three times a day. Because that will be so impor­tant for you to be in a in a context that is dif­fi­cult, to be full strength. 

Don’t super­charge your­self with the dark part because we real­ly need the live­ly part in order to to be in this context. Don’t be afraid to be light and to be funny.

Why to car­ry out a pro­ject in peni­ten­tia­ry 

Why car­ry out a pro­ject in a peni­ten­tia­ry, or in ano­ther com­plex place ? Maybe it sounds like a fun­ny ques­tion to ask but I wan­ted to do this tuto­rial and I was ins­pi­red by a sen­tence of Geno­stra­da, the foun­der of ‘Emer­gen­cy Asso­cia­tion’ that pro­vi­ded medi­cal sup­port in war zones.  He men­tio­ned that people wan­ted him to say that he was doing what he was doing as a ser­geant, in such context, because it was a good cause because it was moved by a real­ly good inten­tion. But he wasn’t shy to say that he was doing that sim­ply because he real­ly enjoyed doing it. That’s the reason. 

Then we rephra­sed it in a dif­ferent way, using a sen­tence by Lila Wat­son that real­ly ins­pi­red me at the time. Lila Wat­son says, “If you have come to help me, you’re was­ting time, but if you have come because your libe­ra­tion is bound to mine, let’s work toge­ther.” I think this sen­tence was real­ly of help for me to place myself, and in a context where I faced people facing real­ly dif­fi­cult situa­tions but fin­ding a way that’s of strong resi­lience and a strong per­so­nal capacity.

In a way, it hel­ped me to this awa­re­ness to keep a balance, fee­ling res­pon­sible for myself, res­pon­sible who I was, res­pon­sible for my pro­fes­sio­na­li­ty, but also rea­li­zing that this res­pon­si­bi­li­ty entai­led to not take over res­pon­si­bi­li­ties of other people. In fact, doing so would have would have depri­ved these people of their own res­pon­si­bi­li­ty, of their own capacity. 

And always remem­be­ring the rea­son why I was there, but it was my own rea­son. These allow me to remem­ber that each per­son has his life or her life sto­ry, and bet­ter ack­now­led­ging our uni­que­ness is and our dif­fe­rence is the basis for allo­wing this encoun­ter where each can offer the other per­son some­thing impor­tant for our own path as human beings.

Thank you. 


For more info on Gere­mia Lodi, see their artist pro­file HERE. For a taste of what Gere­mia Lodi does, see the fol­lo­wing pro­jects fea­tu­red on the PCM Hub :

Silent Rhythms

Body Per­cus­sion For The Family

For more info on Music In Incar­ce­ra­tion & Reha­bi­li­ta­tion, see HERE

Moe Clark – On Making Music with Indigenous Youth In Lockdown and Carceral Settings

As part of the Music in Incar­ce­ra­tion & Reha­bi­li­ta­tion Resource, Moe Clark des­cribes her expe­rience as a two-spi­rit Métis artist making music with at-risk Indi­ge­nous youth in lock­down and car­cé­ral set­tings. She speaks to cultu­ral sen­si­ti­vi­ties and the impor­tance of connec­ting with elders when wor­king with Indi­ge­nous youth.

On her artis­tic prac­tice and work in car­ce­ral settings

(Intro­duc­tion in nēhiyawē­win – Plains Cree language)

Hel­lo eve­ryone, I’ve just intro­du­ced myself in nēhiyawē­win (Plains Cree lan­guage), one of my ances­tral lan­guages. I’m a two-spi­rit Métis artist ori­gi­nal­ly from Cal­ga­ry, Alber­ta and trea­ty seven, but I cur­rent­ly reside in Tiohtià:ke / Moo­niyang on the unsea­ted ter­ri­to­ry of the Kanien’kehá:ka, the Mohawk people here in Montreal. 

I’m a mul­ti-dis­ci­pli­na­ry artist. I focus pri­ma­ri­ly on spo­ken word poe­try, song crea­tion, wor­king with indi­ge­nous lan­guages, inter­ge­ne­ra­tio­nal and inter­cul­tu­ral col­la­bo­ra­tive prac­tices and pro­cesses. I like to cen­ter land-based prac­tices and approaches in the work I do, whe­ther to be wor­king actual­ly on the land, or wor­king with the land of our bodies and our ter­ri­to­ries, as tools for deco­lo­ni­za­tion, self-deter­mi­na­tion, and col­lec­tive co-creation. 

I frame my work around the medi­cine wheel, dra­wing from Métis-Cree world­view, loo­king at the holism of the body, the per­son, the spi­rit, and the mind. I like to begin from a place of mus­ca­sa­win, which is a nēhiyawē­win term which refers to belon­ging, fin­ding one’s place within the circle. A lot of the work I do frames around the circle, loo­king at how we can approach prac­tices from an equal place of belon­ging, of sto­ry­tel­ling, of com­mu­ni­ty, and orien­ting our­selves as both tea­cher and student. So we’ve all got some­thing to learn, we’ve all got some­thing to teach.

As one of my late elders Bob Smo­ker always says « I’m gon­na need you, as much as you’re gon­na need me ». This is real­ly cen­tral to the work I do in and out­side of lock­down and incar­ce­ral set­tings. I began wor­king in lock­down faci­li­ties through a local lite­ra­ry arts orga­ni­za­tion in Mon­treal, as part of a wri­ting and poe­try work­shop. These ses­sions ran for 10 weeks where I would go to the loca­tion once a week and I would work col­la­bo­ra­ti­ve­ly with the exis­ting tea­cher or peda­go­gi­cal spe­cia­list and a group of at-risk indi­ge­nous youth. The thing that felt real­ly suc­cess­ful about these work­shops was that there was consis­ten­cy, in that it wasn’t just a one-time event. It was recur­ring so it hel­ped me to esta­blish trust and make bonds with the stu­dents over the course of those 10 weeks. It hel­ped me to iden­ti­fy the needs of the stu­dents, their capa­ci­ties, abi­li­ties and slow­ly create a space where more open­ness and more unders­tan­ding of my work and prac­tices could be embo­died and inter­na­li­zed for the stu­dents, so that they could actual­ly make some of the tools and tech­niques that I was brin­ging to them their own. 

On a pro­ject with Indi­ge­nous youth in a car­ce­ral set­ting 

Hi eve­ryone. My name is Moe Clark. I’m a two-spi­rit Métis mul­ti-dis­ci­pli­na­ry artist and I’d like to share a lit­tle bit about the value and impor­tance of short-term pro­jects within lock­down and incar­ce­ral set­tings, wor­king with at-risk unde­rage indi­ge­nous youth. 

So for me these work­shops began through a local lite­ra­ry orga­ni­za­tion who acted as a host to connect me as a poet-artist-voca­list with a local faci­li­ty here in Mon­treal. I want to main­tain ano­ny­mi­ty so I will not express or name any of the orga­ni­za­tions or ins­ti­tu­tions per­so­nal­ly. I will say that these ses­sions were incre­di­bly valuable and dyna­mic in that I would attend the faci­li­ty one hour per week, over the course of 10 weeks. I would work col­la­bo­ra­ti­ve­ly with the host tea­cher with a group of anyw­here bet­ween 5 and 10 youth. To begin the pro­jects, I under­took trai­ning through a local fami­ly ser­vices orga­ni­za­tion to explore sen­si­ti­vi­ty notions of trau­ma and how to col­la­bo­rate and work with at-risk youth who might be in pre­ca­rious situations. 

In addi­tion to this, I call on my own tool­kit and bundle which includes expe­rience with soma­tic expe­rien­cing which is an embo­died approach to the­ra­py and a trau­ma-infor­med lens. It explores and looks at the body as a site of memo­ry and crea­ti­vi­ty, as well as a site of a lot of expe­riences. I also draw from prac­tices of medi­cine wheel tea­chings, which real­ly looks at the four direc­tions and the who­lism of the per­son that we have a phy­si­cal, a men­tal, a spi­ri­tual, and an emo­tio­nal body. So real­ly exa­mi­ning and explo­ring these four bodies as essen­tial aspects to who and how we are in the world. I also draw from expe­riences of over 20 years of crea­tive faci­li­ta­tion, in and out­side of indi­ge­nous com­mu­ni­ties, with at-risk youth, with youth with disa­bi­li­ties, and inter­ge­ne­ra­tio­nal and inter­cul­tu­ral collaboration. 

Throu­ghout the course of these 10 ses­sions, we explo­red dif­ferent tools and tech­niques of crea­tive wri­ting and often wor­ked from prompts from other indi­ge­nous authors and crea­tors and musi­cians. Whe­ne­ver pos­sible I tried to use tools and prompts that incor­po­ra­ted indi­ge­nous lan­guage and cultu­ral­ly spe­ci­fic fra­mings that were spe­ci­fic to the youth I was wor­king with. 

I don’t claim to know eve­ry­thing there is to know about being indi­ge­nous. I have my own expe­riences as a Métis artist who grew up in the sub­urbs of Cal­ga­ry and cur­rent­ly lives in Tiohtià:ke in Mon­treal, but being able to draw from a tool­kit of many dif­ferent indi­ge­nous authors, wri­ters, and musi­cians hel­ped me to create more acces­si­bi­li­ty and inclu­si­vi­ty for the youth I was wor­king with. 

One real­ly valuable tool during the work­shops was col­lec­tive crea­tive wri­ting and col­lec­tive song­wri­ting. This gave youth the oppor­tu­ni­ty to voice their ideas and their sto­ries, and to build rela­tion­ships with one ano­ther, without the neces­si­ty of having to be lite­rate, having to have good wri­ting skills, and they were able to laugh. They were able to make dif­ferent sounds.

They were able to mimic and explore dif­ferent sounds from their land­scapes where they were rai­sed, and where they grew up, and where they had cur­rent­ly been taken out of, in order to reha­bi­li­tate in a lock­down faci­li­ty in an urban set­ting. To conclude these 10 work­shops, we crea­ted a chat book and this chat book was ack­now­led­ged and cele­bra­ted and each student left with their own copy of it as a keep­sake and as a memoir when they left the faci­li­ty and conti­nued on in their lives. So that’s it for short-term pro­jects in lock­down and incar­ce­ra­ted situations.

On cultu­ral sen­si­ti­vi­ties when wor­king with Indi­ge­nous youth 

Hi eve­ryone. My name is Moe and I am a two-spi­rit mul­ti-dis­ci­pli­na­ry metis artist. I’d like to talk now about cultu­ral sen­si­ti­vi­ties and pro­to­cols when wor­king with incar­ce­ra­ted youth, 

spe­ci­fi­cal­ly indi­ge­nous youth as a Métis artist and crea­tor. I’ve wor­ked exten­si­ve­ly with indi­ge­nous com­mu­ni­ties folks coming from dif­ferent nations, dif­ferent walks of life, dif­ferent per­so­nal and col­lec­tive histories. 

I think, first and fore­most, what’s impor­tant to note and what’s impor­tant to do your home­work on, is what are some of the his­to­ri­cal sys­te­mic and cultu­ral notions that have led to the cur­rent situa­tion of the youth or the com­mu­ni­ty you’re wor­king with. So I real­ly like to exa­mine and look clo­se­ly at the his­to­ry and impacts of resi­den­tial schools, on the his­to­ry and impact of contact in dif­ferent com­mu­ni­ties. So, when did set­tler com­mu­ni­ties come into Indi­ge­nous com­mu­ni­ties and how has that impac­ted the cultu­ral conti­nuum, lan­guage conti­nuum, and tra­di­tio­nal land-based prac­tices of that com­mu­ni­ty. And I like to bring these notions into the work so that I can exa­mine and explore, and also faci­li­tate from a place that is more know­led­geable, and more aware and cultu­ral­ly sen­si­tive to what the par­ti­ci­pants might be expe­rien­cing, and how those expe­riences have been infor­med and impac­ted because of sys­te­mic situa­tions and colo­ni­za­tion. So that’s step one. 

Step two is also loo­king at an unders­tan­ding that each indi­ge­nous people and each indi­ge­nous nation have dif­ferent cultu­ral contexts, dif­ferent lan­guages, and dif­ferent prac­tices of rela­ting, of expres­sing, of com­mu­ni­ca­ting. And this type of pro­cess is one that as you conti­nue to work in the com­mu­ni­ty, you become fami­liar and you get to know and you build rela­tion­ships with the communities.

So I think that’s real­ly the most impor­tant not to make assump­tions, to come with as much infor­ma­tion as you can, and to main­tain a level of curio­si­ty and open­ness to lear­ning about and lear­ning from the com­mu­ni­ties you’re wor­king with. 

In addi­tion to this, I always ensure that I am wor­king with a coun­cil of elders, of com­mu­ni­ty, people that I know and I’ve built trus­ting rela­tion­ships with so that wha­te­ver I take with me when I leave those work­shops, I can pro­cess and work through with the sup­port and cultu­ral sup­port of elders. So this might include wor­king with plant medi­cines, wor­king with dif­ferent hea­ling tools. So that wha­te­ver I might have picked up during the work­shops, wha­te­ver trau­mas and chal­lenges might have been sha­red or expres­sed, I also have a method and a pro­cess of wor­king through those dif­fi­cul­ties. And in rela­tion­ship and in conver­sa­tion with elders and coun­sel, whe­ther that be other arts faci­li­ta­tors, other tea­chers, I’m also able to speak to and to pro­cess some of the chal­lenges that have come up, some of the things where I didn’t neces­sa­ri­ly know how to respond, to deve­lop and fur­ther my tool­kit to be a bet­ter ally and a bet­ter advo­cate for the needs of the stu­dents and the par­ti­ci­pants I’m wor­king with.

On the impor­tance of connec­ting with Elders when wor­king with Indi­ge­nous youth 

Hi eve­ryone. My name is Moe and I am a two-spi­rit mul­ti-dis­ci­pli­na­ry metis artist. I’d like to talk now about cultu­ral sen­si­ti­vi­ties and pro­to­cols when wor­king with incar­ce­ra­ted youth, spe­ci­fi­cal­ly indi­ge­nous youth as a Métis artist and crea­tor. I’ve wor­ked exten­si­ve­ly with indi­ge­nous com­mu­ni­ties folks coming from dif­ferent nations, dif­ferent walks of life, dif­ferent per­so­nal and col­lec­tive histories. 

I think, first and fore­most, what’s impor­tant to note and what’s impor­tant to do your home­work on, is what are some of the his­to­ri­cal sys­te­mic and cultu­ral notions that have led to the cur­rent situa­tion of the youth or the com­mu­ni­ty you’re wor­king with. So I real­ly like to exa­mine and look clo­se­ly at the his­to­ry and impacts of resi­den­tial schools, on the his­to­ry and impact of contact in dif­ferent com­mu­ni­ties. So, when did set­tler com­mu­ni­ties come into Indi­ge­nous com­mu­ni­ties and how has that impac­ted the cultu­ral conti­nuum, lan­guage conti­nuum, and tra­di­tio­nal land-based prac­tices of that com­mu­ni­ty. And I like to bring these notions into the work so that I can exa­mine and explore, and also faci­li­tate from a place that is more know­led­geable, and more aware and cultu­ral­ly sen­si­tive to what the par­ti­ci­pants might be expe­rien­cing, and how those expe­riences have been infor­med and impac­ted because of sys­te­mic situa­tions and colo­ni­za­tion. So that’s step one. 

Step two is also loo­king at an unders­tan­ding that each indi­ge­nous people and each indi­ge­nous nation have dif­ferent cultu­ral contexts, dif­ferent lan­guages, and dif­ferent prac­tices of rela­ting, of expres­sing, of com­mu­ni­ca­ting. And this type of pro­cess is one that as you conti­nue to work in the com­mu­ni­ty, you become fami­liar and you get to know and you build rela­tion­ships with the communities.

So I think that’s real­ly the most impor­tant not to make assump­tions, to come with as much infor­ma­tion as you can, and to main­tain a level of curio­si­ty and open­ness to lear­ning about and lear­ning from the com­mu­ni­ties you’re wor­king with. 

In addi­tion to this, I always ensure that I am wor­king with a coun­cil of elders, of com­mu­ni­ty, people that I know and I’ve built trus­ting rela­tion­ships with so that wha­te­ver I take with me when I leave those work­shops, I can pro­cess and work through with the sup­port and cultu­ral sup­port of elders. So this might include wor­king with plant medi­cines, wor­king with dif­ferent hea­ling tools. So that wha­te­ver I might have picked up during the work­shops, wha­te­ver trau­mas and chal­lenges might have been sha­red or expres­sed, I also have a method and a pro­cess of wor­king through those dif­fi­cul­ties. And in rela­tion­ship and in conver­sa­tion with elders and coun­sel, whe­ther that be other arts faci­li­ta­tors, other tea­chers, I’m also able to speak to and to pro­cess some of the chal­lenges that have come up, some of the things where I didn’t neces­sa­ri­ly know how to respond, to deve­lop and fur­ther my tool­kit to be a bet­ter ally and a bet­ter advo­cate for the needs of the stu­dents and the par­ti­ci­pants I’m wor­king with.


For more info on Moe Clark, see their artist pro­file HERE. For a taste of what Moe Clark does, see the fol­lo­wing pro­ject fea­tu­red on the PCM Hub :

Sound Sto­ries From the Land

For more info on Music In Incar­ce­ra­tion & Reha­bi­li­ta­tion, see HERE

Hugh Chris Brown – On Making Music in Prisons

As part of the Music in Incar­ce­ra­tion & Reha­bi­li­ta­tion Resource, Hugh Chris Brown des­cribes his expe­rience in making music in his pro­gram Pros & Cons and it’s ori­gins, the effi­ca­cy of music in pri­sons, what making music brought him and the inmates, and self-care prac­tices he uses to sus­tain him­self in this work.

On his first steps esta­bli­shing the pri­son arts pro­gram Pros & Cons

Hi, my name is Hugh Chris­to­pher Brown. I iden­ti­fy as he/him, always open to sug­ges­tions for impro­ve­ment. My expe­rience with incar­ce­ra­tion and rehab has stem­med sole­ly from a music pro­gram that I deve­lo­ped cal­led the “Pros and Cons » music program. 

Ini­tial­ly, it was a res­ponse to the clo­sing of the agri­cul­tu­ral pro­grams in pri­sons, a very high­ly suc­cess­ful pro­gram that was being shut down. As a musi­cian, I just thought « Oh I’ll get inside and do what I know how to do and do some­thing posi­tive in there ». Because I didn’t feel that a bene­fit for incar­ce­ra­ted people or offen­ders was actual­ly going to work, I rea­li­zed at that time that we were dea­ling with a vul­ne­rable popu­la­tion. They were vul­ne­rable because they had per­pe­tra­ted harm to others, which is a hard thing for people to get their heads around. Over the course of the last 10 years, it’s grown to mul­tiple ins­ti­tu­tions. It’s now a natio­nal cha­ri­ty and it’s gone from song­wri­ting work­shops to buil­ding recor­ding stu­dios in pri­sons and relea­sing the recor­dings that are made by the inmates that are then lin­ked to cha­ri­table pur­suits of the per­pe­tra­tor’s choice. So it’s a model of res­to­ra­tive jus­tice and a way of har­nes­sing peo­ple’s time inside of sen­tences in a fruit­ful way. 

My first steps to get­ting inside were through buil­ding rela­tion­ships, in my case, with Kate John­son who was a pri­son cha­plain and made those first work­shops pos­sible. Fol­lo­wing that, it was about buil­ding rela­tion­ships with inmates them­selves asking them what was wor­king, get­ting their advice. I always thought I would build a pro­gram and then give it to Cor­rec­tions but both inmates and Cor­rec­tions offi­cials them­selves said no. This is wor­king because it’s inde­pendent and people are coming in of their own volition. 

Fur­ther rela­tion­ships star­ted being built with pro­gram­ming offi­cers and the local Regio­nal Depu­ty com­mis­sio­ner’s office, which was inva­luable. To this day, I would say com­mu­ni­ca­tion and rela­tion­ships are pri­ma­ry. I’ve also been men­to­red by people who’ve done work in pri­sons for years and in dif­ferent aspects, eve­ry­thone from cor­rec­tio­nal offi­cers to people coming run­ning well­ness and health activities.

The­re’s a lot to learn and a lot of people have alrea­dy done those basic steps, so learn from them.

On the effi­ca­cy of music in prisons

Okay, I’m just going to speak a lit­tle bit now on the effi­ca­cy and pur­pose of music, and, I would say, the arts in gene­ral in incar­ce­ra­ted populations. 

One of the things that’s very dif­fi­cult is the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with cri­mi­na­li­ty, both as a stig­ma­ti­zing fac­tor, and then as a means of self-defense inside. What I have noti­ced is folks coming into groups, either recor­ding or sin­ging, will be reticent to share. To lite­ral­ly open their mouths. Then all of a sud­den you’re par­ti­ci­pa­ting in music and it’s attrac­tive. And music is a tem­po­ral art. You have no other alter­na­tive but to be present, and that present tense as pain­ful as it is, music and art is an emo­tio­nal plat­form which can help ease that chal­lenge. I have seen it mul­tiple times where folks go from being total­ly reclu­sive to com­ple­te­ly enthu­sias­tic, because once they’ve cros­sed that thre­shold, they want to share that expe­rience with others. 

It’s also giving people the reins to their own lives. Music is some­thing that they can work on pri­va­te­ly. It’s not ordai­ned or jud­ged by others pri­ma­ri­ly, although they will ask me quite often. They just want me to treat them like any other pro­fes­sio­nal musi­cian, which I do. The pur­pose of this pro­ject keeps chan­ging and expan­ding. At first, it was a res­ponse to the can­cel­la­tion not only of the Agri­cul­tu­ral pro­grams, but the modi­fi­ca­tion of the cha­plain­cy and the can­cel­la­tion, in some cases, of the culi­na­ry programs.

And so, it was filling a void. Now, what it’s doing a decade in, is employing people on the out­side, both in music, engi­nee­ring, spe­ci­fic tasks, but also some­times in com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­zing. I’m brin­ging inmates back inside to work with cur­rent­ly incar­ce­ra­ted people because that incar­ce­ra­tion at that moment goes from being a lia­bi­li­ty to an asset. So I, as a musi­cian, can do a lot of work when I bring in someone who’s been inside. Mere­ly by their pre­sence, they’re doing work that I can’t neces­sa­ri­ly do. So the pur­pose has expan­ded as a way of glea­ning an employable aspect out of the expe­rience of incar­ce­ra­tion. Hope­ful­ly that expands for us as the pro­gram expands, now that we’re a natio­nal cha­ri­ty. That’s one of the aspects that the music might serve someone when they get out of pri­son in terms of re-inte­gra­tion. The other way that it defi­ni­te­ly serves is just in socia­li­zing people while they’re inside.

On pri­son culture, and issues expe­rien­ced by inmates inside and out­side pri­sons 

The other way that it defi­ni­te­ly serves is just in socia­li­zing people while they’re inside. Incar­ce­ra­ted popu­la­tions can be very iso­la­ted, very encam­ped, and the music just natu­ral­ly becomes ecu­me­ni­cal. It becomes sha­red across dif­ferent cultures. We’ve had an expe­rience where in one case, a white inmate was making music with rap­pers and he was saying, « If my fami­ly knew I was in the room with black people they would disown me ». As you know, not a sho­cking sta­te­ment, and also some­thing that then led to weeks of conver­sa­tion, and I would think would affect that per­son’s atti­tude when they’re on the outside. 

By taking care of music toge­ther and by crea­ting a pro­per form of inter­de­pen­dence, I think we wit­ness what other people are use­ful for. We build trust and we rea­lize that a lot is pos­sible when we have that trust. And that trust that has often been denied to folks who end up in pri­son long before their incar­ce­ra­tion. Some of the cultu­ral sen­si­ti­vi­ties I’d say that we have to reco­gnize are from the gene­ral popu­la­tion. I’ll start with the stig­ma­ti­za­tion of incar­ce­ra­tion and sca­pe­goa­ting the­re­by, because it’s easy to pick on someone who’s alrea­dy been fin­ge­red for doing harm and then trig­ge­ring people who are trau­ma­ti­zed. If they meet someone who’s a per­pe­tra­tor of a crime that they’ve suf­fe­red very often, it’s going to be trig­ge­ring for them.

So these are chal­lenges that we’re mee­ting in our pro­gram as folks gra­duate, and as we inte­grate them. The dif­ferent ways of addres­sing this, I would say, imme­dia­te­ly stem from com­mu­ni­ca­tions and then just fol­lo­wing the legal codes as they are. You know, it’s cal­led Cor­rec­tions. It’s not cal­led ‘draw and quar­ter in the public square and throw people away’. We work under the tenant that eve­ryone is res­pon­sible and no one is dis­po­sable. Some people can’t hang with that and you don’t want to push but­tons. Howe­ver, expo­sing those kind of pre­ju­dices is what we need to do as a civil socie­ty if we’re going to advance. And we have gone from dra­wing and quar­te­ring people in the public square to incar­ce­ra­tion. Hope­ful­ly we can get a lit­tle more per­fect constantly.

The other cultu­ral sen­si­ti­vi­ty, of course on the part of incar­ce­ra­ted folks, is impos­ter syn­drome. When people start taking res­pon­si­bi­li­ty for them­selves, it’s sca­ry. I mean you’ve been depen­ding on an ins­ti­tu­tion almost the way we are when we’re in school, and so how that is met is by actual­ly being vul­ne­rable your­self. 

I, as an artist, have to relate all the time. « Oh yeah I was sca­red shit­less that time on stage », or this is what I lear­ned from this per­son, or when I bring in people to do work­shops and an incar­ce­ra­ted per­son will say to me, « Wow I lear­ned a lot that day » … I lear­ned a lot that day ! So regu­la­ting and put­ting your­self on the same level as people real­ly helps to address that state of impos­ter syn­drome which can be debilitating.

It can be debi­li­ta­ting for all of us, let alone people who have ser­ved time.

On ano­ny­mi­ty, and the ethics of content creation

In terms of the ethics around content crea­tion and what hap­pens to it, I can speak spe­ci­fi­cal­ly to our model, which is ano­ny­mi­ty in release of the music. So what that does well is it pro­tects the per­pe­tra­tor. It also pro­tects vic­tims who could be trau­ma­ti­zed if they saw someo­ne’s name tied to a piece of work which might have been very ear­nest­ly made, but still it wouldn’t mat­ter to them. So ano­ny­mi­ty, it pro­tects both sides from being tar­ge­ted and at the same time you give crea­tive control and owner­ship to the creator.

So we work on publi­shing, on tea­ching people how to real­ly regu­late and control their own content. They can always do ver­sions when they’re on the out­side. The stuff that they make for the pro­gram is put out free of charge, tied to cha­ri­table works. So it’s a way of har­nes­sing the time that people are spen­ding inside in a very pro­duc­tive way. Using that time to bene­fit others, and kee­ping it clear of the com­mer­cia­li­za­tion, and any other thing that might kind of hot­ly become under criticism.

On what making music in pri­sons brings to him and to inmates

I guess the other thing to talk about is so you know why I’m doing this. I saw the agri­cul­tu­ral pro­grams being des­troyed that had a 0.1 % reci­di­vism rate, mea­ning no one who went through those pro­grams were reof­fen­ding. And I star­ted to unders­tand the rea­sons why were because they were loo­king to load pri­sons, and break some­thing, and ratio­na­lize pri­va­ti­za­tion. It just see­med so cyni­cal and dark to me that I just nee­ded to become enga­ged and invol­ved. Music is one of my prin­ci­pal enga­ge­ments with the world, so that’s what I had to offer. I think very qui­ck­ly it became evident to me how impor­tant music is, when I saw it create so much ener­gy. And the­re’s lots of sto­ries of people being reu­ni­ted with their fami­lies through this work, and a gro­wing concern for each other in incar­ce­ra­ted states. 

People have been saying to me when they’re about to go and get parole, « Oh I don’t want to leave until this pro­ject’s fini­shed » or « Are you going to stay here because this was very impor­tant to my friend who’s still invol­ved here. » And just that notion that they’re thin­king in a out­side method to me is a por­tion of free­dom that this work is affor­ding the indi­vi­dual by their own work. And what I consi­der suc­cess is when I see that. The­re’s two or three people who have been with this pro­gram a long time that at the end of the day, if it was only about those three people, the decade of work has been worth it. It’s esti­ma­ted that over a thou­sand have gone through our pro­gram. We’re loo­king to expand and natio­na­lize currently.

That will be great. The suc­cess is real­ly, real­ly per­so­nal and very indi­vi­dual, and the amount that I’ve lear­ned doing this has dee­pe­ned and rei­gni­ted my rela­tion­ship to music and myself.

On self-care and dis­cer­ning your role when wor­king in pri­sons 

All of this work is dee­ply emo­tio­nal. We’re very keen into the expe­rience of others, so it takes a great deal of self-care. Some of the things that I prac­tice are meditation.

I per­so­nal­ly sit an hour a day. I find that’s very, very help­ful for me to dis­cern what my role is with others. When you’re facing folks who have had a rough go, the seduc­tion is the fee­ling that you can fix. That’s not real­ly what we’re here for. We’re just here to abide and present ano­ther option, and art can help make that attrac­tive. And if you can get out of that ego men­ta­li­ty that you’re fixing or hel­ping, again, put­ting your­self on the same level as eve­ryone else, that’s good self-care. It’s kind of let­ting your­self off the hook of res­pon­si­bi­li­ty that way, and I’d say again, making your­self vul­ne­rable. It’s heal­thy. It can be sca­ry but it’s the only way I know how to do it. And 10 years in, I’ve had expe­riences where I’ve done the­ra­peu­tic work, plant medi­cines, well­ness work, the pri­son work never comes up within that context as some­thing that is taxing me. Quite the oppo­site, it actual­ly is giving to me.

It might not be what you’d expect, but when you’re in a place where eve­ry moment of atten­tion is appre­cia­ted, it is very, very, very posi­tive and you just have to divorce your­self from that ego side – of the cor­rec­tor or fixer. 

You’re not that, you’re just a friend really.


For more info on Hugh Chris Brown, see their artist pro­file HERE. For a taste of what Hugh Chris Brown does, see the fol­lo­wing pro­jects fea­tu­red on the PCM Hub :

Pros & Cons

Get­ting Star­ted in Cor­rec­tio­nal Institutions

For more info on Music In Incar­ce­ra­tion & Reha­bi­li­ta­tion, see HERE

Leah Abramson – On Making Music In Prisons

As part of the Music in Incar­ce­ra­tion & Reha­bi­li­ta­tion Resource, Leah Abram­son des­cribes her expe­riences making music in a women’s pri­son in the pro­ject Women Rock, the chal­lenges she encoun­te­red, and what making music brought her and the inmates.

On her first steps making music in prisons

Hi, my name is Leah Abram­son. My pro­nouns are she and her. I’m a musi­cian, com­po­ser, and ins­truc­tor based in Van­cou­ver, BC – on the unce­ded ter­ri­to­ries of the Mus­queam, Squa­mish, and Tseil-Wau­tuth Nations. 

I began wor­king with incar­ce­ra­ted women in 2008. I star­ted as a volun­teer tea­ching music les­sons and, after a few years of volun­tee­ring where I could, I star­ted a pro­gram cal­led Women Rock, which was loo­se­ly based on the Port­land Girls Rock Camp model to teach rock band ins­tru­ments, then song­wri­ting and then help them to form a band. Those pro­grams ended around 2016. 

So ini­tial­ly to get star­ted, I loo­ked up the Eli­za­beth Fry Orga­ni­za­tion to find out how to become a volun­teer, and they sort of put me in the right direc­tion. But I didn’t join them or any­thing like that . Then, I also had to contact the pri­son itself and the social pro­grams offi­cer there to see what nee­ded to hap­pen, in order for me to come in and bring ins­tru­ments there, and to talk spe­ci­fics about who might want to learn, who might want to be a student there. 

So I went through volun­teer trai­ning, just gene­ral volun­teer trai­ning for the pri­son which was a few ses­sions, then orga­ni­zed it with the social pro­grams offi­cer. I kind of did it myself but, in order to find those contacts, Eli­za­beth Fry was helpful. 

On the chal­lenges of get­ting music into prisons

It was actual­ly har­der than I thought to go in and pro­vide a free service. 

The­re’s  a lit­tle bit of skep­ti­cism on the pri­son’s part – why would you want to come in and do this, and why do you real­ly need to bring in all these ins­tru­ments ? I sup­pose there is the most skep­ti­cism around the Rock Band pro­gram because rock band, in gene­ral, is not seen as a reha­bi­li­ta­tive sort of music or reha­bi­li­ta­tive sort of acti­vi­ty.  It’s often vie­wed as rock and roll, deviant, sex, drugs, etc., which was defi­ni­te­ly not our pro­gram. In fact, mee­ting people where they are in terms of the music can be quite reha­bi­li­ta­tive, in terms of lear­ning an ins­tru­ment and get­ting good at some­thing from week to week. 

But we had to pro­vide a lot of infor­ma­tion, demons­tra­ting what had been done in the past in dif­ferent places, in order to convince the pri­son autho­ri­ties. I guess that it was a wor­thw­hile acti­vi­ty. Also brin­ging ins­tru­ments in, eve­ry­thing needs to be scan­ned, eve­ry­thing needs to be pro­vi­ded as a list befo­re­hand. So you need to know exact­ly what you’re taking in. So it’s a chal­lenge. Just on a real orga­ni­za­tio­nal level. Often also, the pri­son is quite far away from Van­cou­ver so it’s quite a drive. So the­re’s a com­mute of about an hour and a half each way in traf­fic depen­ding on the timing. Then the­re’s fun­ding which is a whole other thing. 

So for Rock Band for Women Rock I was able to part­ner with an orga­ni­za­tion cal­led Ins­tru­ments Of Change which fun­draises eve­ry year for things like this. So, at the time, we were able to pay our­selves that way. But when I was ini­tial­ly just volun­tee­ring, that was just volun­tee­ring. So fin­ding fun­ding for these things can be real­ly dif­fi­cult as well. Again, because the­re’s this idea that music is sort of an unne­ces­sa­ry thing or it’s just not neces­sa­ri­ly as impor­tant as edu­ca­tion or other things that people might learn. The­re’s a view that it’s sort of icing on the cake that people don’t need, which is defi­ni­te­ly not my point of view. But I think the­re’s the per­cep­tion that it’s not some­thing that people should get. It’s almost like the­re’s this puni­tive idea that people should be suf­fe­ring for what they did, ins­tead of reha­bi­li­ta­ting and loo­king at their lives that way. 

So those are some of the things that were a barrier.

On the impor­tance of music in prisons

It’s an expe­rience I think of fond­ly. It had its chal­lenges for sure. It’s not an easy place to go to eve­ry week. It’s defi­ni­te­ly some­thing that you digest throu­ghout the week that you think about a lot in your day-to-day after­wards. You’re mee­ting lots of people from dif­ferent walks of life, who have poten­tial­ly had a very dif­ferent life from you. Also, there are simi­la­ri­ties where you think, “oh if my life had gone slight­ly dif­fe­rent­ly that could have been me. I could be lear­ning music here ins­tead of this per­son”. So it makes you think a lot about your life and cir­cum­stances, and upbrin­ging and pri­vi­leges in the world, and things like that. 

But it was also very mea­ning­ful giving people the oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn music, which is some­thing that I can’t ima­gine my life without. I think it is just so mea­ning­ful for people in their lives and it’s a skill that they can take with them on the out­side as well. I know that some people have and it conti­nues to enrich their lives, just giving people those musi­cal skills to car­ry on. 

I hope that the­re’s a way to create more oppor­tu­ni­ties for this, in a way that’s per­haps even natio­nal. A way for people to unders­tand how impor­tant it is to have arts pro­gram­ming in incar­ce­ra­ted set­tings. And I hope to find a way to cen­tra­lize so that people can more easi­ly find their way inside to pro­vide things like this.

There is one part of the pro­gram that I did where we actual­ly did recor­dings, and a num­ber of women were star­ting to write songs and we actual­ly wor­ked with them to make recor­dings that they could send to their fami­lies. And a num­ber of women sent songs to their chil­dren. That was one of the most mea­ning­ful things, and I think it was a real way for them to express them­selves and also connect with their fami­lies when they weren’t other­wise able to. Some­times their fami­lies lived far away and it was a real­ly mea­ning­ful expe­rience for them to com­mu­ni­cate in that way.

For more info on Leah Abram­son, see their artist pro­file HERE
For a taste of what Leah Abram­son does, see the fol­lo­wing pro­jects fea­tu­red on the PCM Hub :
For more info on Music In Incar­ce­ra­tion & Reha­bi­li­ta­tion, see HERE.

Sound Waves : An Approach to Layered Soundscape-Making

Sound Waves shares an approach to laye­red sound­scape-making that responds to research themes through mul­tiple art forms, in order to create inclu­sive and acces­sible sound­scapes, for groups of inter­ge­ne­ra­tio­nal mixed-abi­li­ty sin­gers, that can be laye­red into musi­cal com­po­si­tions. These sound­scapes can be pre­cise, impro­vi­sa­tio­nal and infu­sed with par­ti­ci­pant pers­pec­tives and experiences.


This inter­dis­ci­pli­na­ry work­shop demons­trates an approach to com­mu­ni­ty-enga­ged music making that comes out of prac­tices and approa­ched deve­lo­ped by Ruth Howard and Jum­blies Theatre + Arts.


The pro­cess was deve­lo­ped by Shi­fra Cooper, through com­po­si­tions by Binae­shee-Quae Nabi­gon Cou­chie,   infor­med by prac­tices deve­lo­ped by Ruth Howard and Jum­blies Theatre + Arts. It is part of the pro­duc­tion of What Was My Backyard ? a musial show co-pro­du­ced by Jum­blies, The Com­mu­ni­ty Arts Guild and Theatre Direct. inclu­ding over 100 sin­gers through The Gather Round Sin­gers and UTSC Concert Choir, and key contri­bu­tions from asso­ciate artists Tija­na Spa­sic, Nata­lie Fasheh and Patrick Murray.


We invite you to fol­low, enjoy and adapt these steps for sound­scape-crea­tion, to suit your own inter­ests and contexts. If you are inter­es­ted in the themes or pro­duc­tion of What Was My Backyard ?,  please don’t hesi­tate to be in touch for infor­ma­tion about licen­sing the music or show.


Sound Waves : An Approach to Laye­red Sound Making


1. Build Rela­tion­ships and Do Research

This flexible sound-crea­tion pro­cess can be as brief as one work­shop, or take many ses­sions, enri­ched by dee­per explo­ra­tions and gro­wing rela­tion­ships. Our col­la­bo­ra­tive work­shops grew out of many rich, long-term fac­tors, including :

  • Lear­ning from expert, inter­dis­ci­pli­na­ry com­mu­ni­ty-enga­ged artists at Jum­blies Theatre + Arts

  • Col­la­bo­ra­tions with Indi­ge­nous and non-Indi­ge­nous artists through the What Was My Backyard ? Project

  • And inves­ting in The Gather Round Sin­gers Choir as an inclu­sive, wel­co­ming, all ages cho­ral space for sin­gers of all expe­rience levels.

2. Share Research
In our case, this was a pre­sen­ta­tion by Com­po­ser Binae­shee-Quae to the choir about the role and impor­tance of Water within the musi­cal piece

But this could be any source content sha­red by an expert of any kind !


3. Choose an Image

Choose an image from what was sha­red. Our image was a wave, but you could choose any image that connects to your context. Examples could include : leaves, music notes, foot­prints, fish etc). Create enough copies so that each sin­ger can have one ; card­board and pas­tels are recom­mend. (See pro­ject score or video for examples).

4. Gene­rate Text
Come up with simple ques­tions that will invite com­mu­ni­ty res­ponses to the research sha­red. Use these to gene­rate text and write them on your card­board images. our ques­tions were :

  • Think of an out­door space that you spend time in, either cur­rent­ly, or in your own memory/personal history.

  • What is some­thing you know or won­der about the Indi­ge­nous and ancient his­to­ry of this place ?

5. Play with Move­ment and Sound
Lead par­ti­ci­pants through impro­vi­sa­tions to respond to key images and ideas. Our impro­vi­sa­tions star­ted with move­ment, led by Tija­na Spa­sic, slow­ly adding com­mu­ni­ty-gene­ra­ted move­ments and sounds to acti­vate our waves.

6. Select a Sound Vocabulary
Out of your impro­vi­sa­tions and explo­ra­tions, decide on a sound voca­bu­la­ry of 2–4 dis­tinct prompts. Our sound prompts for moving water were deve­lo­ped by Com­po­ser Binae­shee-Quae out of com­mu­ni­ty explo­ra­tions : Drip, Swish, Ahh. Take time to build sound­scapes using this voca­bu­la­ry and build fami­lia­ri­ty with the impro­vi­sa­tio­nal form.

7. Infuse the Sound Voca­bu­la­ry with Text

Invite com­mu­ni­ty sin­gers to choose one word they have writ­ten down. For example, if someone wrote : “I know this was once full of grass,” they might choose the word grass.

Prac­tice per­for­ming this word in a varie­ty of ways (ex : whis­per, sing, stretch) to build confi­dence and fami­lia­ri­ty with it.


Then, map this word against the sound voca­bu­la­ry to build a new sound­scape, infu­sed with par­ti­ci­pant stories/perspectives. For example, in our sound­scape, this would mean per­for­ming the word grass in the style of a Drip, Swish, and Ahh.


See pro­ject video for an example of this in action !


8. Layer in Other Music/Movement

Once your sound­scape is esta­bli­shed, you can layer in other forms, inclu­ding the move­ment gene­ra­ted in ear­lier steps.


Your sound­scape may accom­pa­ny a move­ment piece, or ano­ther melo­dy. In our case, the water sound­scape accom­pa­nied a solo melo­dy as part of the What Was My Backyard ? per­for­mance. See our pro­ject video to expe­rience these layers coming together.



For more infor­ma­tion about The Gather Round Sin­gers or What Was My Backyard ? visit


For more infor­ma­tion about Binaeshee-Quae’s music, visit

Energy Matters Workshop (Part A): Embodied Listening to Energy Crisis

Art causes people to ques­tion or consi­der their own beliefs, assump­tions, or values. It can offer new pos­si­bi­li­ties, solu­tions, and alter­na­tives to cur­rent condi­tions. Sound Arts enhance our capa­ci­ty to notice the world in unu­sual ways. Art helps us to lis­ten bet­ter. There are many bene­fits of lis­te­ning to the world dee­ply as it culti­vates empa­thy, trust, inclu­sion, com­pas­sion, and more. Hil­de­gaard Wes­ter­kamp, the pio­nee­ring sound­scape com­po­ser writes :

“Lis­te­ning not only grounds us within our own inner world from which ins­pi­ra­tion springs, but most impor­tant­ly, it ins­pires new ideas, and new approaches to stu­dying the sound­scape, and it changes the qua­li­ty of sound­ma­king, spea­king and musi­cal expres­sion. Taking the time to lis­ten goes against today’s 24/7 sta­tus quo of a hec­tic pace and stress, of racing toward riches and suc­cess, of never having time and always being impor­tant­ly busy. In this lar­ger context, lis­te­ning is a conscious prac­tice in lear­ning to change our pace in a socie­ty dan­ge­rous­ly spee­ding out of control. Out of that doing comes an enti­re­ly new expe­rien­tial know­ledge.” (THE DISRUPTIVE NATURE OF LISTENING : TODAY, YESTERDAY, TOMORROW, p.47)

As part of my artist resi­den­cy at FUTURES/Forward, the Inter­na­tio­nal Cen­ter of Arts for Social Change (ICASC) fun­ded by the Cana­da Coun­cil for the Arts and the Met­calf Foun­da­tion and Tri­co Chan­ge­ma­kers Stu­dio at Mount Royal Uni­ver­si­ty fun­ded by the Cal­ga­ry Arts Deve­lop­ment, I part­ne­red with Alber­ta Eco­trust to apply my artis­tic prac­tice of deep lis­te­ning and sound­scape com­po­si­tion to ini­tiate arts-ins­pi­red dia­logue on ener­gy affordability.

Ener­gy is an increa­sing concern for many Cana­dians ; howe­ver, spea­king about (un)affordability conti­nues to hold the stig­ma among­st people who are expe­rien­cing dif­fi­cul­ties paying the ener­gy bills on the one hand and on the other hand the issue is not prio­ri­ti­zed by new regu­la­tions for clean elec­tri­ci­ty and Canada’s prompt tran­si­tion to net zero. In the series of com­mu­ni­ty-enga­ged arts work­shops, Ener­gy Mat­ters, we invol­ved sta­ke­hol­ders to address ques­tions such as : How vital is ener­gy affor­da­bi­li­ty in deve­lo­ping #sus­tai­nable #cities ? How do cli­mate change and Canada’s tran­si­tion to Net­Ze­ro impact low-income groups strug­gling with ener­gy affor­da­bi­li­ty ? Why must affor­dable hou­sing inte­grate ener­gy affordability ?

The acti­vi­ties out­li­ned in this por­tal would be help­ful to any envi­ron­men­tal orga­ni­za­tion hol­ding a simi­lar kind of arts-ins­pi­red dia­logue on the cli­mate cri­sis, ener­gy jus­tice, and cli­mate jus­tice. The gui­ded medi­ta­tion atta­ched to this pro­ject would help prac­ti­tio­ners in crea­ting a safe and inclu­sive space where par­ti­ci­pants could dis­cuss their work on ener­gy poverty.

1) Begin each work­shop by crea­ting a safe space that brings toge­ther the community’s unders­tan­ding of what “safe space” means and how it would be nurtured.

2) Wel­come com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers into the space and prac­tice an acti­vi­ty for groun­ding and cen­tring that helps indi­vi­duals to over­come their resis­tance and nur­tures more open­ness. This can be done with a medi­ta­tion that brings atten­tion to the breath and to the sen­so­ry sti­mu­li around or with a wal­king meditation.

Here is an example of a gui­ded prac­tice and the atta­ched score and video is an example of how it is conduc­ted in a work­shop set­ting. See the score below for a down­loa­dable ver­sion. You can find audio examples of simi­lar gui­ded medi­ta­tion prac­tices for work­shops in the gui­ded medi­ta­tion links below.


Wal­king Medi­ta­tion for Groun­ding and Lis­te­ning to the Earth’s Pulse

Stand with feet about shoul­der-width apart. Shoul­ders relaxed, soles of the feet connec­ted to the earth, knees a lit­tle soft, palms at the sides. Eyes are in soft focus, seeing everything.



Adopt a natu­ral stance. Bring your atten­tion to the soles of the feet. Ima­gine that you are gro­wing roots down into the earth. Let the roots be your ancho­ring to the earth.

Since the soles of the feet let the ener­gy of the body sink into the soles and roots. The knees are a lit­tle soft to pro­mote circulation.

Shoul­ders are relaxed. Palms of the hands relaxed.



Visit your heart and allow a very plea­sant memo­ry to emerge.

Visua­lize and light up your spine tra­vel­ling from the tip of the tail­bone, ver­te­bra by

ver­te­bra up into the skull.

Ima­gine a gol­den thread shoo­ting out of the crown of your head to a dis­tant star.

Ima­gine that the upper part of your body is floa­ting sus­pen­ded from a star. Try to

balance the fee­ling of the lower body roo­ted to the earth and the relaxed floating

sen­sa­tion of the upper body.

The chin is tucked under a bit to help ali­gn the spine.

Try to bring your body into this ali­gn­ment at dif­ferent times of the day whe­ther you are

sit­ting, stan­ding or walking.



Now repeat this affir­ma­tion : With each step, I feel the earth hol­ding me, sup­por­ting me, sus­tai­ning me. I am simul­ta­neous­ly slo­wing each breath.”

Thank you for joi­ning me in this gui­ded practice.

*The words and phrases in square bra­ckets need not be said aloud. It is to help the gui­ded prac­ti­tio­ner to pause as the medi­ta­tion tran­si­tions from one phase into another.

  1. After this gui­ded medi­ta­tion, the par­ti­ci­pants can be enga­ged in ques­tions for reflec­tions on the jam board fol­lo­wed by acti­vi­ties that engage them in an artis­tic acti­vi­ty and a dia­logue per­tai­ning to ener­gy acces­si­bi­li­ty. For more details, please refer to part b) and part c) of this project.

Energy Matters Workshop (Part B): An Auditory Approach to Energy Accessibility

Art can become a means to inte­grate mar­gi­na­li­zed voices into the conver­sa­tion. It can voice aspects of the issue not other­wise expres­sed in public docu­ments or poli­cy sta­te­ments. Art helps us to lis­ten bet­ter. How might we har­ness the power of arts to explore issues around ener­gy acces­si­bi­li­ty ? Ener­gy affor­da­bi­li­ty is an increa­sing concern for many Cana­dians ; howe­ver, spea­king about (un)affordability conti­nues to be pro­ble­ma­tic. In the series of com­mu­ni­ty-enga­ged arts work­shops, Ener­gy Mat­ters, we invol­ved sta­ke­hol­ders to address ques­tions such as : How vital is ener­gy affor­da­bi­li­ty in deve­lo­ping sus­tai­nable cities ? How do cli­mate change and Canada’s tran­si­tion to Net Zero impact low-income groups strug­gling with ener­gy affor­da­bi­li­ty ? Why must Affor­dable Hou­sing inte­grate ener­gy affordability ?

I was pri­vi­le­ged to col­la­bo­rate (as the FUTURES/for­ward and Tri­co Chan­ge­ma­kers Studio’s artist-in-resi­dence in co-crea­ting and faci­li­ta­ting the Ener­gy Mat­ters pro­ject) with Alber­ta Eco­trust (SEE the LINKS BELOW for more infor­ma­tion) and their part­ners (ACORN, Kam­bo, Ener­gy Effi­cien­cy, All One Sky, and others) in their Ener­gy Pover­ty and Home Upgrades Pro­gramEner­gy Mat­ters was a series of par­ti­ci­pa­to­ry arts work­shops where par­ti­ci­pants (sta­ke­hol­ders who were ener­gy advo­cates within their orga­ni­za­tions, inclu­ding Home Upgrades pro­gram staff at Alber­ta Eco­trust and advo­cates from Ecotrust’s part­ners : ACORN, All One Sky, and Cal­ga­ry Alliance for the Com­mon Good) enga­ged in arts-based dia­logue around ener­gy pover­ty using crea­tive acti­vi­ties to reflect on the ways ener­gy affor­da­bi­li­ty is connec­ted with cli­mate change and the pro-poor poli­cies that could gene­rate more equi­ty.  The pro­ject was based on inter­sec­tio­nal ethics of care that loo­ked at the ways ener­gy affor­da­bi­li­ty impacts various sec­tions of our socie­ty, inclu­ding seniors, people with disa­bi­li­ties, women, and newcomers.

Each work­shop star­ted with an acti­vi­ty that invol­ved embo­died deep lis­te­ning and attu­ning the ear to approach ques­tions about ener­gy unaf­for­da­bi­li­ty from an audi­to­ry approach that faci­li­tates crea­ting sound arts for social change. Refer to Part A in PCM hub to see an example of this acti­vi­ty. Part B will assist you in crea­ting prompts for par­ti­ci­pants to reflect on.


1)    Fol­lo­wing a gui­ded medi­ta­tion, involve the par­ti­ci­pants in an audi­to­ry reflec­tion acti­vi­ty that per­tains to their eve­ry­day rea­li­ties and their expe­rience of them. See below for examples :

Example 1 : What is the one sound that you heard this mor­ning that brought you here today. [See the atta­ched video]

Example 2 : What are the sounds that you find agreeable and calming ?

Example 3 : What are the sounds that you find unplea­sant and dis­rup­ting your comfort ?


2)    Next, engage the par­ti­ci­pants in a reflec­tion that per­tains to their work on ener­gy accessibility.

See the images below as an example of how the par­ti­ci­pants were invol­ved in a cri­ti­cal­ly self-reflexive dia­logue that ensu­red the crea­tion of a space of open­ness and mutual res­pect where they sha­red the biases and pre­ju­dices that they bring to their work on ener­gy acces­si­bi­li­ty. Par­ti­ci­pants were asked to ques­tion the biases and pre­ju­dices they bring to their work addres­sing ener­gy inac­ces­si­bi­li­ty. What are the limi­ta­tions to their lis­te­ning to people expe­rien­cing the cri­sis of ener­gy affor­da­bi­li­ty ?  [See the res­ponses of one group in the jam board in the image gal­le­ry below]


3)    Ask par­ti­ci­pants to read other res­ponses on the jam board and share their pers­pec­tives. [See the atta­ched video for an example of this activity].



Energy Matters Workshops (PART C): Deep Listening to Energy Accessibility with Sound Recording Activities

The Ener­gy Mat­ters work­shop series was loca­ted at the inter­sec­tions of inter­dis­ci­pli­na­ry and par­ti­ci­pa­to­ry sound art for cli­mate action and jus­tice, invol­ving sto­ries, sounds, word bubbles, ges­tures, and move­ment. In these work­shops, we co-crea­ted deep lis­te­ning expe­riences and new sound­scape com­po­si­tions based on artis­tic acti­vi­ties faci­li­ta­ted by Shu­mai­la Hema­ni. The content of these work­shops will be adap­ted to tai­lor par­ti­ci­pants’ needs, inter­ests, and assets.

We aimed at crea­ting a safe and inclu­sive space where par­ti­ci­pants can dis­cuss their work on ener­gy pover­ty, what brought them to this work, and how it has impac­ted the ways they unders­tand and engage with the concept of home or dwel­ling. It will give them a space to share how their sub­jec­ti­vi­ty (age, race, gen­der, disa­bi­li­ties, etc.) influences how they approach ener­gy poverty.

We inves­ti­ga­ted the present unders­tan­ding of this sub­ject within Alber­ta and Cana­da, and what kinds of chal­lenges or stig­mas people confront in acces­sing sup­port to ensure ener­gy affor­da­bi­li­ty. To ensure equi­ty, inclu­sion, and fair­ness, we enga­ged the par­ti­ci­pants in a cri­ti­cal­ly self-reflexive dia­logue that ensures crea­ting a space of open­ness and mutual res­pect. One such prac­tice could be gathe­ring par­ti­ci­pants’ pre­cepts around pover­ty and ener­gy consump­tion, ener­gy tran­si­tions, and ener­gy pover­ty through a varie­ty of crea­tive activities.

There are many bene­fits of dee­ply lis­te­ning to the world as it culti­vates empa­thy, trust, inclu­sion, com­pas­sion, and more.

1) Ini­tiate a dia­logue on ener­gy acces­si­bi­li­ty by asking the par­ti­ci­pants to lis­ten to their domes­tic set­tings and how dif­ferent sounds in their spaces make them feel.

Example of a Prompt : How do you lis­ten to the sources of ener­gy and ener­gy consump­tion around you such as the bur­ning of fos­sil fuels through fur­naces, engines, and more ? Can you list the sounds of ener­gy consump­tion in your domes­tic set­tings and how you relate to those sounds ? [See the image below for how par­ti­ci­pants respon­ded on the jam board] [Lis­ten to the atta­ched audio to see how par­ti­ci­pants des­cri­bed the sounds in their domes­tic settings]


2) Ask the par­ti­ci­pants to make any sound recor­dings of the ener­gy end uses in their domes­tic set­tings. Allot 5 minutes for this activity


3) Ask the par­ti­ci­pants to share any sound recor­dings of the ener­gy end uses in their domes­tic set­tings and why did they choose this sound, how do they relate to this sound, and whe­ther are there any memo­ries that this sound brings to their mind ? [Lis­ten to the atta­ched audio for an ite­ra­tion of this activity]


4)    Next, engage the par­ti­ci­pants in a dia­logue about their jour­neys and work on ener­gy acces­si­bi­li­ty. [See the atta­ched video of par­ti­ci­pants tal­king about how they came to this work.

Example of a prompt : How do you relate to the ques­tion of ener­gy inac­ces­si­bi­li­ty in your life ? Reflect on defi­ning moments that ins­pi­red you to become advo­cates, lea­ders, chan­ge­ma­kers, and artists addres­sing ener­gy pover­ty. (Watch the video below for an ite­ra­tion of this activity.)



Energy Matters Workshops (PART D): Deep Listening to Energy Accessibility with Dialogues on Energy Accessibility

The sound­scape com­po­ser, Hil­de­gaard Wes­ter­kamp writes, “True recep­tive lis­te­ning comes from an inner place of non-threat, sup­port and safe­ty. Para­doxi­cal­ly, while a groun­ded and calm state of mind, a sense of safe­ty, peace and relaxa­tion are essen­tial for ins­pi­ring per­cep­tual wake­ful­ness and a willin­gness and desire to open our ears, nor­mal rou­tines, habits and pat­terns will be dis­rup­ted and laid bare in such a pro­cess of lis­te­ning ; noises and dis­com­forts inevi­ta­bly will be noti­ced, and all kinds of expe­riences will be stir­red and unco­ve­red. Lis­te­ning in fact implies a pre­pa­red­ness to meet the unpre­dic­table. and unplan­ned, to wel­come the unwel­come. As such, lis­te­ning is inhe­rent­ly dis­rup­tive as it puts a wrench into the habi­tual flows of time, and habi­tual beha­viour of dai­ly life. ” (THE DISRUPTIVE NATURE OF LISTENING : TODAY, YESTERDAY, TOMORROW, p.45)

Is there a sin­gu­lar expe­rience of ener­gy pover­ty ? The experts des­cribe ener­gy pover­ty as an ele­phant in the room being explo­red by people who unders­tand ener­gy pover­ty from their own posi­tio­na­li­ty. Yet, des­pite the ambi­gui­ty of this term, there conti­nues to be a high degree of stig­ma around dis­cus­sing ener­gy inac­ces­si­bi­li­ty in public debates. What is usual­ly men­tio­ned in the reports is impor­tant but equal­ly so is that which is left unsaid or does not find its way into the mains­tream conver­sa­tion. In these arts-based acti­vi­ties, we will re-dis­co­ver those places of vul­ne­ra­bi­li­ty that make us look at ener­gy pover­ty through a com­pas­sio­nate lens.


1) Dis­tri­bute a recent report on ener­gy inac­ces­si­bi­li­ty or a rele­vant topic and ask the par­ti­ci­pants to reflect on it in advance. Example : Clean Elec­tri­ci­ty report by Cana­dian Cli­mate Ins­ti­tute publi­shed in June 2023 (please see score sec­tion for report).


2) Involve par­ti­ci­pants in a dia­logue about the report.  Use the fol­lo­wing prompts as an example :

Prompt 1 : What do folks think about this report ?
Prompt 2 : Has this report mis­sed anything ?

Prompt 3 : Are the sta­tis­tics to be accep­ted as facts or is there some­thing that the report is not saying ?


3) Depen­ding on the com­fort level of par­ti­ci­pants, go dee­per and take a more ana­ly­ti­cal and cri­ti­cal stance by asking a direct ques­tion where their exper­tise will be prompted.

Example 1 : The report says that clean elec­tri­ci­ty is chea­per. Do you agree/disagree and why ?

Example 2 : Are there any other ideas that are coming to your mind ?


[Watch the video example as an ite­ra­tion of this activity]

sonic cellphone meditation

This sonic medi­ta­tion allows par­ti­ci­pants to impro­vise vocal­ly while explo­ring an out­door space with others. It is an oppor­tu­ni­ty to walk while sin­ging, obser­ving the constant­ly chan­ging sounds of other sin­gers and phones. It is also an oppor­tu­ni­ty to lis­ten to the effects of phy­si­cal space on cer­tain sounds as well as the evol­ving res­ponses of other sin­gers. It invites focal lis­te­ning (to one’s own cell­phone) as well as glo­bal lis­te­ning (to the other voices, other cell­phones and sur­roun­ding sounds.

The cell­phone, using a free app ( plays a series of GPS trig­ge­red sounds as par­ti­ci­pants walk through each zone. Ins­truc­tions are given (soni­cal­ly) at the begin­ning of the walk, invi­ting sin­gers to either sing in uni­son or on any other note any­time in res­ponse to the sonic prompts they receive from their phone. The prompts are easi­ly pro­gram­mable on the Echoes app.

In one case, the words “here” and “now” were sung on exten­ded tones and played in dif­ferent zones around a park area. Gra­dual­ly par­ti­ci­pants began to explore inter­ac­ting with each other. See video below.

It is social sin­ging while being out­doors, ideal­ly in a public space giving eve­ryone equal foo­ting on the area. (GPS is not as effec­tive indoors).

Where : Any out­door area with any par­ti­cu­lar inter­est, geo­gra­phi­cal­ly, social­ly, logistically
Dura­tion : 20 minutes would be a minimum
Participants/Target Audience : Anyone who loves group sin­ging and listening.
Group Size : Any size is pos­sible. The grea­ter the num­ber, the more vocal and cell­phone prompts, enri­ching the sonic possibilities.

Find a site that you would like to explore vocal­ly with others, one that you enjoy being in. Use the app to create your own walk by crea­ting “zones” of any size filled with any sound you like, on a loop or just once. Invite par­ti­ci­pants to down­load the free app which plays your walk when ente­ring the desi­gna­ted zones. One can stay in any zone for any length of time.

Par­ti­ci­pants sing along in uni­son or any other note any­time in each zone. Other sonic medi­ta­tions can be crea­ted from dif­ferent kinds of sonic prompts to eli­cit dif­ferent kinds of vocal responses.

« The chal­lenge of com­po­sing loops, their tona­li­ties and rhythms, was ins­pi­ring for me. To hear stac­ca­to orches­tral hits, on my device and then mil­li­se­conds later on another’s tick­led me. To hear har­mo­nies and dis­so­nances dance at their own whim also was endea­ring.  » Josh Four­ney, participant.

Newcomer Youth Engagement Program : Music and Literacy

The New­co­mer Youth Enga­ge­ment pro­ject connects music and lite­ra­cy while also connec­ting our uni­ver­si­ty and a com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tion that sup­ports edu­ca­tio­nal ini­tia­tives for new­co­mers to Canada.

Who we are : Our music team at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Sas­kat­che­wan part­ne­red with the Sas­ka­toon Indus­try Edu­ca­tion Coun­cil and New­co­mer Youth Enga­ge­ment Pro­gram which is fun­ded by Immi­gra­tion, Refu­gees and Citi­zen­ship Cana­da.   There are approxi­ma­te­ly 18 stu­dents in each of the two classes, and they range from 17–21 years of age.

Our goals : Toge­ther, our team has deve­lo­ped ori­gi­nal cur­ri­cu­la and we engage the stu­dents each week in musi­cal acti­vi­ties of sin­ging and playing ins­tru­ments that connect to themes of their lan­guage stu­dies to deve­lop lan­guage skills in writ­ten and oral communication.

An impor­tant goal of the col­la­bo­ra­tion is to “Cele­brate that everyone’s music is Cana­dian music and contri­butes to the fabric of Canada’s culture” and that this lear­ning expe­rience will faci­li­tate the sha­ring of the stu­dents’ cultures and sup­port the youths’ sense of belon­ging and connec­tion to their own culture and the new coun­try to which they are integrating.

Songs of Success :

1) The music we use in our ite­ra­tive cur­ri­cu­lum desi­gn invites the music from the stu­dents’ coun­tries of ori­gin and we also use some tried and tes­ted ear­ly years songs in English that teach voca­bu­la­ry and deve­lop their lite­ra­cy skills.

2) We have incor­po­ra­ted Popu­lar Music songs throu­ghout the pro­gram. As the stu­dents’ lan­guage skills deve­lo­ped and we had deve­lo­ped a rela­tion­ship of trust where they felt valued through their music, we explo­red concepts of rhythm and beat through contem­po­ra­ry songs that they sha­red from their coun­tries of ori­gin. We also incor­po­ra­ted some more contem­po­ra­ry English songs into the lan­guage stu­dies and the stu­dents respon­ded very favou­ra­bly to lear­ning the words, themes, mes­sages and mea­nings of the songs we introduced.

Com­ple­men­ting Acti­vi­ties : Since many of the stu­dents would have heard the songs, we could focus on writ­ten lite­ra­cy skills through rea­ding and wri­ting the words.

We incor­po­ra­ted various acti­vi­ties with the lyrics inclu­ding post-it note acti­vi­ties in which stu­dents had to uns­cramble the phrases in the song or song titles to put them in order, or find the incor­rect words (often rhy­ming words) on the board and cor­rect them with the pro­per word found in the song.

At the end of the year, we com­pi­led a play­list of the songs we have lear­ned and sung that show­ca­sed the stu­dents’ art­work from their art class that high­ligh­ted the theme of each song.

Les­son Struc­ture :  A les­son is one hour and fol­lows a typi­cal les­son struc­ture as follows :

  • Wel­come song
  • Call & res­ponse rhythms & melodies
  • Lear­ning new songs – (Gra­phics on screen, hand ges­tures – to indi­cate oppo­sites, contrac­tions, literal/figurative, etc. – and tac­tile & kines­the­tic acti­vi­ties – post-it note games, assemble a snow­man on the board, stand up when your bir­th­day is sung in the “Months of the Year” song, raise hand when we sing an adjec­tive, etc. are all essen­tial as we learn new song lyrics.)
  • Playing per­cus­sion ins­tru­ments (lis­ten & play-back exer­cises, playing along to a song, fin­ding the beat of a song, and using ins­tru­ments to help create word-based rhythms)
  • A review of today’s learning
  • Good­bye song

Pro­ject Outcomes :

  • Increa­sed social bonding/cohesion
  • Increa­sed lan­guage com­pre­hen­sion, faci­li­ty, and fluen­cy which can even be mar­ked by obser­va­tions of stu­dents using lan­guage for humour
  • Ease of com­mu­ni­ca­tion through singing
  • Rich oppor­tu­ni­ties to explore new words, gram­mar concepts, col­lo­quia­lisms, connec­tions, and ideas pro­vi­ded through exa­mi­na­tion of song lyrics
  • The sense of pride & belon­ging stu­dents demons­trate when their favou­rite music and places from their home coun­tries are part of class activities.
  • Increa­sed agen­cy in their deci­sion-making and input for artis­tic choices

Birdsong Course

Bird­song course

Desi­gned and imple­men­ted in Plai­sance by Fré­dé­rique Dro­let and Mariane Lacroix (2022)

1. Context

The bird­song course was desi­gned by Fré­dé­rique Dro­let (sopra­no) and Mariane Lacroix (natu­ra­list from Parc natio­nal de Plai­sance) in 2022. The acti­vi­ty was crea­ted spe­ci­fi­cal­ly for the Grand défi orni­tho­lo­gique des parcs natio­naux, orga­ni­zed on June 11, 2022 by the Sépaq net­work, the maga­zine Qué­be­cOi­seaux and the bird wat­ching clubs of seve­ral regions of sou­thern Que­bec. It has been deve­lo­ped for an inter­ge­ne­ra­tio­nal fami­ly audience, sui­table for bird­wat­ching enthu­siasts or neophytes.

This work­shop was desi­gned to combine :

  • The edu­ca­tio­nal mis­sion of the Park regar­ding the conser­va­tion and pro­tec­tion of biodiversity
  • A crea­tive artis­tic approach through the explo­ra­tion of the voice
  • The goal is to make art in nature and to shar­pen our sense of obser­va­tion of nature, thus ope­ning us to the infi­nite source of ins­pi­ra­tion that it offers us.

2. Edu­ca­tio­nal objectives

To dis­co­ver a num­ber of bird spe­cies in Que­bec (in par­ti­cu­lar the bree­ding birds of Parc natio­nal de Plaisance)

To learn spe­ci­fic infor­ma­tion about these birds with the help of :

  • pho­tos
  • scien­ti­fic data
  • sound recor­dings
  • warm-ups and play­ful vocal exer­cises ins­pi­red by their songs, their approaches, their characteristics
  • Learn to reco­gnize bird songs using the human voice
  • Explore the dif­ferent sounds of our voice
  • Dis­co­ver our crea­tive potential
  • Intro­duc­tion to cer­tain musi­cal and thea­tri­cal concepts such as rhythm, pitch, timbre, nuances, phy­si­ca­li­ty, etc.
  • Col­la­bo­ra­tion and socia­li­za­tion through inter­ge­ne­ra­tio­nal teamwork

3. Gene­ral course of the work­shop (90 minutes)

  1. Wel­come and pre­sen­ta­tion of the acti­vi­ty to the participants
  2. Ice­brea­ker game in a circle to get to know each other and esta­blish the group dynamic
  3. Vocal, body and rhyth­mic warm-up acti­vi­ties ins­pi­red by birds
  4. Dis­co­ve­ry of the bree­ding birds of the Parc natio­nal de Plai­sance (bet­ween 3 and 5)
  5. Acti­vi­ty of crea­ting ima­gi­na­ry bird songs
  6. Conclu­sion

4. Warm-up activities

Most of the warm-ups are ins­pi­red by birds from here and elsew­here, whe­ther by their song, their call, their gait, their phy­si­cal cha­rac­te­ris­tics or cer­tain cha­rac­te­ris­tics of their habi­tat or behaviour.

To ela­bo­rate these warm-ups, we can be ins­pi­red by the obser­va­tion of birds in our envi­ron­ment, but also by videos, recor­dings (the Mer­lin Birds appli­ca­tion is a real trea­sure!), books and pho­tos. Here are some examples :

  • Stret­ching and mobi­li­ty exer­cises : wrig­gling, moving only your eyes like a pigeon, sprea­ding your wings
  • Rhythm exer­cises (walking/body per­cus­sion): with fun sounds, such as moving in a hoop doing the « chi­cken cha-cha » (123-pock-pock-pock) or doing a court­ship with colou­red scarves
  • Brea­thing exer­cises (low/rhythmic brea­thing with wal­king): rap­tor glide (exhale on tsss… as long as pos­sible while exten­ding arms)

Bird ins­pi­red vocal warm-ups :

  • Wild tur­key (ah ! Gobble-gobble!)
  • Ame­ri­can Bit­tern (wood­block, water sound, tongue click, imi­tate cat­tail in the wind)
    Sin­ging spar­row (brrr…)

5. Dis­co­ve­ring nes­ting birds

This sec­tion was deve­lo­ped joint­ly with Mariane Lacroix, natu­ra­list of the Parc natio­nal de Plai­sance, with the goal of intro­du­cing par­ti­ci­pants to some of the bree­ding birds of the Park or the sur­roun­ding area, which they could then iden­ti­fy during their future walks.

The selec­tion of the few birds was made by Fré­dé­rique, from a long list pro­vi­ded by Mariane. To repro­duce bird songs with the voice (and not by whist­ling) requires many hours of lis­te­ning to the songs (on the Mer­lin Birds appli­ca­tion, for example), of vocal explo­ra­tion and… ima­gi­na­tion ! The goal is not to per­fect­ly repro­duce the bird’s song or call, but to make sure that the par­ti­ci­pants will be able to reco­gnize the bird’s song in nature after having prac­ti­ced it while having fun. For this rea­son, the birds to be pre­sen­ted in this sec­tion must be care­ful­ly selected.

Pro­ce­dure for each of the birds chosen :

  • Sin­ging quiz : the artist-media­tor does a free imi­ta­tion of the bird in ques­tion, without revea­ling its name to the par­ti­ci­pants. The par­ti­ci­pants try to guess the name of the bird in question.
  • Pre­sen­ta­tion of the bird (name, habi­tat, bio­lo­gi­cal cha­rac­te­ris­tics, pho­to, etc.) by the naturalist
  • Lis­te­ning to the bird’s song/cries on the Mer­lin Birds application
  • Vocal exer­cises and fun games ins­pi­red by the bird, sound spe­ci­fi­ci­ties : brie­fly dis­cuss cer­tain musi­cal concepts such as timbre, pitch, rhythm
  • Lear­ning the bird’s song (voice and sta­ging): break down the dif­ferent parts and create a fun lit­tle choreography !

6. Ima­gi­na­ry Bird Activity

Fol­lo­wing the pre­vious dis­co­ve­ry acti­vi­ty, which contains both infor­ma­tion about exis­ting birds and their natu­ral habi­tat, and musi­cal exer­cises, par­ti­ci­pants are now invi­ted to create their own ima­gi­na­ry bird song.

Pro­ce­dure :

  • Form teams of 2 or more people
  • Explain the process
  • Give the ins­truc­tions to be respected :
  • The song must be repeatable
  • The song must be short
  • The song must be tea­chable to the other participants
  • You must find a name for your bird
  • Give an example with cer­tain para­me­ters cho­sen at ran­dom or given by the participants
  • Invite teams to pick up colo­red scarves during their pre­pa­ra­tion, if they wish
  • Dis­tri­bu­tion of para­me­ters to teams

The para­me­ters writ­ten on paper are pre­pa­red either by the media­tor in advance, or by the par­ti­ci­pants them­selves during the work­shop (this can be a pre­pa­ra­to­ry acti­vi­ty for the crea­tion of ima­gi­na­ry bird songs, see point #7 below).

Teams can the­re­fore receive a « coco­nut » with para­me­ters alrea­dy defi­ned inside, or they can draw the para­me­ters from contai­ners. If there are 3 dif­ferent para­me­ters, 3 contai­ners will be pre­pa­red and the teams will be asked to draw one or more papers from each contai­ner, depen­ding on the esta­bli­shed parameters.

The teams have 7–10 minutes to create their bird song. If they wish, they can also find a par­ti­cu­lar phy­si­cal expres­sion for it (walk, pos­ture, etc.)

Invite teams to present their bird (the entire team can present, or desi­gnate one mem­ber to present solo)

If time per­mits, one desi­gna­ted mem­ber per team will teach the ima­gi­na­ry bird song to the entire group.

7. Set­ting para­me­ters and pos­sible pre­pa­ra­to­ry activity

It is essen­tial to pro­vide para­me­ters for ins­pi­ra­tion for the crea­tion of the bird songs, espe­cial­ly if the work­shop is for par­ti­ci­pants who have no musi­cal expe­rience. If time per­mits, I sug­gest doing a pre­pa­ra­to­ry acti­vi­ty with them to create these para­me­ters, which can then be mixed and picked up. If not, we can pro­vide para­me­ters on chart paper or « coco­nuts » with some para­me­ters inside.

Set­ting para­me­ters with participants :

In a brains­tor­ming ses­sion, invite par­ti­ci­pants to pro­pose the para­me­ters that will be used to create the bird songs. Any­thing goes, since these are ima­gi­na­ry birds ! Here are some sug­ges­ted para­me­ters with examples to ins­pire participants :

What might the ima­gi­na­ry bird’s song sound like ?
A lea­ky faucet
Someone gargling
The sound of high heels clicking
Wind rust­ling through the leaves
A car that has trouble starting

Which fami­ly would be the bird’s cousin ?

In which habi­tat could the bird live ?
In the sand
On the pla­net Mars
On the roof of a cathedral
On the water lilies

In what situa­tion is the bird ?
It is taking his bath
It meets a rival
It is loo­king for a mate
It is about to incu­bate its egg

What ono­ma­to­poeia could be found in the bird’s song ?
Gulp ! Gla !

8. Equip­ment needed :
Spea­ker and phone
Mer­lin Birds application
Bird pictures/books
Colou­red scarves

9. Notes to the Facilitator

Esta­bli­shing a joy­ful and wel­co­ming group dyna­mic is essen­tial for the acti­vi­ty to run smooth­ly. Par­ti­ci­pants should feel that this is a group explo­ra­tion ses­sion, not a tech­ni­cal sin­ging class.

Encou­rage par­ti­ci­pants by example to come up with ideas, to laugh at them­selves, to be silly… don’t take your­self too serious­ly and put your ego aside !

Ideal­ly, the acti­vi­ty takes place in nature, in a place where the group is not obser­ved by people who are not par­ti­ci­pa­ting in the acti­vi­ty. This avoids the embar­rass­ment that some par­ti­ci­pants might have and allows them to dive into the pro­po­sed acti­vi­ties in a more natu­ral way.

For more infor­ma­tion or for any ques­tions, please contact

Fré­dé­rique Dro­let, sopra­no/ar­tist-media­tor

Online group music lesson framework for collaborative creativity

This fra­me­work for online group music les­sons pro­vides a col­la­bo­ra­tive expe­rience of deve­lo­ping musi­ca­li­ty through crea­ti­vi­ty, while still encou­ra­ging each student to work inde­pen­dent­ly towards their own per­so­nal music goals.

The Fra­me­work

Each ses­sion cycles through the Kalei­do­scope Music framework :

Connec­ting & Preparing

Explo­ring & Skill Building

Crea­ting & Collaborating

Quests & Questions

Sha­ring & Reflection

See scores below for example acti­vi­ties for each part of the framework.

Length of time spent in each part of the les­son depends on focus of the group in the scope of the year plan (such as pre­pa­ring for sha­ring), and the stu­dents’ indi­vi­dual needs and inter­ests. The fra­me­work is desi­gned to adapt and use ongoing feed­back from par­ti­ci­pants to co-create with the tea­cher, while using the exper­tise of the tea­cher to faci­li­tate effec­tive acti­vi­ties and exploration.

Quests & Ques­tions is the time when stu­dents work indi­vi­dual­ly on their own pro­jects, goals, and explo­ra­tions. Examples of this include :

  • lear­ning a song they have cho­sen using sheet music or chord charts
  • wor­king through the acti­vi­ties in a method book (ie. Pia­no Adventures)
  • wor­king on a song­wri­ting pro­ject, recor­ding impro­vi­sing acti­vi­ties, etc.
  • pre­pa­ring a song for a performance

We use the pri­vate audio chan­nel fea­ture in Muzie to allow for indi­vi­dual feed­back and dis­cus­sion bet­ween each student and the tea­cher. The tea­cher cycles bet­ween stu­dents during this part of the class, kee­ping an eye on the video feed and chat for which stu­dents need assis­tance. Stu­dents should use this time to proac­ti­ve­ly work on their Quests, rather than wai­ting for the tea­cher to tell them exact­ly how to pro­ceed. This time is inten­ded to deve­lop student ini­tia­tive and inde­pen­dence, which can take time and coa­ching to culti­vate. It’s impor­tant to regard student explo­ra­tion as valuable rather than seeing it as off-track or unfo­cu­sed. For example, a student that is impro­vi­sing rather than prac­ti­cing a par­ti­cu­lar goal (like a song they had cho­sen) isn’t neces­sa­ri­ly dis­trac­ted. If they are self-selec­ting to explore ideas and tech­niques, inte­grate skills, and create new music, it may be that they are quite focu­sed indeed !

Stu­dents are encou­ra­ged to work on their Quest in bet­ween group ses­sions, and to send ques­tions via Muzie chat, Muzie clip recor­dings (short videos), or email if they feel “stuck” in bet­ween les­sons. The tea­cher can record or upload duet and backing track parts within Muzie’s audio recor­der, and the student can also make laye­red recor­dings with tea­cher accom­pa­niment (this can be done during groups or out­side of group time).

When the group comes back toge­ther to share, stu­dents have alrea­dy dis­cus­sed with the tea­cher during their 1:1 time what they would like to share, if any­thing. Some­times stu­dents per­form just for applause and some­times feed­back and reflec­tion acti­vi­ties hap­pen during this time. Stu­dents can also share about their pro­cess and dis­cuss stra­te­gies, goals, etc.

Selec­ting acti­vi­ties for each section

How do we decide how to spend our time in each class ? The faci­li­ta­tor can plan and sug­gest acti­vi­ties for the group and also stay flexible. See atta­ched scores for acti­vi­ty examples.

  • encou­rage the par­ti­ci­pants to co-create and contri­bute ideas for activities
  • lis­ten and encou­rage par­ti­ci­pants to share thoughts about what would serve their lear­ning and crea­tive journey
  • plan times to to ask the par­ti­ci­pants dis­cus­sion prompts or just to to check in (a good oppor­tu­ni­ty to see what they had on their minds and learn from their pers­pec­tive, which can also help other students)
  • ask par­ti­ci­pants to help iden­ti­fy the next steps (so that they can prac­tice self advo­ca­ting and plan­ning crea­ti­vi­ty and learning)
  • invite par­ti­ci­pants to share musi­cal or ins­pi­ra­tion brought from their lives
  • dis­cuss musi­cal ques­tions as a group and ask what the stu­dents are won­de­ring about in an open-ended way
  • invite par­ti­ci­pants to share music they have been playing or just enjoying, and try using those songs for other activities
  • repeat acti­vi­ties for seve­ral weeks, return to them inter­mit­tent­ly, or evolve and ite­rate the acti­vi­ty to explore ideas or conti­nue to deve­lop skills or techniques

The cate­go­ries of acti­vi­ty can change over time- for example, what starts out as a crea­ting and col­la­bo­ra­ting acti­vi­ty that appears mid-class after a warm-up, may become more of a warm-up acti­vi­ty if the par­ti­ci­pants are alrea­dy fami­liar with the acti­vi­ty. They may want to pick up where they left off from an acti­vi­ty in a future class, or create their own “quick start” sim­pli­fied ver­sions of an activity.

As the reper­toire of songs and acti­vi­ties deve­lops, and as the par­ti­ci­pants gain musi­cal skills and learn to col­la­bo­rate, new pos­si­bi­li­ties to extend songs and acti­vi­ties emerge. What star­ted off as just a simple song can become a long series of acti­vi­ties as the kids explore, adapt, remix, and howe­ver else they dis­co­ver to crea­ti­ve­ly make music. Some of this can be sug­ges­ted by the tea­cher but often the par­ti­ci­pants have a lot to share from their alrea­dy rich crea­tive expe­riences, innate musi­cal abi­li­ties, and intui­tive wis­dom about their musi­cal journey.

Back­ground and Context

Lau­ren Best taught pri­vate music les­sons for more than a decade in Toron­to, Owen Sound, and online. She expe­rien­ced the power of group par­ti­ci­pa­to­ry music and an empha­sis on par­ti­ci­pant crea­ti­vi­ty while faci­li­ta­ting music pro­grams as well as across mul­tiple art forms inclu­ding inter­ac­tive theatre and digi­tal media arts. She wan­ted to keep the best of what wor­ked well tea­ching pri­vate les­sons, but add the bene­fits of group music making, col­la­bo­ra­tion, and sha­ring in a peer group. By offe­ring les­sons in groups, it also allows for more oppor­tu­ni­ties for scho­lar­ships through sli­ding scale or wai­ved tuition.

In 2021 Lau­ren laun­ched online group music les­sons for ages 6+ with an empha­sis on col­la­bo­ra­tive crea­ti­vi­ty, and in 2022 the groups were rebran­ded as Kalei­do­scope Music. Groups were com­pri­sed of stu­dents who were most­ly loca­ted rural­ly or in small towns.

In year 1 (2021–2022) the pro­gram began with pia­no and uku­lele group classes in same-ins­tru­ment groups mee­ting week­ly for 1 hour. In year 2, (2022–2023) classes were chan­ged to be mixed-ins­tru­ment (pia­no, voice, and uku­lele in the same class, with student wel­come to com­bine or switch ins­tru­ments over time) and 50 minutes in length. In year 2, the groups were also offe­red for adults but there was insuf­fi­cient enrolment to create a test group with adult participants.

See atta­ched PDF tit­led « Tech Consi­de­ra­tions » for fur­ther tech­ni­cal consi­de­ra­tions and options for the teacher/facilitator.

What Kalei­do­scope Music parents say :

« ​I love that my chil­dren have some­thing that they can work at, puzzle out, play with, and pro­gress on. I can see how their pride and self-confi­dence have grown this year. »

« The best part about my child lear­ning music is seeing their inter­est and pas­sion grow deep and wide. »

« It is beau­ti­ful to watch your child learn and mas­ter a new skill, and to wit­ness them per­se­vere and grow. »

« ​What I value most about [my child’s] music les­sons is lear­ning a new musi­cal lan­guage with which to express yourself. »

Exploring Sonic Lifeworlds : Collaborative Composition in the Large Choral Ensemble

Sin­gers in this col­la­bo­ra­tive cho­ral music crea­tion pro­ject explo­red how sounds gathe­red from their eve­ry­day lives could speak to aspects of place, iden­ti­ty, and com­mu­ni­ty in new vocal sound­scape com­po­si­tions they crea­ted, gra­phi­cal­ly nota­ted, and pre­sen­ted with par­ti­ci­pa­tion from the entire choir. “Explo­ring Sonic Life­worlds” took place bet­ween Februa­ry-April 2023 with the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Scar­bo­rough (UTSC) Concert Choir, direc­tor Patrick Mur­ray, and faci­li­ta­tor jashen edwards.

This pro­ject was divi­ded into three parts, which serve as stan­da­lone acti­vi­ties and as a sequence that builds skills and unders­tan­ding around col­la­bo­ra­tive com­po­si­tion and col­lec­tive mea­ning making in sound. Below, we nar­rate the pro­cess of each of these acti­vi­ties, pro­vide extra resources, and offer student reflec­tions on the pro­ject. A work­book with expan­ded des­crip­tions and resources is avai­lable to download.

Part 1 : Sound Ses­sion Work­shop with jashen edwards 

Prior to the work­shop, sin­gers are asked to gather mea­ning­ful sounds from their eve­ry­day encoun­ters by recor­ding and uploa­ding cho­sen sounds to an online class archive using the Pad­let app (click to see example, or see links in work­book). During the two-hour work­shop, edwards leads sin­gers through a dis­cus­sion of how these sounds impact their eve­ry­day unders­tan­ding about them­selves in rela­tion to the world. Using the sound col­lec­tion and clas­si­fi­ca­tion (SCC) table resource, sin­gers explore the musi­cal poten­tial present in eve­ry­day sounds and impro­vise short musi­cal pieces by re-crea­ting these sounds vocal­ly and/or phy­si­cal­ly. Sin­gers gain spe­ci­fic ways of lis­te­ning and wor­king with sound that pro­vide the nee­ded tools to com­pose ori­gi­nal pieces in Part 2 of the project.

Par­ti­ci­pant Reflec­tion : “​​This fas­ci­na­ting les­son broa­de­ned my hori­zons about expe­ri­men­tal music-making…Before this ses­sion, I had never ima­gi­ned that all these audi­to­ry sounds could be imi­ta­ted by the human voice, and when com­bi­ned they could be so har­mo­nious and plea­sing to the ear.”

An expan­ded des­crip­tion of the Sound Ses­sion Work­shop, inclu­ding the SCC table resource and the UTSC Concert Choir class Pad­let, is inclu­ded in the atta­ched work­book file. Lis­ten to the atta­ched audio for an example of work­shop outcomes.

Part 2 : Sound­scape Com­po­si­tion Activity 

During the month fol­lo­wing the work­shop, sin­gers orga­nize into small groups to create short (1–2 minute) vocal sound­scape com­po­si­tions about a topic/theme of their choice that they will lead the entire choir in per­for­ming. While “sound­scape” is our cho­sen term for these co-crea­ted com­po­si­tions, sin­gers inter­pret this broad­ly ; some groups create par­ti­ci­pa­to­ry songs incor­po­ra­ting melo­dy and rhythm as well as envi­ron­men­tal sound, while others create more “tra­di­tio­nal” sound pieces.

Each group’s sound­scape must clear­ly be “about” some­thing that speaks to their group mem­bers, and involve sounds from the Sound Ses­sion work­shop. Groups come up with wide­ly varying topics/themes, inclu­ding cli­mate jus­tice, Lunar New Year, A Night at the Movies, anti-war pro­test, and end-of-term fatigue. Sin­gers are given prompts to consi­der how they might struc­ture, sequence, and com­bine sounds to form a com­po­si­tion that speaks to their theme. Final­ly, groups must involve the entire choir in per­for­ming the piece. On the last day of class, each group leads the choir through a demonstration/teaching and then “infor­mance” of their sound­scape com­po­si­tion together.

Par­ti­ci­pant Reflec­tion : “[This pro­ject] gave us the oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn how to create music that is easi­ly taught and inclu­sive to the com­mu­ni­ty. It allo­wed us to reco­gnize the impor­tance of consi­de­ring what is inclu­sive to anyone with any musi­cal experience.”

The atta­ched work­book pro­vides mate­rials to guide sound­scape crea­tion, as well as rubrics for asses­sing the pro­ject as a cur­ri­cu­lar assi­gn­ment. See also the video below for high­lights from student sound­scape presentations.

Part 3 : Gra­phic Sco­ring Activity

In a final acti­vi­ty, each sin­ger creates a “score” for their group’s sound­scape that could serve as a tea­ching aid or guide for someone else to fol­low or repro­duce their piece. Sin­gers are allo­wed to use any com­bi­na­tion of text, gra­phics, or varying forms of musi­cal nota­tion to represent their sound­scape, and are pro­vi­ded with a tem­plate (see work­book) to help represent cer­tain musi­cal ele­ments, inclu­ding duration/timing and laye­ring of sound. The score need not represent all aspects of the com­po­si­tion, but should crea­ti­ve­ly reflect their crea­tion. As many mem­bers of the UTSC Concert Choir join with varying expe­rience rea­ding Wes­tern musi­cal nota­tion, this acti­vi­ty proves par­ti­cu­lar­ly valuable in redu­cing bar­riers to par­ti­ci­pa­tion and ope­ning up pers­pec­tives on what consti­tutes musi­cal “lite­ra­cy;” some sin­gers choose to incor­po­rate other forms of musi­cal “nota­tion” into their scores that they feel more com­for­table with, inclu­ding sol­fege, digi­tal audio data, and jiǎnpǔ (num­ber nota­tion). See Scores below for examples of student creations.


Par­ti­ci­pant Reflec­tion : “I lear­ned that we should not be limi­ted by the tra­di­tio­nal way of lear­ning music by loo­king at tra­di­tio­nal scores and notes. There are many dif­ferent ways that music can be repre­sen­ted. I tried to apply this concept of not using tra­di­tio­nal music nota­tion to my music score in the co-crea­tion pro­ject. This mind­set of thin­king out of the box is the most unfor­get­table thing I have lear­ned from this course.”


The Explo­ring Sonic Life­worlds pro­ject focu­sed on seve­ral needs of our own musi­cal com­mu­ni­ty at UTSC, as well as crea­ting resources for other choirs and sin­ging groups to use to :

  • Make space for sin­gers to express their own musi­cal and cultu­ral back­grounds and social jus­tice issues signi­fi­cant to their lived expe­riences through sound.
  • Value musi­cal crea­tion along­side re-crea­tion in cho­ral cur­ri­cu­la and programming.
  • Prac­tice trans­fe­rable skills inclu­ding team­work, public spea­king, and group faci­li­ta­tion rele­vant to music-making in com­mu­ni­ty spaces.
  • Value alter­na­tive expres­sions of musi­cal lite­ra­cy through crea­tive visual notation.
  • Build rela­tion­ships bet­ween sin­gers through col­la­bo­ra­tive musi­cal creation.

Par­ti­ci­pant Reflec­tion : “Ove­rall, our co-crea­tion pro­cess was a col­la­bo­ra­tive and enjoyable expe­rience. By incor­po­ra­ting ele­ments from our indi­vi­dual sound­worlds, we were able to create a piece of music that was mea­ning­ful to all of us.”

About the Leaders/Participants

Recent PhD gra­duate, jashen edwards’ research explores ways eve­ry­day sounds can be a cata­lyst for crea­tive cri­ti­cal enga­ge­ment. Inter­sec­ting scho­lar­ship and prac­tice across the fields of music, music edu­ca­tion, sound stu­dies and sen­suous scho­lar­ship, jashen desi­gns and faci­li­tates sound ses­sion work­shops for a varie­ty of edu­ca­tio­nal set­tings (e.g. PK16, car­ce­ral, senior homes, com­mu­ni­ty centres).

Cho­ral conductor/composer Patrick Mur­ray directs the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Scar­bo­rough Concert Choir, and serves as Artis­tic Direc­tor of Chor Ami­ca (Lon­don ON), Direc­tor of Music at St. John’s Elo­ra, and Asso­ciate Conduc­tor with the Bach Children’s Cho­rus. His research explores the prac­tice and aes­the­tics of com­mu­ni­ty col­la­bo­ra­tion in contem­po­ra­ry cho­ral music.

Unique among­st cam­pus ensembles, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Scar­bo­rough Concert Choir serves as both a cur­ri­cu­lar and an open-access (non-audi­tio­ned) com­mu­ni­ty choir, wel­co­ming approxi­ma­te­ly 100 sin­gers each term from pro­grams across the cam­pus and ser­ving as a cre­dit course for stu­dents in the Music and Culture concentration.

Sounds of Home : Collaborative Songwriting with Newcomer Youth

Sounds of Home is a col­la­bo­ra­tive song­wri­ting ini­tia­tive for refu­gee and new­co­mer youth. Over the course of 6 weeks, par­ti­ci­pants explore the theme of “home” through group music making and song­wri­ting. The three main goals of the pro­ject are to :

  • Build rela­tion­ships with and among the youth in order to increase their sense of belon­ging in their new community.
  • Increase a sense of empo­werment and agen­cy among­st par­ti­ci­pants through the skill of songwriting.
  • Allow par­ti­ci­pants to deve­lop a stron­ger sense of iden­ti­ty through gui­ded self-reflection.

This pro­ject is run in col­la­bo­ra­tion with Heff­ner Stu­dio, an audio digi­tal pro­duc­tion lab by Kit­che­ner Public Libra­ry, and a com­mu­ni­ty-based orga­ni­za­tion that offers reset­tle­ment ser­vices and sup­port to refu­gees and new­co­mers in the Kit­che­ner-Water­loo Region. There is also the pos­si­bi­li­ty for the pro­gram to be deli­ve­red vir­tual­ly using Zoom for ano­ther video confe­ren­cing platform.

Each ses­sion includes an ice­brea­ker acti­vi­ty, group music making, and song­wri­ting exer­cises. Since par­ti­ci­pants may not speak English as their first lan­guage, they are free to write in wha­te­ver lan­guage they choose.

Pro­cess :

Week 1 : Each per­son in the group will have the chance to share their name, pro­nouns, and their favou­rite song. We’ll lis­ten to the song as a group, and then the sha­rer will have a chance to talk about why they like it and what the song means to them. These songs are then added to a play­list which is sha­red with the group. This is a great first ice­brea­ker acti­vi­ty because it gives par­ti­ci­pants a chance to share some­thing about them­selves without requi­ring them to step too far out of their com­fort zones. It also acts as a great jum­ping off point to talk about qua­li­ties that make a good song (i.e., a cat­chy hook) and to talk about song struc­ture. For example, par­ti­ci­pants may be asked to iden­ti­fy what the cho­rus of the song was.

As a group, we’ll create a mind map of things that remind us of home. Par­ti­ci­pants are encou­ra­ged to incor­po­rate their senses and think of places, foods, smells, feelings/emotions, etc. It’s impor­tant to note that contri­bu­tions may not be hap­py. For example, par­ti­ci­pants may men­tion mis­sing home or other com­pli­ca­ted cir­cum­stances. It’s impor­tant to hold space for all of those realities.

Once the mind map is fini­shed, we’ll review what was writ­ten and pull out key themes. If mee­ting in per­son, this acti­vi­ty works well with a white board and/or sti­cky notes. If mee­ting vir­tual­ly, you can use Jam­board or a simi­lar mind map­ping program.

Par­ti­ci­pants are asked to record at least one sound that reminds them of home and to bring the recor­ding with them to the next ses­sion. These will then be incor­po­ra­ted into the final recor­ding of the song.

Week 2 : At the start of the ses­sion, each par­ti­ci­pant will have the chance to share their recording(s) and talk about why it reminds them of home. We will review the mind map and key themes from Week 1, then the group will work toge­ther to write a 4‑line cho­rus. This ses­sion will also include a short dis­cus­sion on the impor­tance of rhyme. When the lyrics are fini­shed, the faci­li­ta­tor will ask the group what they feel the emo­tion or mood of the song is, and then impro­vise a few dif­ferent chord pro­gres­sions and melo­dies and ask the group to choose which one they like best. Depen­ding on the com­fort level and musi­cal expe­rience of the group, par­ti­ci­pants may also want to contri­bute chord pro­gres­sions and melo­dy sug­ges­tions. Before the end of the ses­sion, a recor­ding of the cho­rus will be made and sha­red with the par­ti­ci­pants so that they can lis­ten to it throu­ghout the week.

Week 3 : To start the ses­sion, the faci­li­ta­tor will play the cho­rus and par­ti­ci­pants will have the chance to sug­gest changes. Using the prompt, “home is…” par­ti­ci­pants will work on their own or with a part­ner to write a 4‑line verse for the song. They will be encou­ra­ged to think about their own unique perspective(s) and can draw on themes or ideas from the mind map from Week 1. The faci­li­ta­tor will check in with individuals/groups to offer feed­back and gui­dance. At the end of the ses­sion, par­ti­ci­pants will be encou­ra­ged to share what they wrote with the rest of the group.

Week 4 : During this ses­sion, the faci­li­ta­tor meets with each indi­vi­dual or pair to edit their verse and set it to music. Some of the verses may also be used as a bridge sec­tion. During this time, the other par­ti­ci­pants can conti­nue to work on their verses or on ano­ther acti­vi­ty. Once the verses have been fina­li­zed, the faci­li­ta­tor will make and share a recor­ding of the song so that par­ti­ci­pants can lis­ten to it during the week.

Week 5 : This ses­sion is focu­sed on get­ting the song rea­dy to record. The faci­li­ta­tor will per­form the whole song for the group and par­ti­ci­pants will have ano­ther chance to give feed­back or sug­gest changes. For the rest of the ses­sion, we will conti­nue to review the song as a group and fina­lize the arran­ge­ment inclu­ding what ins­tru­ments will be used, who will sing what part, etc.

Week 6 : In the final ses­sion, par­ti­ci­pants will use the recor­ding stu­dios in Heff­ner Stu­dio to record their song. The faci­li­ta­tor should record all of their parts before the ses­sion in order to maxi­mize the amount of time the par­ti­ci­pants are recor­ding. Par­ti­ci­pants will take turns recor­ding their verses or playing ins­tru­ments. Fol­lo­wing the ses­sion, the faci­li­ta­tor will mix the song and then send the final ver­sion to the participants.

From a par­ti­ci­pant : « Because of this work­shop I got to meet new people and make music, which was some­thing I had never done before. I’m very proud of the song we made together ! »

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 Score : This 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. 

Trans­crip­tion :

“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).

Mate­rials :

  • 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.

Tips :

  • 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 the album HERE.

This pro­ject are sup­por­ted by Cana­da Coun­cil for the Arts | Conseil des arts du Cana­da, Ville de Mont­réal, and the pro­gram Mont­réal cultu­relle, verte et rési­liente, Inno­va­tions en concert, Audio­to­pie, Bra­dy­works / Ins­tru­ments of Hap­pi­ness, Ville en vert, La TOHU.

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).

Trans­crip­tion :

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)