Partnership with school district means MusicFest inspiring young students with music

Vancouver Island MusicFest is featuring small performances designed to inspire Comox Valley students.

THE MAEVE MCKINNON Trio performs for Navigate powered by NIDES (North Island Distance Education School) students. Vancouver Island MusicFest sponsored the school visit and will sponsor more school performances in the future as part of a new partnership with Comox Valley schools.

After drawing huge crowds each summer for years, Vancouver Island MusicFest will now feature smaller performances designed to inspire Comox Valley students.

MusicFest is starting a new partnership with the Comox Valley School District where MusicFest will pay for some of its festival musicians to make special performances at various Comox Valley schools.

“This is a small way MusicFest can give something back to our community in a real way, and it’s important we do so,” says MusicFest’s Doug Cox. “It’s a great thing for everyone. And we want to make sure the musicians we work with are fairly placed in various schools throughout the Valley so it’s not just going to one group of kids in particular.”

Cox adds music had a profound influence on him when he was a kid he saw it inspire his own kids as well.

“We see this (with kids) at the festival and it is perhaps the most rewarding part of what we do,” he continues. “There is nothing like seeing a child’s lights come on, no matter what their age, when they become curious or are moved by something.”

MusicFest supported singer/songwriter Jesse Ruben’s visit to the Valley early this year; he performed at the Cumberland Hotel and visited schools to celebrate the I Can initiative, which is designed to empower and inspire students.

Acting Hornby Island Elementary vice-principal Jen Turner, who asked Ruben to come to the Valley, talked with Cox about Ruben’s impact on students and the partnership was underway.

Turner is thrilled with the opportunity for students.

“MusicFest has left such a musical legacy in the Valley, just with their music festival,” she says. “And for them to be wanting to give back to kids and really sort of instill that love of music in their early years, I think is a wonderful legacy to leave, not just the fact that they bring amazing artists for the whole Comox Valley every summer, but now they’re giving back to the community and sharing it with the younger kids — and I just think that is so amazing.”

The Maeve McKinnon Trio, a Scottish folk group, performed at Navigate powered by NIDES (North Island Distance Education School) Thursday during the first official school show.

Besides a free concert for a group of kindergarten to Grade 9 students, the group sat down with a some intermediate students so they could learn about the trio’s music-making experiences.

Navigate vice principal Alissa Pratt says the performance was “truly, refreshingly different” especially since the group sings with Gaelic lyrics, and taught student how to pronounce some of the words.

“For their final number the trio asked the audience to listen to the music and rise to their feet when the beat changed,” continues Pratt. “The sound of their feet hitting the floor became percussion and increased the energy level even more.”

Cox attended, and notes the workshop also went well with students performing for the trio and many interesting questions and answers.

He plans to continue expanding the program.

“We are doing this organically, starting by asking the folks we have touring through if their schedules will allow for it and if they have the desire to do it,” he explains. “Once we have the bugs worked out with our partners in the schools, I am hoping we can do much more than that. There is so much room here for us to initiate these kind of exchanges once we get started.”

Cox also mentioned MusicFest will also hand out bursaries this year to deserving music students in the Valley’s secondary schools.

“Our staff, board members and most of our volunteers all live here. It’s our community and our children’s community,” he says. “We need to give back and teach them about community responsibility at the same time. Music has the power to do that.”

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