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On the first Monday in May each year, schools across Canada celebrate the impact of music and music education with Music Monday. To mark the occasion, we invited several prominent Canadian musicians across a variety of genres to pen a letter to a music teacher, an educator who has greatly influenced their career.  

We have posted the letters here, including notes from Sarah Slean, Hawksley Workman, Jully Black and more, as well as responses from the teachers we could track down:

Letter to my teacher: Suzie Vinnick (with response from her teacher, Mr. England)

Letter to my teacher: Alex Cuba

Letter to my teacher: Sarah Slean (with response from her teacher, Juno-winner Christina Petrowska Quilico of York University)

Letter to my teacher: Oliver Jones

Letter to my teacher: Cadence Weapon (with response from his music mentor/uncle, Brett Miles)

Letter to my teacher: Royal Wood (with response from his secondary school teacher, Rob Roy)

Letter to my teacher: Hawksley Workman (with response from his teacher, Ian Halton)

Letter to my teacher: Jason McCoy

Letter to my teacher: Matt Haimovitz

Letter to my teacher: Jully Black (with a response from her high school teacher, Roy Greaves)

Tell us how music education has impacted your life. Post a tribute to your musical educators in the space below, or send an email to singersongwriter@cbc.ca.

Related links:

Ed Robertson and Chris Hadfield prepare to collaborate between earth and space

Lenny Breau’s first jazz teacher, Bob Erlendson

Music Monday: coalition for music education

Music Monday with Luke Doucet

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Music Monday: Canadian musicians thank their teachers

On the first Monday in May each year, schools across Canada celebrate the impact of music and music e…

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KateRogersBand
#1 posted by
KateRogersBand
on Apr 24, 2012

Marie Devereaux was my very first vocal teacher up in Aurora, Ontario - I started with her at the age of 10, and she was so hard-core-dedicated that even after I got in a car accident on the way to one of my lessons with her, she still gave me a hard time for not having memorized the words to a song! I was both mesmerized and terrified by her as a kid, but soon grew to recognize her as a loved and respected extension of my family.  Man, what I'd give to sit down with her today and talk shop. Sadly, she passed away to cancer years ago, so I never got the chance to tell her how awesome she was.

JustKen
#2 posted by
JustKen
on Apr 27, 2012

Bill Ramsay taught me the higher grades of piano, while also being my teacher at high school, AND organist at one of the local churches, AND the director of the town band in Cobourg, Ontario, where I was in the trumpet section alongside my older brother, while my sister played clarinet and later French Horn. He started a junior band program, and (not for the last time) I lied about my age to get in. (I claimed I was eight). Bill taught us all that music is fun, and not so hard if you applied yourself and learned how to listen. He was a trombone and keyboard player with both jazz and classical chops, and a great sense of humour. I'm grateful to him for giving me the right attitude towards music.

shannonbutcher
#3 posted by
shannonbutcher
on Apr 30, 2012

I had the good fortune to attend a school for the arts in my high school days.  Cawthra Park in Mississauga was a special place where you attended music class every day.  At my school being a music nerd was rewarded and hours spent in rehearsal was the norm.  I’ve never forgotten how for every early morning practice I attended, awoken in the wee hours by my alarm clock (or more than once by my mom!) my teachers had to wake up that much earlier in order to greet us.  At Cawthra we were encouraged to take risks through jazz improvisation, we learned about our past through music history studies and best of all we were provided with endless opportunities to express ourselves through our art on stage.  I will always be grateful to MaryAnn Fratia, Cathy Clark, Sharon Vandrish & Sherri Collins.  Daily they shared their love of music with me and challenged me to always strive to improve my skills.  As a parent, I’m also extremely appreciative of the time they gave up with their biological kids to be with their 'school kids' during early morning and after school rehearsals, night time concerts, and trips to music festivals around the continent.  Thank you so much!!  I wouldn’t be who I am today without having had you all in my life. 

aphillips
#4 posted by
aphillips
on Apr 30, 2012

As a musically inept but enthusiastic supporter of musical pursuits, Mr.Phelan's high school guitar classes at Denis Morris C.S.S. in St.Catharines, Ontario were alive with discussion, hands on practice and collobrative jam sessions, (all of which I loved being a part of!) Although I couldn't then and still can't play guitar very well, I always felt welcome and included, and was glad to see the support Mr. Phelan gave to my incredibly talented classmates . Offering technical instruction as well as offers of studio time for those interested, he invested his effort and passion to all of us equally. He truly made an impact that resonates to this day. I have a great respect for the arts in schools and otherwise, thanks to a great teacher. His classes helped me to survive high school, and as cliche as it sounds, I wouldn't be where I am today without his gentle guidance and wide smile, welcoming us warmly to his class everyday, eager to impart some new musical knowledge and skill. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Mr. Phelan organized student driven and centered shows, truly seeking to encompass everyone's wide range of talent and genre selections.  

Thank you, Mr.Phelan, now and always for everything you did for me. It's always appreciated and seldom forgotten.

AlanB
#5 posted by
AlanB
on May 02, 2012

Everyone in our high school band learned so much. How to perform as an individual.  How to perform as an individual.  How to act as a professional. 

The band program prepared us for life, and I will forever be grateful to our legendary music teacher George McRae.

janoallen
#6 posted by
janoallen
on May 03, 2012

Elaine Quilichini (the Mighty 'Q'!) was the choir director who introduced me to the power of singing in grade 6.  She heard me in the regular music class, and convinced my best friend to talk me into joining the school choir.  Since then I have sung with church choirs, community choirs, professional Opera choruses, and extensively as a singer song-writer.  The techniques she taught us about how to stay on pitch, and create expresion and phrasing I still use today.  My ear has never been the same since I left her class.  She was in inspiration to me, and continues to inspire young people to sing even today.  Big Music Monday tip of the hat to the mighty Q!

Jason Allen

gofigurenancy
#7 posted by
gofigurenancy
on May 04, 2012

I am what you might call an adult learner. My husband plays guitar in a band, my son plays in a guitar in a band.  I decided that I wanted to play too.  So I signed myself up at a local (great!) music store on Locke Street in Hamilton called Pics and Sticks.  I had the good fortune to have Jamie, the owner of Pics & Sticks, hook me up with an instructor by the name of Gord Lewis... yup... that Gord Lewis of Teenage Head fame.  Gord is a wonderful teacher - just what I had hoped for - the right mix of songs I would like to learn, mixed with a bit of theory, mixed with a bit more of musicology.  What a positive experience and I appreciate, at my age :-), that Gord has other (ok, younger) students that I know will benefit from his teaching style and his musical history.  Hope he doesn't mind me writing about it here. Really look forward to each week's lesson.

tylerkealey
#8 posted by
tylerkealey
on May 07, 2012

When I was 7 years old I had my first piano lesson and met my teacher Yves Laroche. It was one of the most positive experiences of my childhood. Aside from being a talented piano player himself, he had the rare gift of being an incredible music educator. He knew how to make kids feel comfortable at the piano, how to make learning fun and he was always joking around and endlessly encouraging me. Yves was like my grownup best friend who I would hang out with for a half hour every week, and I wanted to practice for him!

From these lessons I learned my blues scales and how to improvise on a piece of music and above all I discovered that I could play by ear at an early age.  I remember him being there for me when I was struggling with a learning disability, having trouble reading sheet music and getting frustrated that I couldn’t concentrate on one task for very long, but he was always patient with me. I was around 10 or 11 when I was allowed to sneak into a bar in Quebec, and it was there that Yves was playing keyboards in a country band, invited me up to play a few songs with the band, and gave me my first opportunity to play live in a club.  I always think of Yves and the support and encouragement he gave me when I teach music and perform live, and hope that it inspires someone else the way he did for me.

Brad Frenette
#9 posted by
Brad Frenette
on May 07, 2012

Thanks for posting tributes to your teachers. Keep them coming --- and if you are a teacher featured in one of the letters here in the comments section, tell us about some of your favourite memories from your years teaching music. 

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