The Advertiser, April 29, 2009

Winning Canadian Music Award :  Bringing Arts to Life /  Halifax

Recipiente du prix d’excellence en musique: Donner la vie aux arts.

Making music words for Johanne McInnis, her students and community.

Johanne J. McInnis is recipient of an Education Week Award this year.  She picked up the award for arts education last week in Halifax.  A professional harpist, McInnis has been teaching music, drama and language since moving to this province.

McInnis believes every child possesses artistic ability and she says she strives to support and develop the creative side of each personality.  With exuberance and enthusiasm, she is able to bring the arts to life in many different ways.  She has formed clubs at recess and noontime in drama, choir, Irish dance, music and creative movement.  On May 20, 2009, McInnis`s students will present the musical Anne of Green Gables.

A music and drama teacher for 17 years, she has taught in English or French from primary to the college level in Quebec, Ontario, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.  Her love for drama started when the Quebec native was a student music teacher in Sudbury, Ontario.

Each day in her classroom McInnis asks her students:  Why did we sound so well today? Or what did not work today in our creation or interpretation process?

Music appreciation offers opportunities

That process, she suggests, ‘enables the students to think about their own views, compare them to the views of others and make adjustments in the light of new information.  Music appreciation offers the opportunity, not only for young people to attempt to come to terms with a broad range of personal, moral and social issues, but to become more conscious of themselves as critical thinkers’.

Through music and drama, McInnis says, the current paradigm will shift our way of understanding the economy and work ethics as well as give the students what is needed for future survival.

‘If our children are to anticipate and cope with the turbulence of change both at an individual and social level they need to learn not simply how to accommodate to the future, but how to share it’.

As a music and drama teacher, she aims ‘to give my students the opportunity to create in a safe situation and, at the same time, they can show their work of art while developing their talents.  Whether the child is extremely talented or just discovering his potential, there are areas of growth in every one of them’.

I can assist them in becoming better learners by taking them through uncertainty and times of not knowing, by allowing them to use their imaginations to work through ‘what if’ situations.  If they are to be successful adults they will need to know how to learn, share ideas, learn how to deal with uncertainty and also be aware of their own strengths.

An analogy to life itself

McInnis likes to quote Eric Hoffer:

In times of change the learners will inherit the earth while the learned will find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.

Music making as an ensemble is such a great analogy to life itself; everyone has an important role to play in order to live in a harmonious community/society.  Let’s adjust our life sounds to each other, listen to one another and then we will live in harmony.

McInnis would like to encourage parents in every community to support their music, drama, art and dance teachers.  There are always little jobs that can be done relating to concert and drama performances.  McInnis says that while she is thrilled to have received the arts award, she has to add her appreciation for her staff.  It is a joy to work with great team players. 

As a performer, McInnis believes in continuous development.  She hopes to launch her third harp CD in a short while.

McInnis was one of 23 music/drama/visual art/dance educators to receive an award during Education Week, on April 20, 2009 in Halifax.

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