Jean Vanier High School kickstarted March Break this year with Luke Boyd, a Canadian rapper known onstage as Classified, performing and preaching the importance of music at school.
“It was hype for 10 o’clock in the morning,” said Boyd, who is Catholic, after performing his smash hit “Inner Ninja,” Canada’s best selling single 2013. “It felt great. Whether it is in band class or even just kids that listen to the music in their headphones, just to see people being excited about music as a positive thing is always a good thing.”
On March 6 Boyd and fellow east coast artist David Myles, an independent folksinger-songwriter from New Brunswick, performed three collaborations at Jean Vanier.
Although from distinctly different musical genres, Myles has been appearing on the rapper’s records since their first track together, “The Day Doesn’t Die,” which appeared on Boyd’s 2011 album Handshakes and Middle Fingers.
For Myles performing at the high school brought back a flood of positive memories.
“It brought me right back to school,” he said. “Seeing kids getting excited about music is what it is all about. This is really great.”
Both artists credit the music education opportunities they had while young students as essential to their success.
“From elementary school I stayed in band right through high school,” said Myles, who went on to be trained at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.
“Whatever you play, whether it is a sampler or a trumpet or a trombone, you can find your way and you can find a career in music or you can play music for the rest of your life and find it inspiring. If you are into it roll with it.”
Boyd, who played the trombone in school and toyed around with samplers at home as a teen, is living proof of that. The Canadian rapper, producer and owner of Halflife Records, said that had he been exposed to the kind of music program available today at Jean Vanier, it likely wouldn’t have taken him 14 albums to get where he is today.
“The drum line that started off the show, like they’re up there with samplers (and) drum machines and that is what I mess with now,” said Boyd, 36, who is to co-host the 2014 Juno Awards on March 30. “That is something that I had to learn on my own and find out where to buy this stuff back in the day so it is cool just seeing them making that more involved in the school to make it more relatable for kids to what they listen to today.”
The music program at Jean Vanier will continue to grow after it received a $10,000 grant from MusiCounts, a Canadian charity that supports school music programs.
MusiCounts has provided more than $7 million in grants to more than 600 school communities from coast to coast to coast.
Earlier this school year Michael Flanning, a music teacher at Jean Vanier, who spearheaded the twoyear- old drum line, put forward an application for the grant. He did it because being part of a music program while a student proved critical to his professional success.
“For me when I was in high school, and I see it with a lot of these students, the music room is what got me through,” he said.
“There were courses I wasn’t always very fond of but being able to escape to that music room and to be able to tinker and play and experiment and compose and do what I needed to do gave me skills that I’ve been able to use in a broad range of my life and take into my profession.”
For the most part the money will be used to purchase new equipment, said Flanning.
Seven Catholic elementary schools in Toronto were also named as grant recipients from MusiCounts this year. Our Lady of Lourdes, Sacred Heart, St. Clare, St. Martha, St. Michael and St. Philip Neri will receive a $10,000 injection while St. Charles Garnier will receive a $5,000 grant.
In total Toronto’s Catholic schools will receive $75,000 in grants from MusiCounts, which will distribute more than $200,000 to 70 schools nationwide this year alone as part of its Band Aid Grant Program.
Following the event Boyd echoed Flanning by saying that if it wasn’t for the music programs he was exposed to as a student his career would be very different.
“I’d be computer support,” he said. “I’d work at a computer support help desk.”
That said, Boyd stressed that making music should be about making you happy before it is about making you money.
“Don’t get into music to become a successful rich artist,” he said.
“Do it because you love it and if you want to turn it into your job work at it that much harder and do all that extra stuff you don’t want to do but you’ve got to do to get your music out there. Put your head down, go hard and if you’re not working someone is working harder than you.”