We began Jazz on Wheels to take the tools of jazz into Winnipeg’s under-served neighbourhoods and get kids excited about the possibilities of music in their futures. The second step is to follow that introduction making sustainable, high quality music instruction available to them. My vision is to give those kids the same opportunity for music instruction that all the kids in the suburbs get.
We call the second step the Bridge Program, and we’re unrolling a pilot version this year at Hugh John MacDonald, a junior high school right in the heart of one of the toughest, busiest metropolitan areas of Winnipeg. The principal, Vinh Huynh, took me on a tour of his facilities. He runs that place like a nuclear submarine! Everything is in its place, and the students are focused and happy. You can tell that they face challenges, but they have a spirit about them of hope and purpose. The big overall feeling permeating that school is that those kids have a sense of pride in where they are and what they’re doing.
Vinh is one of the hardest, most effective workers I’ve ever met. He has more initiatives on the go in that school than I can keep track of, all with the intention of building the community at large, and the sense of citizenship in his students. He’s one of those rare gifted people who knows the way to help people reach their fullest potential—I will happily be one of his disciples!
Over the winter term, senior jazz pedagogy students will have a chance to work with Vinh Huynh and the kids at Hugh John MacDonald, and together we’ll explore how our Jazz Studies program can support a diverse, sustainable and consistent music program there. I feel honoured by the welcome we’re receiving, and eager to take on this next stage of developing cross-cultural communication through music. We’ll keep you posted!