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Connecting with Kids

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The University of Manitoba hosted a special presentation on Thursday, October20, to recognize the many community-building initiatives of its faculty members. Seven alumni of Steve Kirby’s Bridge program took to the stage and performed “Rollin’ in the Deep” for all the assembled guests, including Dr David Barnard, the President of the University of Manitoba, and His Excellency Dr David Johnston, the Governor General of Canada. It’s not an exaggeration to say they stole our hearts, and when the song ended, everyone surged to their feet. President Barnard stood for a long second at the mic, swallowing the lump in his throat.

It was a heady moment for the kids, most of whom were absolute beginners at the beginning of the year and now perform with great poise and musicality. It was a watershed moment for many others too—for Steve Kirby and me, having chased this dream through an obstacle course to a place of tremendous accomplishment; for Vinh Huynh, the principal at Hugh John Macdonald School, and a determined and visionary partner; and for members of the extended university community, who looked with such joy on a group of talented kids and saw the next generation of community-builders.

The Bridge program is in gear again at Hugh John Macdonald. We’re thrilled by the generosity of David Asper, whose gift is allowing us to bring a battery of instruments to the school to create a real band. Several grants and donations have made it possible to secure Neil Watson to direct the band and Curtis Nowosad to assist. Students from the Jazz Studies program will spend some time mentoring new musicians this term, and Steve and I will be on-site frequently to play with the gang. Year Two is lifting off.

Perhaps most satisfying: two afternoons a week, almost a dozen of last year’s graduates find their way to Hugh John from high schools around the city to help this next crop of learners. Surely that is an inspiring example of paying it forward…

Dr Barnard and His Excellency Dr Johnston took time to shake hands and chat with each of the young musicians who represented The Bridge on October 20. We salute them too: Norina Jimeno, Dagmawit Fekede, JC Cruz, Joshua Aloria, JJ Binayug, Andrew Domingo, and Paul DeLeon. We couldn’t be prouder!

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