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Crossing the Bridge with Courage

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As we wrap up another year of The Bridge: Music for Life—our most ambitious year by far in terms of student enrollment, rehearsals, and performances—I want to take a moment to talk about the remarkable people at Winnipeg 1 School Division and, in particular, Hugh John MacDonald School.

HJM has served as host school for the Bridge program since its inception in 2011, and behind-the-scenes support from the staff, led by Principal Vinh Huynh, has been tremendous. Transporting 25 or 30 students plus all of their instruments and sound equipment to a gig (did I mention the plethora of performances we’ve had this year?), then getting everybody home safe and sound means a lot of teachers and Educational Assistants are loading up their cars and criss-crossing the city to various performance venues. It takes the support and effort of many people to make these performance opportunities work, and I’m grateful to the team at HJM for their dedication.

I find the culture Vinh has helped shape within the walls of his school inspiring. Earlier this year, I heard him talk about the Circle of Courage, a First Nations philosophy outlining what young people need as they grow. There are four points in the circle: Belonging, Independence, Mastery and Generosity. As I listened, it occurred to me that The Bridge embraces these same key characteristics.

The unique environment in which we teach, with a diverse student body from all corners of the globe, encourages inclusion or Belonging. Music is inclusive—it always has been. In our class, students belong to the band and we make music together regardless of race, religion, or socioeconomic status.

Students develop Independence—and, along the way, leadership and teamwork—as they help shape the repertoire we learn and the direction our rehearsals take. Everybody adds something to the music, and when all those moving parts come together in rhythm, beautiful art is created.

Mastery of a song takes months. Mastery of an instrument takes a lifetime. Students begin to develop an appreciation of this concept as part of the band and the reward of a masterful performance has long-lasting benefits.

Generosity is something I see when the Bridge band performs, spreading music’s positive energy to our audience. Truthfully, I’m only beginning to appreciate the effect this energy has, and we’ve made it our mission to reach as many people as we can with that positivity, one performance at a time.

We have one more concert slated for this year, on July 9 for the National Trustee Gathering on Aboriginal Education, and our incredible team of students, teachers and EAs will gather once more as we bring people together and spread good will through music. I’m looking forward to it!

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