From MUN to Clarenville with love, new music program meets rural need

Ann Lundrigan has been a music teacher at Clarenville High School for years, but lately she’s noticed a disconnect between the number of students looking for lessons and the number of teachers giving them. 

“It’s kind of left us in a lurch because we are a musically rich area and we have students crying out for lessons in all areas, instrumental, voice piano,” says Lundrigan. 

The longtime music teacher said with one private music studio and a couple of other full-time music teachers in the school system already working at capacity, there’s a gap. 

“We need help, and I think the Giocoso program will be a great kickstart for us to try and get some kids back into the flow of teaching,” she said. 

Students sharing passions

Giocoso is a new music education program offered by Memorial University’s school of music to bring lessons to rural areas of the province, and it’s starting as a pilot project in the Clarenville area. 

In music, “giocoso” means to play in a happy or merry manner, and Lundrigan said students will certainly be happy. 

“The idea is that the teachers go out once per month to teach a lesson to the students, and in the weeks in between they reach out using videoconferencing software” like Skype, said James Paluk, Giocoso’s program manager and a graduate student at the school of music. 

“To give distance lessons to the students, so that these students are now getting weekly music education,” he explained to CBC Radio One’s Weekend AM. 

James Paluk and Ann Lundrigan, in centre of photo, celebrate the launch of the new music education program Oct. 7 at Clarenville High School. (Ann Lundrigan/Twitter)

Paluk said the teachers are all students at the school of music in St. John’s, and they’ll use Clarenville High School for in-person lessons when they travel the roughly 200 kilometres or two-hour drive.

By Saturday, he said, 10 students were officially registered and the program is accepting applications until Wednesday.

They’ll be able to enrich the lives of these children.- James Paluk

He and Lundrigan are clear this initiative is not meant to take away business from local teachers, and classes will be paid for by the students just like other private lessons.

They have identified a need for flute, clarinet, piano, voice, violin, viola, saxophone, trumpet and high brass lessons so far. 

‘Come, come, come’

Paluk said the program is an opportunity for young musicians to stay in the province to teach. 

“The St. John’s area itself is pretty saturated with teachers and there’s a lot going on, that the students who are getting their degrees don’t have anything to do with them, so they’re either moving away or changing paths or something like that,” he said. 

Lundrigan said she’s hoping Giocoso will inspire teachers to realize they can “really make a difference for some of these children,” and set up shop in rural areas. She’s confident interest in the program will grow as people learn about it. 

And she has a pitch to attract young music teachers to go rural. 

“Come, come, come — we have so much to offer. For example, Clarenville, you’re not only looking at the Clarenville area, we have a whole catchment area that is loaded in music history and our students are crying out. While it’s scary to come, there’s lots of people here who would support you if you were coming, and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.” 

“In reaching out to Clarenville and further areas they’ll have that opportunity to teach — to use their expertise, their knowledge — and they’ll be able to enrich the lives of these children who are missing out on this component that was so near and dear to us,” Paluk added.

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