It began as an initiative to expand our current music program in Vanderhoof. The school district administration felt it would be beneficial to hire a second music specialist for our area of the district, to build on our present programs. I welcomed a new colleague, Doug MacLean, to Nechako Valley Secondary School last spring and as a result of the collaboration between us and our superintendent, Ray LeMoigne, a new music initiative was born.
I had started a small after school private program called the Little Fiddlers Club a couple of years ago. One of my 5 year old students nicknamed me “Violin Lynn” a name that has stayed with me during my travels to schools throughout the district. It was determined through many meetings and a seven week pilot course directed at a grade six class that I would begin the new teaching year 2008-2009 as an itinerant music teacher specializing in a fiddle program I had learned to initiate in Manitoba with Frontier Fiddlers.
My personal desire was to take music to students in outlying areas, in our northern communities, where there were fewer opportunities for music development. My district superintendent approved and supported the initiative and I have the delightful experience of taking fiddle music learning to eager, delightful, enthusiastic and beautiful children.
The students welcome me every time I arrived from my long drive to their school, (sometimes up to 2 ½ hourseach way) often shouting “Violin Lynn…Violin Lynn.” Many eager learners would come out to greet me and volunteer to help me unload our cargo of 25-30 violins and other music education materials needed, from my little Mazda.
At each location all instruments must be tuned and some students soon learned to do that as well, thus developing a good listening ear.Our first lesson is an hour of instruction in which the entire class learns to play their first song; “See the Little Monkey.” The focus of the program is on success and achievement on an individual level and it never fails to amaze me how the young student’s eyes light up in that first session when they realize that they can learn to play. Some students learn many songs in our short session time but all achieve a level of success.
The sessions were structured to include every grade six class in the district, each having lessons twice a week for 12 weeks. Some students after tasting the joy of string music have continued on learning and playing. One student from the seven week program last year has gone on to develop an extensive repertoire, plays with his family band and has also played with the “Prince George Old Time Fiddlers” group. He is a dedicated and extremely talented youth among peers who have also continued their fiddle playing journey with success. As a teacher, it is a rich reward for me, indeed, to have planted such a seed of joy. Recently, he played for one of our wrap up concerts and thrilled the audience with his set of songs including Maple Sugar
As our first 12 week session drew to a close and we were preparing for our final public presentations, I felt a sense of sadness that I will miss these students very much, although I intend and hope to work with them again next year. Our final concert programs were a hit! Students came eager to play for their community, some preparing solos and duets that had taken many hours of dedication at home.
I must also say that the success of this program is also due to the support of teachers, support staff, some of which spent many hours learning fiddle with the students, and the administration of the individual schools.
A Note from Ray LeMoigne
“Through Lynn’s leadership students across our district have had an incredible opportunity in learning to play the fiddle this year. Through this 12 week program, many students have learned they have talents and an interest in music that they may not have otherwise realized. We are extremely pleased with the success of this program and the enthusiasm and pride of accomplishment that is so evident on the faces of the children involved. I can’t believe how much they have learned in just 24 sessions.
Clearly this program is making a positive difference for our kids. We are all grateful to our Board for supporting this new and exciting initiative and to Lynn for taking a lead role in helping make it all happen.”
Ray LeMoigne Superintendent of Schools
A Note From Fort St. James Principal Cam McCormick
“We have recently concluded a twelve week Introductory Fiddle Program with our Grade 6 students here at Sowchea Elementary School, where we shared an itinerant Fiddle Instructor, Lynn Langtry-Smith, with David Hoy Elementary School. Students received an hour of instruction twice per week. As a musician, I must admit that I had some initial doubts about the viability of a twelve week program for rank beginners, and as principal I had concerns for the learning environments of
neighboring classrooms having to endure the sounds of “a catfight” twice a week.
Our student participants quickly put these doubts to rest. Early in the program they were excited and animated by what
they learned, and eager to learn more. From initial interest demonstrated by our Grade Six students, we decided to purchase four student violins for our school to enable students to practice mornings and noon hours throughout the week.
The response was phenomenal. Many students came early to school and stayed in at lunch to practice. With the help of a Sowchea School Support Worker, Mrs. Robin, they exceeded expectations in their learning. This was most evident at the Wrap-Up Concert in our gymnasium filled with an appreciative audience.
As was stated in the Concert Program:
We gratefully acknowledge School District No. 91(Nechako Lakes) for its support of the Arts in general and specifically, for initiating and funding the 12 week Grade 6 Fiddle Program. In particular, we wish to thank Director of Instruction, Mr. Eugene Marks and Superintendent, Mr. Ray Lemoigne for their leadership regarding the program’s inception.
Thank you as well to the instructor, Mrs. Lynn Langtry-Smith, for braving the highways and dodging the moose for the past 12 weeks to share with us her violins, as well as her knowledge and her love of music.”
Cam McCormick, Principal
Sowchea Elementary School
Fiddle program reported in the Prince George Citizen, Friday November 28, 2008, with the headline:
Fort St. James Students Learn to Play the Fiddle
“Elementary music lessons are making a comeback in the region. After many years of cutting music programming across the province, School District 91 chose this year to teach a group of Grade 6 students, some from Sowchea elementary
and some from David Hoy elementary, how to play the fiddle. Last Monday, the students got together to end their 12-week program with a grand finale concert in Fort St. James.
“The students bravely played to a large and enthusiastic audience,” said Sowchea principal Cam McCormick. “Following the
performances, the students from the two schools presented their fiddle teacher with a drum made locally by Mr. Vince Prince,
and signed by each student. The lessons were taught by Lynn Langtry-Smith, nicknamed Vio-Lynn by the students and staff.
McCormick said they couldn’t have done this for the kids without the support of district administrators who saw the academic upside to inschool music lessons.”
The interest in music has not subsided while I am not there, in fact, in one of the other
outlying areas; the school hired a local violin teacher to help the students continue their playing for the rest of the year. What a great idea!
It is a great joy to me to see the program take on new directions forward. Our second session of twelve weeks began with as much enthusiasm as our last had ended. Since the winter weather here can make driving conditions quite hazardous at times, my administrators organized the second session for the local area where I reside. Our classes progressed wonderfully and our wraps up concerts were well supported. Parents and guardians were thrilled to see how much their young ones had learned and many purchased instruments for their youth to continue playing. We also began a new feature in this area.
For the rest of the year we will run an enrichment program for those students wishing to continue. This will happen once a week. As for me, the other days I am back on the
road to faraway places with my fiddle at my side and joyful reception upon my arrival.
My new classes were ready and completely focused for our first sessions, some students anxiously asking their teacher when I would come next. Since we have a limited number of instruments we developed a system in which the fiddles could stay in schools for a day or so after one of their lessons. Students, with the full support and
collaboration of administrators and teachers began organized practice sessions. We are well on our way once again on a musical adventure in which our youth can enter the wonderful world of music and see in their own reflection as wonderful too.
A Final Bow