Connecting us and music

(Contributed Photo)
(Contributed Photo)

The role of music in the community is one that the Laurier Centre for Music in the Community (LCMC) and the Wise Voices for Music project do not take lightly. On Feb. 1, hosted in the John Aird Centre at Wilfrid Laurier University, LCMC and the Wise Voices for Music hosted a music summit that was open to the Waterloo public to discuss the role that music possesses in this community and communities throughout the country.

Wise Voices for Music is a grassroots advocacy program that is a community engagement initiative. Its purpose is to hold a conversation to talk about the meaning of music and the importance of music in communities. Similar summits have been held in Sudbury and North Bay with great success.

“The event had a variety of agendas … initially we wanted to celebrate our new master of arts in the community music program. At the same time we wanted to do something that challenged people’s thinking about community music,” said Dr. Lee Willingham, associate professor and program coordinator of the master’s of arts in community music at Laurier.

The day also served to launch the Laurier music department’s newest masters’ program in the Master of Arts in Community Music which was recently begun in September 2013. This is the first master program of its kind in North America.

Eventually, the Coalition for Music Education joined the discussion. They have a Ontario Trillium Foundation-funded grant which is intended to develop local action plans to support music education in Ontario communities and created a project called Wise Voices for Music.

The day began with a keynote speech from Lee Higgins, a well-respected professor of community music at Boston University, but quickly transitioned into four roundtable groups.The audience split up into four sections—media, venue, funding and education—and were tasked to discuss their problem and try to find a tangible solution.

“There were some very productive conversations in the small groups. There’s a lot of will that needs to be coalesced. It’s interesting to have individual activists do work personally but there’s something about coalescing and having a stronger ‘oomph’ when people come in together and focus,” remarked Holly Nimmons, executive director at Music Makes Us and the facilitator of Wise Voices for Music.

Each of these roundtables featured community leaders that have personal relationships with music, such as Craig Norris, host of CBC KW’s Morning Edition.

“[At a prior event] I had someone come up to me and asked ‘how do you know what the community wants? Do you have any mechanism to see what they have to say?’ and I realized we really don’t. We do our thing here, we do our concerts, we teach our classes but we don’t really listen to them. One aspect of the event on Saturday was to hear what’s on people’s minds,” said Willingham.

The common consensus of the summit was that there was a lot of miscommunication between the arts community within themselves and between the community as a whole. All of the solutions presented involved reaching out to the community in varying ways and taking advantage of the opportunities presented. Saturday’s event was heavily influenced and tied together by the overall theme of community music.

“One [idea of community music] is about people, places, participation, inclusivity and diversity. It is an approach of creative opportunity for all people to engage in active music making,” said Higgins.

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