This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

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If you have been following the internet lately you may have noticed a number of memes and comments about the value of teachers finally being realized now parents have to put up with the little monsters all day, all night, and fill in as substitute teachers at home.

I get a laugh now and then from those things, but I have an admiration for teachers I think many others do not have (more on that below). I spent time in a couple of Michigan high schools as what might be called a teacher’s aide even though I was a specialist teaching drumming and percussion.

I think music teachers are a special breed. They are the only ones whose measure of success in any school year is a reflection of the least accomplished student they have. I know sports minded people are thinking, wait a minute, but those teachers are not full-time coaches; not any less passionate, but still not going at it all day and evening.

I think the unique position music teachers are in attracts the kind of people who have a deeper dedication to the profession, to figuratively beating the subject matter into tiny heads because they can immediately see the result of their effort in the performance of their students and there is nothing, nothing like witnessing your students perform the very thing you’ve spent weeks or months on well enough to get applause.

What even many music teachers don’t realize is that applause is for the weakest member of the ensemble because they have the greatest ability to sink a performance and when they don’t, miracles aside, it makes the whole better.

Yes there are other dedicated teachers in other subjects, and you could fill rooms with great English, math, history and other kinds of teachers, but you need an auditorium to assemble all the great music teachers because great is the norm in that subject.

It’s good to be able to pass on news a teacher has been recognized for their effort and Dan Austin is a teacher who just received such a recognition.

Dan Austin

Yesterday he announced he is one of two teachers receiving the inaugural Beckwith Award from the Canadian Music Centre. The CMC is a national association of composers and the goal is to promote Canadian music wherever they can and a good portion of that work involves getting music teachers to use music written by Canadians as performance pieces and teaching tools.

John Beckwith is a founder of the CMC, former dean of music at the University of Toronto and a columnist for the Toronto Star. He’s one of those people who recognized a capacity for something, in this case there was a lot of worthy music composed by Canadians sitting in file drawers, and then goes about throwing light on the deficient situation.

I’ve known Dan since he was a student at Twin Lakes Secondary School and a member of a few bands. He is one of those teachers who is also great on their principal instrument, bass in Dan’s case. About 98% of the music teachers I know are excellent musicians, so he’s just one of the gang on this count.

Most of the music teachers I know don’t stop being teachers until well into the evening hours, but there are always a few who seem to go a few extra miles and Dan is one of those. It seems to me about half of the posts he makes to his Facebook page are about his students and their successes as musicians. Here is his award citation:

“Dan Austin has been teaching instrumental and vocal music for 19 years, and is currently the Band Director and Instrumental Music Teacher at Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute in Guelph, Ontario. A graduate of York University’s Jazz Music Program, Dan has developed and built strong music programs at both the elementary and secondary levels at Twin Lakes Secondary School, Glenhaven Senior Public School, and Mitchell Woods Public School. He is a regular clinician at the Ontario Music Educators Association conference, and contributor to music education journals.

Dan keeps an active schedule as a vocal and instrumental performer (with) the Harbourtown Sound A Cappella Men’s Chorus (Hamilton), The After Party a cappella quartet (2019 Ontario Silver Medalists). Dan also released his first solo jazz album as a bass player in 2017.

Dan also plays a significant organizing and governance role as Treasurer for the Peel Intermediate Music Teacher’s Association, President and founder of the Upper Grand Elementary Music Teachers Association, Vice President of Youth In Harmony for the Ontario District, and Education Coordinator for the International award winning Ontario Youth A Cappella Chorus.”

It’s great an almost 40 year old organization created a way to recognize teachers like Dan, and Dan will always be able to say he was the first. This is significant. Any time there is a first time to bestow an award the talent pool is very large. It’s like being the first into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, who do you choose for the first? In a way Dan has become the standard bearer to which all the award winners to follow will be measured against because no award committee wants to pick a nominee who doesn’t measure up to the choice from previous years.

We also have to recognize Suds Sutherland, Ross Arnold and Dan’s father Dave, three teachers who had such a direct hand in making the musician and the teacher Dan became.

Only one other teacher was selected for the award, which was also given to two orchestras and a music festival. I know Dan is very proud of this, as are his friends. I think it would be a great thing if at some point an opening comes up at one of our high schools someone has the presence of mind to make Dan an offer he can’t refuse to come home and teach our kids.

Congrats Dan. It looks good on you.

What Is Wrong With Parents

I think it’s a nervous kind of laugh, the kind you make when you realize you’ve been lax in your thinking, which prompts some to make a meme and for other to pass it along as newly acquired wisdom when it comes to how valuable teachers are.

I work hard at not forgetting what it is like being a kid. I know many people within my immediate reach often tell me to grow up, and those are similar ideas, but not the same thing. Kids have a much tougher job negotiating becoming adults than when you and I were their age and a significant reason why is because parenting has changed. My kids are angels and yours are not seems to be the central ideology. This creates a number of problems, which are then dumped at the front door of schools for teachers to deal with. Maybe this forced togetherness will create a turning point.

I feel sorry for the kids of parents who feel they have to make memes, or pass them on n agreement. Your parents suddenly realized school isn’t a daycare and that’s because those parents have completely forgotten they were once students too.

This is part of the problem with the world, there are far too many people who have no memory of their own childhood and youthful rebelliousness and mistakes. We call the professional forgetters politicians and school administrators and the rest are agitators for every dumb law and rule imposed on kids. I would never have made it through school today because my healthy disrespect for authority which was fine to have (question everything) when I was younger would likely have landed me in jail today.

Don’t be all smug, you’d have been jailed too for half of the stuff you did, which society now seems to think is fine to criminalize when it comes to our kids behaviors.

Because of the bitching and moaning of parents who abdicate their responsibility raising their children, school administration has evolved to become a machine for cranking out new rules to keep those kids in line and if you (collectively) haven’t given any attention, which you probably haven’t, to all the dumb crap our kids go through in the autocratic system of education it’s your own fault because you have been treating school like a daycare.

You are responsible for the teaching profession being thrown under the bus. Didn’t you vote for Mike Harris, who then put a truck driver in charge of the education system? Those two idiots – sorry, that’s being disrespectful – those two honorable idiots are responsible for driving thousands of teachers out of the profession and making it less attractive a career path for thinking people. And now we have Harris 2.0, it’s a little buggy, doesn’t run as well as a wrecking ball as the first version, but he’s trying.

You are responsible for demanding administrators do something about what was once normal in your school career, normal teenage behavior, because you don’t want to do it yourself.

You are responsible for demanding your angel doesn’t get punished for poor performance, while demanding they get to participate along with all the others who pull their weight. This has lead to a one size fits all set of rules, zero tolerance, and a whole class of administrators and teachers who feel the only recourse for rebellious cases is to call in the police.

You don’t believe the teacher’s fist hand knowledge of how your angel behaves when they have escaped your helicoptering and micro-managing of your child’s every moment in your presence. What did you think was going to happen when you weren’t there?

You created a system which won’t put up with your BS, a system that has thrown up its hands and reaches for 911 when there is any transgression. So look at how your little angels are behaving right now, then look in the mirror.

Make room for discretion. Let teachers and administrators deal with issues as each case demands rather than forcing them to create a narrowly ridged, one size fits all rule that stifles individualism and creativity. All the other kids aren’t out to get yours, even though some may be. All the teachers aren’t bent on holding your angel back, though even in teaching, as with any career, there are some jerks.

Your first instinct should be the teacher is right. You should be saying, “thanks for telling me, I’ll deal with this.” But don’t be blind in the opposite direction, sometimes your kid is right, and if you have any brain cells left of recollection of what your life was like at their age, you should be able to recognize when you kid is telling the truth – and you know darn well that isn’t all the time. And never forget, your kid has an undeveloped sense of what is fair and right, and probably won’t acquire any until they are in their 30s. Look in the mirror and tell me that isn’t so.

I find it extremely odd conservatives should be the ones crapping all over teachers, but here we are. Do your kids a favour, if you need to go to bat for them, do something constructive and get the government off the teacher’s backs, and ultimately off the backs of your kids.

The Shorts

* Artists who rent need to know this information. There is an important online forum regarding rent subsidies in light of the epidemic. It’s called Clarifying Government COVID-19 Relief Programs for Business. It’s on Thursday and the details are here. Other commercial renters will find it interesting too.

*  Creative Nomad Studios is initiating a show, 2020 Unlimited, and you can find details here. Anitta Hamming is using the windows of her under renovation community hub across the street from the Orillia Public Library to display the art. It’s a juried show.

*  The Orillia Museum of Art and History has been doing a number of things on their Facebook page to stay public. They also are looking for submissions for an online exhibit they are planning. You can also find last month’s history night speaker giving what was supposed to be Fred Kallin’s April public presentation on Raoul Wallenbuerg and other stuff on their Youtube page.

*  The Orillia Public Library has a number of things you can do online through their website. They have games and programs to participate in as individuals or in groups. You can download music, movies and audiobooks. You can also take online courses.

*  Shawn William Clarke has a new album, Spectral Acoustics Vol 1, and you can listen to it on Bandcamp – you can buy it there too.

*  Shane Cloutier has a new Album, Red Wagon. You can see the video for the title track here, and listen to snippets of the other tunes on his website.

*   VK and the Legends of the Deep have a new video out Friday. It’s Smelling Like Roses from the Charm album.

* Here is a list of musicians (in no particular order) that have been doing concerts online:

Zachary Lucky w/Nordvis Records May 8, 8 p.m.

Essential Concert Series  Thursdays, 8 p.m.

Steven Henry, Saturday’s, 8 p.m.

Bleeker, Facebook, Sundays, 6 p.m.

Bleeker, Instagram, Thursdays, 8 p.m.

*  American punk record label Dischord Records this week made their catalogue free to stream. You can find the music on Bandcamp.

*  If you are fairly new to town, say within the last 30 years, or have trouble remembering your time here, you can spend some idle hours on the Facebook Group, If You Grew Up In Orillia

(Photos and Images Submitted) Main: Dan Austin (photo by Morgan Provencher)

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