longform: vocal coach/conductor, We Are One Jazz Project

Written by sdperlman

The simplest way to describe this project, is to send you to their website.

I am now in my fifth season working as the children’s choir conductor for this amazing endeavour. After ten years of working with students in the GTA, this year’s group includes students in grades 3-5 from 4 participating elementary schools in Belleville. When we meet for our big choir practice once every few weeks, we are 120 voices strong. Over 13 weeks, I help these incredible young musicians explore the music, language and history of jazz through music that has been carefully curated by our Artistic Director Howard Rees, from the work of revered pianist, composer and educator, Dr. Barry Harris.

I am so grateful to Howard and to Cathy Fenje for including me as a part of the team, even as the project transitioned to a new school board with new amazing challenges and opportunities for growth. The need for opportunity for music and arts is every bit as great in other parts of the province, and working with the Prince Edward and Hastings School Board, and our brilliant contact Andrea Kerr has given me new opportunities to explore my own ideas and bias about what that “need” looks like in terms of access to arts and culture programming. And mostly, to the incredible students and wonderfully supportive teachers and classroom staff who are lending their voices and time and energy to this joyful noise. It’s been a pleasure getting to know the communities at Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria, Prince of Wales, and Prince Charles Public Schools.

For the last several years the project has been very fortunate to have the support and time of photographer Alan Dunlop who came around with us in March to document our singers in progress as they prepare for their final performance in April. I am often really focused on the kids in rehearsal and over the years his photos (of which there are a vast collection online) have become a chance for me to see all the things I miss when I’m focused on the big picture. He has one of the keenest eyes for each moment I have ever encountered.

I am sharing a few of his pictures from this year here with the project’s kind permission. Please contact them before reprinting or re-using.

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