Developing tomorrow's leaders through song

Jul 16th, 2014

Kristine Power

Developing tomorrow's leaders through song

When Drs. Angus and Jean Bruneau gave a $1-million gift to create the Bruneau Centre for Excellence in Choral Music (BCECM) at Memorial, they hoped the donation would help people “make ripples within their communities.”

Since then, the BCECM has been hard at work cultivating leading-edge choral research and community projects that build on the idea that the power of choral music is life-changing. A series of public consultations were held across the province about the centre’s mandate and a process was established to distribute up to $100,000 a year to fund projects from both the university and the wider choral community.

Dr. Doug Dunsmore, director of the BCECM and retired professor of music at Memorial, is proud to reveal the centre’s first major endeavour scheduled for this fall—an innovative approach to the first ever provincial youth choir that will go well beyond the boundaries of a musical performance. The event will bring together more than 100 young singers and choral teachers from across Labrador and Newfoundland.

“The Pan Labrador and Newfoundland Youth Choir will be a choral experience like no other,” he said. “Provincial youth choirs are usually a gathering of the best singers who get together and perhaps make a recording or do a tour, that’s what most of the youth choirs in Canada do. This is an opportunity designed to be a whole life-learning experience built around a choral experience. Singing is what gets us together but everything else that we are planning radiates from that.”

WATCH: Pan Labrador Choir on YouTube

The Pan Labrador and Newfoundland Youth Choir will bring groups of youth and their mentors or choir leaders from around the province to Labrador to participate in a four-day event that will involve collaborating and networking with some of the best minds the province has to offer. There will be industry leaders, political leaders and Aboriginal leaders, all of whom will share wisdom and skills for youth to take back to their respective communities for lasting impact. It is as much about young people realizing their future possibilities in the province and the world, as it is about the music they will sing, explained Dr. Dunsmore.

“The Labrador choir has existed for six years. We decided what we wanted to do was join a successful event and make it into an even bigger event...the concert, much of it, will be like a traditional performance...standing up on stage and singing...but the way we tell the stories that we sing, the words, the expressions, the actions will be visually visceral and dramatic. If one experiences an effective choir concert, one hears words but also the sights and sounds that contribute to making a meaningful and engaging experience. We want the students to engage themselves and engage with others through choral music.”

“We are very thankful for the generosity of Drs. Angus and Jean Bruneau, especially for their vision of choral music as a positive force for social transformation,” said Dr. Ellen Waterman, dean, School of Music. “In a culture with deep musical roots and traditions, we are fostering new ways of thinking about choral music and its impact on our lives, our province and the world around us.”

Nowhere will this impact be more obvious, though, than on the young people who will come together to sing.

“It’s a confidence booster for our students and will provide them with a chance to perform, share throat singing and drumming traditions, and bring back those songs, those performances, and build on them in their schools,” said Janet Wiseman, a Pan Labrador and Newfoundland Youth Choir project co-ordinator based in Labrador. “Students begin to realize through song, ‘I can become a leader. I can sing with the best of them.’”

The BCECM not only funds projects such as the Pan Labrador and Newfoundland Youth Choir, it also has a mandate to hold an annual competition to provide funding for both community-based projects and university-based research on choral music. Applications will be available online as of July 30, 2014, with a deadline of Oct. 1, 2014, for projects that begin as early as December.

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