Building relationships takes time and effort in general and in art education. When an artist has a strong connection with students, the art-making experience can lead to strong reflections on life experiences, with profound impacts on both students and artists.
Teaching Artist Guillaume Jabbour, Laurentians-based Music & Sound artist and songwriter, was at Sainte Agathe Academy last winter to lead the Creation of Soundscapes project for students, creating audio projects in music and sound. They created a playlist composed of a collection of poems written and performed by Sec 2 students around the theme of empathy.
In an innovative approach to music education, students had meaningful discussions ensued around the themes of relationships, abuse, isolation, misogyny, and life transitions through creating rap lyrics, song verses and collaborative songwriting exercises.
When the pandemic hit, Guillaume, the ELAN ArtEd team and the staff at Sainte Agathe Academy (particularly Chantal Paquin, the CLC, Janet Vekteris, the art teacher, and France Celestino, the principal) pivoted the entire program, in order to respond to the regulations and guidelines around social distancing and safety. They worked out the logistics to continue with a virtual songwriting program that ran until early June. This allowed the young songwriters and Guillaume to negotiate the terms of this new reality through music.
With recalibration of programs and adjustments to online platforms, the team was able to ensure that students had continued access to the Creation of Soundscapes experience.
Guillaume is continuing his work with Sainte Agathe in 2020-21, with profound exchanges and developments around how students feel about how their lives have changed over the course of the last year.
The 2020-21 school year began with Guillaume running a bucket drumming extra-curricular activity, which was meant to be a light, fun activity with limited talking, to keep things Covid friendly. Guillaume noticed quickly that students were not necessarily in the mood to have fun, and actually wanted to express their feelings. He interviewed willing students about how things were before the pandemic and when the pandemic hit, how things are now and what they think the future holds. The sound artist created this audio piece incorporating students’ responses and his own artistic practice, giving students a voice and showing others that they are not alone.
Following this experience, Guillaume began an ArtistsInspire Grants project in January 2021 with Mrs. Wilkins’ Secondary 2 English class. In an effort to recognize and address Youth Mental Health, Guillaume says,
“I wanted to make it ok to not be ok and give the students a medium to be able to get some of their thoughts out. Songwriting or poetry is excellent for this because in a way there are no rules. It can be as free as you want it to be and the writer can get very personal. We began with a free writing exercise anchored in personal reflections on things that have changed. During the editing process, we explored point of view, metaphor, imagery and other literary techniques to turn these personal reflections into poetic works. The emphasis was less on structure and more on the process of expressing your deepest thoughts, in an artistic way.”
Students then recorded themselves performing their pieces, and recorded sounds from their surroundings. A powerful audio work was co-created by Guillaume and Sainte-Agathe students from these recordings, reflecting this unique and intense time in human history and their personal experience of it. Tune in here for the online launch of Sainte Agathe Academy Audio Storytelling and Sound Art Project (ArtistsInspire) on May 21, 2021 19:30: http://saken.ca/4-korners-live-music-schedule-2021/
This extraordinary story in music education shows the potential that comes out of art processes when on-going relationships are built and cultivated between schools and students and Teaching Artists, whether these relationships are built in-person, on-line or a combination of the two. The ELAN ArtEd team is here to support schools, teachers and Teaching Artists in fostering Youth Mental Health through developing emotional resilience and sense of connection.