Last week, Canada’s music education charity and the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences presented their annual Teacher of the Year Award with the help of Toronto’s Billy Talent. The award was given to Marian Cheney, a music teacher at Toronto’s Queen Victoria Public School.
In addition to making an appearance, a surprise to Cheney’s students who were in attendance, the members of Billy Talent were also responsible for donating $10,000 to Queen Victoria Public School to help fund the arts and music program.
“It’s an honour for us to be a part of it,” says guitarist Ian D’Sa. “We all grew up in Mississauga but we’ve spent the past ten years in Toronto and I think it’s just great to give back to the community and foster music at a young age.”
During the band’s speech onstage at the Hard Rock Cafe in Toronto, lead singer Ben Kowalewicz encouraged the kids to continue taking music in school. “You kids continue to follow your hearts, play music and never, ever stop singing and playing okay?”
Afterwards, the children of Cheney’s music class took the stage for few musical numbers of their own. When the performance ended, one of the students stuck out devil horns and cheered “Rock on!” to the band.
“It’s great to see kids get so excited,” says drummer Aaron Solowoniuk. D’Sa also complimented the singers adding that “I was really impressed they were doing those crazy Beach Boys harmonies.”
When asked about their own experiences, D’Sa recalls his own days singing in a school choir and performing at Square One whereas Solowoniuk shared a bitter tale of losing his instrument of choice in band class.
“I tried to get the snare drum in band, I remember it like it was yesterday, but Adam Flimmer took it! And I wanted to be an individual, I just didn’t want to be one of the three clarinet players, so I picked the tuba. I was so bummed. But the tuba was great, it was huge!”
Cheney, who describes her job teaching at Queen Victoria “a dream job”, says that the money donated will go towards building a more technologically-based music program for her students at school, including a digital music lab with laptops, computers and keyboards.
“Thanks to CARAS I think things are pretty amazing but I think more needs to be done,” Cheney says, of the arts funding in Ontario. “Music is always one of the first programs to be cut but people don’t understand the true connection between music and the other parts of the curriculum but you can just take a look at my children and see that, for them, it can change a life.”