2010's MusiCounts Teacher of the Year Ensures Music Lessons For Low-income Kids

By Karen Bliss 12/19/10 | www.samaritanmag.com

Rock band Billy Talent with 2011 MusiCounts teacher of the year, Marian Cheney — Photo credit: Barry Roden
The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) has named Toronto’s Marian Cheney 2010’s MusiCounts teacher of the year. For 20 years, she has been teaching music at Queen Victoria Public School in Parkdale, an area of the city with a high concentration of low-income apartments and substandard living conditions.

“While at the Parkdale area school in Toronto, she has welcomed many new students from immigrant and low-income families to her classes,” says the press release about her award.  “Her policy is that no child is turned away from band or choir based on his / her ability or family financial situation.  She is very involved in the school’s vocal and choir programs as well as guitar ensemble and concert band.”

CARAS registered as an educational charity in 1974 for cultural activities and promotion of the arts. Its main function is to present the annual Juno Awards for Canadian music. MusiCounts is CARAS's music education program, whose Band Aid grants help provide musical instruments to schools and community organizations throughout Canada that apply and meet the requirements.  In 2009, approximately $650,000 was given to qualified donees, according to the registered charity information return.

Since 2007, MusiCounts shifted its program emphasis from devoting 20 percent of its time and resources on supporting schools and education to 80 percent in 2009.

As recipient of the teacher of the year award, Cheney received $20,000 — a $10,000 personal cheque and $10,000 to principal David Finkelstein for Queen Victoria Public School’s music program — donated by one of Canada's top-selling domestic rock bands, Billy Talent. Its members were on hand to present the award to Cheney at Toronto’s Hard Rock Café Dec. 16.

“Our music class in high school (where we met 17 years ago) had a huge impact on the band as we got to meet like-minded people and start the creative process of learning our instruments,” Billy Talent singer Ben Kowalewicz said in the press statement. “We hope that with the continued dedication from Marian and the donation we're providing, that the same opportunities and doors will open for some other lucky people.”

Marian Cheney with a choir from Queen Victoria Public School — Photo credit: Barry Roden
Nominations for the 2010 award were submitted to MusiCounts by the second week of September, CARAS’s senior project coordinator Michael Hurley told Samaritanmag.  

“We ask all of the schools that have received grants from us in the past to nominate one of their music teachers for this award. They then submit all information on their teacher, types of music taught, size of classes, how long they have been teaching, etcetera, along with all of their supporting reasons as to why they feel their teacher is the most deserving,” he explains.

“Nomination packages typically include support letters from everyone from other teachers and the principal, to members of their local community. The nominees are narrowed down to a short list by the MusiCounts staff and the final winner is selected by the MusiCounts advisory committee and board of directors.”

Steve Cranwell, executive director of MusiCounts, explained of their choice in the press statement. “Her dedication to enhancing the lives of her students and the devotion she has shown to both her school and her community for the last two decades is more than exceptional. When you combine this kind of hard work and commitment with a flourishing music program, the students in that school are able to realize a wealth of potential within themselves, both inside the classroom and out.”

Now in its sixth year, the MusiCounts teacher of the year award recognizes the incredible, dedicated and hard-working music teachers in Canada who help keep music alive for so many young Canadians. Each award is sponsored by an artist.  The previous five were The Rolling Stones, Anne Murray, Céline Dion, Michael Bublé and The Tragically Hip.

Since the program’s establishment in 1997, more than $4 million has been donated impacting 238 post secondary music program graduates and over 325,000 individual students, according to CARAS.


* Samaritanmag.com is an online magazine covering the good deeds of individuals, charities and businesses.