The Vocal Music Academy at Ryerson Community School — a new public elementary school focused on singing — had its first concert and official opening ceremony on Nov. 29.
Yesterday, teacher Marlys Neufeldt and vice principal Mark Bell — long active in both the Toronto District School Board and in Riverdale and surrounding neighbourhoods as an ardent advocate of children’s choral singing — sent out their first report on how things are going with this downtown experiment.
Here is an edited version of the report:
“The Voice” is the theme chosen by the staff and students of the new Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Vocal Music Academy downtown at Ryerson Community School for this inaugural year.
“Everybody has a voice.” “All voices are unique and different.” “Give voice to your thoughts and dreams.” And “voice your opinions.” These are familiar applications of the word. At the Academy, this holds especially true when we consider the wonderful chorus of voices that are present among the students and staff.
On Thursday November 29, we presented out inaugural concert followed by the gala opening ceremony.
The students were in fine voice as they opened with Ruth Moody’s wonderful “One Voice.” The programme contained music from many different genres, languages and styles — from Bach’s “Bist du bei mir” to a drumming, dancing and singing ensemble based on a song from Mali, to Bruno Mars’ “Count On Me.”
The capacity audience was very appreciative and the students shone.
The music and teaching staff are Marlys Neufeldt, Sarah Parker and Abby Pierce. These talented educators teach the required subjects of the Ontario curriculum, as in any public school. They also work together to provide musical enrichment in grades 4 through 6.
We plan to add a grade 7 class next year.
The Academy draws a diverse group of students locally and from across the city. Our pupils sing every day, and are engaged by reading, writing, creating and listening to music.
We incorporate music into other subject areas to deepen learning across subjects. Our students get many opportunities to perform through glee clubs, large and small ensembles, musical theatre, chamber ensembles and solo performances.
The music they perform ranges across many genres, styles and periods. There is no audition process required for entry into the Academy – only the love of singing.
During the opening ceremony, the ribbon was cut by Mackenzie Goodwin, the first student to enroll. We also unveiled a new mural created by the students with Toronto-based artist, Andrew Owen.
The gala celebration would not have been possible without the newly-formed parent council, which helped organize and coordinate all aspects of the evening, from the décor to the food and a silent auction.
The final song of the concert was “I Am But a Small Voice,” by Roger Whittaker. Its inspirational lyrics and melody set the direction for our year of learning and singing together: “Come, young citizens of the world, we are one… we have one hope… one dream, for peace, love and prosperity for humankind… and with one voice, we sing!”
Mark Bell and Marlys Neufeldt