From “Do-Re-Mi” to “Sa-Ri-Ga,” students at the Kimberley/Beaches Alternative school heard a world of music this week thanks to the Sultans of String.
With a guitar, a sitar, and a six-string violin, the Sultans picked through a mix of music traditions, including bosa nova, blues and eighties rock.
Besides a show, the plucky trio gave students snippets of music history, led a rhythm count in Indian tala (Sanskrit for “clap”), and shared tips on easy ways to pick up and play.
“Music is so much fun, and you can learn it your whole life,” said bandleader and Beach resident Chris McKhool, shortly after he invited four students to back the band using three hand drums and a cardboard box.
For their part, the students wished the band good luck at the JUNOs – the Sultans’ latest album, Symphony!, was just nominated for Best Instrumental Album of the Year.
But when it comes to recognizing great Canadian music, one group of Kimberley/Beaches Alternative students can tell a thing or two to JUNO juries.
Principal Lilian Hanson explained that it was a committee of Grade 5 students who last year scouted an artists’ showcase and selected the Sultans as the best performers for their school.
Equipped with a budget from the school’s parent council, the Grade 5s reviewed dozens of artists who perform with Prologue, an Ontario arts education group, and chose the best act for their junior kindergarten to Grade 6 school.
“They do a great job – they take a lot of initiative, and they’re very proud of it,” said Hanson, noting that the Sultans performed twice, once for kindergarteners and once for older students, and at both shows students’ hands shot up with questions.
“This is actually quite unique,” said Patty Jarvis, Prologue’s executive director.
While some students from Ontario’s French-language schools also scout a Prologue showcase, Jarvis said Kimberley/Beaches is the only one she knows of with a student committee. Prologue has roughly 50 performers to choose from, she said, including dancers, actors, storytellers and puppeteers.
“For many children who attend the performances, it’s their first time seeing a live band, a play, or a professional dance company,” said Jarvis.
“I think arts is this thing that can often feel separate from us –‘Those are really special people, with these talents I don’t have,’” she added.
“There needs to be a breaking down of that, so that children are encouraged to access all kinds of creative stuff for themselves that they didn’t necessarily know about.”