Choir Practice: Wednesdays 10 AM – 11 AM, Glencairn MB ChurchDoors do not open before 9:30 AM
1) Please bring other footwear in the winter or wear your socks inside. We should not be wearing outdoor boots in the gym. The salt and melting snow will wreck the floor.
2) When school buses are cancelled then Choir is cancelled.
Please Note: All participants must be accompanied by a teacher, EA, support worker, parent, or guardian. This is not a “drop-in” program with staff provided for personal support and care.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Over 30 years ago, teacher Bruce Fitzgerald brought his guitar to school at University Heights and had a jam session with his class and a few others. A simple event by a teacher looking for a way to infuse another dimension of himself into the classroom became a regular musical gathering, finally evolving into the Waterloo Region’s Special Ed. Choir. When Bruce moved to Listowel Secondary School, Ruth Bauers stepped into the breach and took over leading the choir, still meeting at University Heights. Ruth was followed by the affable Janet Kenzie, who directed the choir until she retired. Present Director Nancy Tilt took over in 2005 when University Heights closed and the choir gathered in the kitchen area of the Spec Ed. pod at Sir John A McDonald. Students from across the county were invited to attend and over 70 of them responded cramming into the kitchen pod around Nancy Tilt’s piano. In the spring of 2006 Nancy recruited Jim Penner (Grand River Collegiate) to help out, bringing a guitar back into the fold, reminiscent of Bruce Fitzgerald’s original jam sessions. When Nancy moved to Huron Heights Secondary School the choir followed and began practicing there.
Heather Ackersviller (Westheights) added elements of sign language to the songs, and now leads the choir in both tempo and sign language making this choir a uniquely bilingual group. While the backbone of the choir is comprised of more than 100 singers from 14 different schools, alumni who graduate from WRDSB schools continue to sing with the choir as well as members of other agencies and group homes in the Waterloo Region.
By January of 2013 the choir had outgrown the studio space that we used at Huron Heights and we moved our Wednesday morning practices to Glencairn Mennonite Brethren Church on Block Line Rd.
The choir sings a variety of songs, from folk and pop to old-time favourites and Negro spirituals. Some of the songs have been sung by the choir since its inception, others were added to the repertoire at the request of students, wanting to sing their own favourite songs. The music and lyrics encourage connections for the students, between people, places, experiences, and classroom curriculum. While “Kumbaya” may remind them of last year at summer camp and the friends they have there, “Canada in my Pocket” reinforces the money concepts that they have been working on in math. Students also develop useful skills through singing in the choir, including: memorization practice, public presentation, poise, teamwork, listening to and following direction, timing and rhythm as well as voice and breathing control. The confidence students develop through regular practice and performance is beneficial as they set out for job interviews and the work place.
Developmentally, these singers enjoy the benefits that listening to and performing music bring to the entire brain. Beyond stimulating the auditory centres, the memory, speech and languages centres are engaged, the visual and sensory cortices are fired up as students watch the director and follow along in sign language. And to cap it all off we all know how music moves us emotionally, whether happy, sad or inspiring, the students reap the rewards of singing songs of humour, dreams, fantasy and love. Love songs are very popular with this choir, “Of course, these kids like love songs,” says Mrs. Tilt, “They’re normal.”