MusiCounts, Canada’s leading music education charity, welcomed Quebec’s queen of pop Marie Mai and Stingray for a celebration at St. Mary’s Elementary School in Longueuil, Quebec, on Monday, December 16.
A gymnasium full of 400 students and teachers were joined by St.Mary’s principal, Vicki Roach, and music teacher Jerzy Pasternak. Kristy Fletcher, MusiCounts’ Executive Director, and Stingray’s Partnerships & Sponsorships Manager Ariane Charbonneau presented at the event. Stingray’s PausePlay host Zac Monson emceed the special occasion.
Attendees had the opportunity to watch the performance of four songs by fellow students.
Award-winning Marie Mai surprised the crowd with a performance accompanied by guitarist, musical director, and producer David Laflèche. They performed “We Collided,” “Exister/Coming Through Me,” and “Ton Histoire” to great acclaim. Marie Mai also spoke about her music career and participated in a Q&A session with students.
Stingray is extremely proud to associate its Stingray Rising Stars program to MusiCounts’ Band Aid program by providing instrument grants to schools. Enabling youth to pursue music sets the stage for greater learning and opportunities, and we are thrilled to contribute to improving access to music education.
St. Mary’s Elementary School’s music program’s annual budget is a mere four hundred dollars and the new MusiCounts instrument grant received this year has allowed the music program, music production and rock band programs at the school to continue to grow and flourish. This $11,000 MusiCounts Band Aid Program instrument grant will give students access to instruments for years to come.
We sat down with MusiCounts, Marie Mai and David Laflèche to learn more about their involvement.
From left to right: Ariane Charbonneau (Stingray), St.Mary’s kids, Marie Mai and David Laflèche.
Interview with MusiCounts
1029 benefiting schools to date: how did this great foundation come to life?
MusiCounts is the music education charity associated with the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences/ the JUNO Awards. The charity began in 1997 when proceeds of sales from the music compilation box set Oh What A Feeling, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the JUNO Awards, were used to create the MusiCounts Band Aid Program, which provides instrument grants to schools. Since then, MusiCounts programs have continued to evolve, and to-date MusiCounts has awarded over $13,000,000 in support of music education in Canada. These funds have benefitted over 1,200 schools and community organizations, supported over 400 post-secondary music program graduates, and honored 14 extraordinary music teachers and four MusiCounts ambassadors.
How many instruments do you manage to distribute each year?
In 2019, MusiCounts supported 96 school music programs across Canada with $1 million in musical instruments and equipment, and 37 community organizations with $500,000 in musical instruments and equipment. These new resources will benefit thousands of students and participants in these schools and communities for years to come. Despite this great work, MusiCounts is only able to support 1 in 5 schools that apply to receive support. We rely on corporate partners, event proceeds, and individual donors to help close this gap, but there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure all children have access to music in their school or community.
How do you choose benefiting establishments every year?
Each fall, schools in need of new instruments and equipment to build or grow their music program can apply to the MusiCounts Band Aid Program, which allocates up to $15,000 in instruments to schools across Canada. The MusiCounts TD Community Music Program provides musical instruments and equipment to community centers, after-school programs and other community non-profit organizations. Community organizations can apply to receive up to $25,000 in instruments and equipment each winter. All MusiCounts program applications are evaluated by external and internal adjudicators, and many factors are considered. Broadly, the main areas considered during evaluation are: need level, community served, program framework, and impact potential of the instrument grant. All information on MusiCounts' programs and applications is available at https://www.musicounts.ca/programs-overview/
Do you know what are the most popular instruments among youth and schools?
The schools and community organizations that MusiCounts supports can apply for any musical instrument or equipment they need to start or grow their music program. Therefore, MusiCounts supports a wide range of music programs including concert or jazz bands, rock band, music production, culturally significant programs and anything in between, so there is a large variety in the instruments we see requested each year.
From left to right: David Laflèche and Marie Mai, St.Mary’s kids, Zac Monson (Stingray).
Interview with Marie Mai and David Laflèche
Did you play an instrument when you were a child? Did you play it at school?
Marie Mai: I started playing music at home. My father had a piano at home, and I associated the white notes with joy, happiness: when I was happy, I played with those beautiful little notes. And when I was feeling down, I played dark minor notes. I associated my emotions with sounds. That’s something that happened at an early age. Then, I shared this passion with people at school. That’s what music lessons are for: to get together and share a common passion.
David: I think music lessons are very important for introducing music to people who are not growing up in a musical universe in their homes. Not all parents are music lovers or musicians. I grew up in a family that made a living playing music. So, to me, it was like there was a big music cake at home and a little music berry at school: I didn’t have a real interest in music lessons at school. At that time, I didn’t want to become a musician, which happened later in secondary 4, when I had a crush on an instrument.
Marie Mai: You just said something very important: the first time you said to yourself that you wanted to play music is when you fell in love with an instrument. If the instruments are not of good quality, you can’t have this crush. Often in schools, the quality of the instruments decreases as they’re not replaced because of budget considerations. So it's like a vicious circle. If you want people to fall in love with music, you have to put good instruments in their hands.
David: Beyond that, young people must have access to instruments that represent the musical landscape they’re listening to. It helps a lot to make the connection!
Why does this cause affect you?
Marie Mai: Music is good for everyone. Everything starts with sounds and music, it's part of each of us. Take this passion for music, spread it, share it: so many good things will come out! Seeing young people with stars in their eyes, seeing them tripping over what they hear, what they see, encouraging their comrades to work and develop their talent, that's what I prefer to do in my job! Inspiring young and old alike.
David: I find it very interesting to encourage young people in high school and Cégep. I often invite young students to come and see how a TV set works, as part of my job. That being said, I had never experienced what I experienced today with these kids. After this morning, I realize that I’m not really doing enough.
What advice would you give to children who want to become musicians when they grow up?
Marie Mai: Be patient and work hard with your heart. I wasn’t exceptionally good, I had to work very hard. You must get up when you fall because you will be often told “no”! I was often told no before breaking through with Star Academy! Don’t let go. If you feel you have to make music at all costs, no matter the challenges, no matter what you are going through, tie up to that feeling and you don't give up!
David: It’s crucial that young people understand that there are no standards. It’s easy for a kid to compare themselves to others and find them better. We’re in 2020, there has never been so much musical diversity, thanks to the technology allowing us to spread our music around the world! A young person passionate about music must get started. Just do it without trying to look like anyone! Otherwise, it won’t breakthrough. You have to be authentic. Whatever the plan is, you must move. We like to follow people who touch us, who are different.
From left to right: Marie Mai and David Laflèche, St.Mary’s kids.
This year, MusiCounts has donated $1 million in musical instruments and equipment to 96 schools across Canada through the MusiCounts Band Aid Program. MusiCounts provides instrument grants to schools in-need all across Canada, and to-date the MusiCounts Band Aid Program has supported over 100 Quebec schools and community organizations with over $1.2 million in instrument grants and awarded 64 scholarships to Quebec post-secondary students.
In 2019, MusiCounts received over $6 million in school instrument requests, but could only help 1 in 5 schools who applied. They need your help to fill this gap so more kids can experience the incredible benefits of music. Every dollar counts! Donate now (https://www.musicounts.ca/donate/)