Walking The Walk

music teachers
Left to right: Cheryl Wishart, Andrea McColeman, Joyce Klassen. Photo: submitted

Music teachers in the Yukon don’t seem to have a minute to rest. For example, Annie Avery, who spoke with me about the Yukon Registered Music Teacher Association’s (YRMTA) upcoming concert, had a few minutes to spare one evening, explaining that she was off to Mayo with the Fiddleheads the next day.

In spite of their busy lives, being a private music teacher can be an isolating experience, Avery told me. Here’s where a professional association can alleviate the solitude. The YRMTA was started in the late 1960s when local music teachers came together to hold house recitals and share ideas about music instruction. Around 12 years ago, the association joined the Canadian Federation of Music Teachers’ Associations, which Avery described as “our Mother Ship.” Being part of a national organization has expanded opportunities for professional development and networking.

The association and its members have a large impact in the Yukon’s musical community. Consider, for example, all the youth who have been through the Fiddleheads program—many of them benefiting from instruction with private music teachers.

The association holds several events, each year, including a student recital during Canada Music Week, in the fall, and a young composer competition. They also help support the Yukon Music Festival, which showcases the territory’s music students.

And, just as music teachers prepare their students to perform, Avery told me that “teaching and playing go hand in hand.”

“I deplore teachers that don’t play,” she continued. “I don’t know how you can do it. We need to be able to master the instrument.”

This is where the association’s annual concert comes in.

“You can put your money where your mouth is,” Avery said. “We spend all day trying to show students how it is to get ready to perform, then we have to get up and do it ourselves.”

The concert venue is the Whitehorse United Church, which has a revamped stage area and a brand-new piano. The program will include something for everyone, including “duets, jazz, voice, classical, and young to old performers.”

“We have new people in town who play and teach and who are composers,” Avery explained. “There are two new gentlemen in town who have quite a bit of composing experience and education.

“It’s great to start showcasing some of those people.”

The proceeds of the concert will go directly into the association’s programming. This includes the fall recital and the composing competition, as well as workshops for members and other participating musicians. Sometimes the programming involves working with other organizations to provide opportunities to music teachers.

“We are so fortunate in our little territory to, you know, be able to work with other associations,” Avery said. “I think that’s important. We work with Whitehorse Concerts [and] Jazz Yukon. So if they’re bringing somebody to town, we try to piggyback on that.”

All of this talent and networking makes for a musical territory with lots of options for both performers and audiences.

“There’s quite a bit of strings going on in this town; there’s quite a bit of guitar,  piano, and that’s not counting the All City Band and Problematic [Orchestra], and the other string groups. There’s little groups coming together all the time.

“It’s wonderful to live a music life,” Avery said. “I just can’t say enough wonderful things about it.”

The YRMTA concert will be happening Sunday, May 14, at 3 p.m. at the Whitehorse United Church. Tickets are available by donation at the door.

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