It’s been a long time since I was in public school.

As I remember, we had a music program … we sang and entered choir competitions and had a great ol’ time.

But it was nothing like the North Klondyke Highway Schools has. I know this because of this new CD these schools have produced.

I think I remember one of the tunes we used to sing. Allow me to sing a few bars by way of introduction and feel free to feel the magic and join in:

“Kumbaya, my Lord, kumbaya. O Lord, kumbaya”.

OK, so our educators worked with what they had at the time, as schools in the Yukon are today. The main difference is that the North Klondyke Schools have released an entire CD of original music.

Listening to Learn By Heart: Songs From the North Klondyke Highway Schools it’s easy to determine it was a labour of love for Yukon songwriter Steve Slade to involve students from four schools in this project.

Slade utilized the kids’ fascination with the science they were studying and the social interaction that students feel with the land they live on to develop the tunes that eventually made it to disc.

The disc presents students from kindergarten through Grade 12 of Robert Service School in Dawson City, J.V. Clark School in Mayo, Tantalus School in Carmacks and Eliza Van Bibber School in Pelly Crossing. Slade and the students wrote 80 songs, 24 of which are presented on this album.

Slade developed ideas from subjects that the students suggested and wrote tunes that the children eventually sang for the CD.

The tracks contained in this CD run the musical gamut of rock, folk and sea shanties. Slade has brought together some of the finest Yukon musicians to help with the music and production while the kids sing with joyous abandon.

Each song has been crafted to reflect the interest of the classes involved. Some are musical representations of the science they have studied as in The Little Brown Bat’s Christmas and We Like Worms (who doesn’t?) and some contain ideas that are learned in social studies like the tracks Mashsi Cho Jejik and The Salmon Song.

At its heart, the album is a celebration of learning and the joy of expression. These kids are having fun and you can hear it with every note they sing.

I have to admit I was somewhat skeptical of my ability to enjoy a school CD, but after hearing just a few songs on this album I left that attitude at the door and began to really enjoy the openness and delight that everyone on this CD presents.

Slade has done yeoman’s work with these kids and hopefully encouraged a few students to pursue a further career in music studies.

The proceeds from the sale of this album will go toward sponsoring the music programs in these four North Klondyke Highway communities.

There is a lot of talent in this Yukon of ours and, apparently, much of it resides in the children in our community schools.

You can order a copy of Learn By Heart: Songs From the North Klondyke Highway Schools from Peter Menzies at [email protected]