Melanie Graham

If music be the food of love…

Lorna Bjorklund, with help, brought music program to schools

Study after study shows music programs enrich the lives of youth (and anyone else for that matter).

According to music affectionadoes Lorna Bjorklund and Niki Martin, the list of benefits is long. It includes advantages for memory, time management, organizational skills, teamwork, perseverance, coordination, mathematics, reading and comprehension, concentration, stress-relief (including alleviating depression), listening, interactivity and self-discipline.

Last April the Journey middle school’s strings ranked superior  at the Port Alberni’s band competition, and the band ranked superior plus. Their competition results at this competition awarded them a spot in the national competition, MusicFest, upcoming in Richmond May 12-17 (musicfest.ca).

Currently, the student musicians are madly fundraising. They are looking primarily to raise $3,000 to cover the essentials; buses, ferry costs, chaperone fees, original scores, reeds, rosin and strings. Individually, each student will also pay $350 to cover their own travel, hotel and admission to MusicFest.

You may have seen them out and about, raising money to support their musical endeavours. Purdy’s chocolates, Krispy Kremes, and steel recycling are just a few of the initiatives listed by Bjorklund.

A lesser known fact is how the music program came to be. It didn’t exactly burst into existence, it trickled into being.

Lorna Bjorklund came to Sooke in 2007 from the Caymen Islands where, according to the SPOlight (The Sooke Philharmonic Blog) she was “head of the high school music department and conductor of the national concert band.”

Bjorklund  has an academic background from the Royal Conservatory of Toronto with an Associate of The Royal Conservatory (ARCT) diploma for Performers and Teachers. It is the highest academic standings ,awarded by The Royal Conservatory, and is respected internationally as a teaching qualification.

“When I came, I couldn’t even get a job as a TOC (Teacher on Call),” Bjorklund reflected. She was told there was no need for music teachers in the area.

She was infinitely qualified, and so she approached the school with a proposal that would see her teaching band. Instead, Bjorklund ended up working in retail until 2008. “I got a little bored with the job after a while,” she laughed, “so I left.”

Her passion and her drive kept her knocking at the school’s door, and eventually a spot was found at the beginning of the 2008 school year, as a TOC, giving her a .06 teaching job at Journey middle school. That translated into two 50-minute periods a week, at 7:30 in the morning.

“That was my foot in the door.”

Bjorklund has kept the door open since, and even managed to squeeze in a few other highly talented music teachers, including Ann McDougal who currently leads the strings program.

Her teaching has expanded to students from Edward Milne community school (EMCS), and it’s a combination of school-sponsored teaching and private teaching. The Sooke Concert Band and the Sooke Youth Strings now come from both schools. And the seeds of the passion are being planted beginning at the elementary level.

“SD 62 now has a mandate to provide music instruction to all students at the elementary level,” wrote Sandi Arts, a music teacher at Poirier elementary, in an email. “Sooke has music teachers delivering excellent programs in all of its schools.” At the elementary level, students learn a variety of musical styles and experiment with composition.

“Students in music programs benefit from brain development which enriches and enhances learning in all other areas of the curriculum – and in life,” emphasizes Arts.

The benefits of music are immeasurable, and will serve our youth well into their adulthood, maintains Bjorklund, by giving them an instant community anywhere their life travels may take them.

Arts strongly echoes that sentiment: “Studies indicate that they are more likely to excel in all of their studies, work better in teams, have enhanced critical thinking skills and greater self-confidence, stay in school, avoid alcohol and drugs, and pursue further education.”

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