Jaymi Daniels faced a problem every school year.
The Valleyview secondary music teacher was watching the numbers drop every September for band, choir or music theatre — and she wanted to do something about it.
One of the issues, Daniels said, was some of the four elementary feeder schools to her school no longer offer music programs. While music is supposed to be mandatory, there are schools with no music specialists on staff to offer the programming, she said.
Daniels wanted to find a way to fix that and, after a conversation with Kim Mangan, executive director of the Kamloops Music Collective, a plan was hatched.
Mangan would work to get approval from the school district and the elementary principals to promote a program they would call Band Together.
It would bring together students from grades six and seven who had an interest in music together to learn how to play an instrument. Twenty-eight eventually registered for the six weekly sessions.
Daniels volunteered her time, Mangan found funding to buy some instruments and Valleyview opened its band room — and last September, there were 30 new students starting at Valleyview who registered for band.
That success has inspired Mangan to not only plan to do it again for Valleyview, but hopefully grow Band Together, bringing in other secondaries and their feeder schools to provide music to young children and inspire them to pursue it at least for a few more educational years.
Daniels said even those who don’t move forward in music after graduation benefit from it because they learn about music and develop an appreciation of it — all key to keep creating those audiences that give musicians a reason to perform publicly.
Ted Howe understands the need to promote music at an earlier age.
A musician himself, the associate professor at Thompson Rivers University is working with the collective on a survey to determine the impact its Kamloops Summer School of Music has had in the four decades it has existed.
Howe and his son are members of Kamloops Community Band and his son also studies it at Sahali secondary where, Howe said, he’s watched the numbers decline through the years.
A link to the survey has been sent to all students who attended the summer school in the past, asking several questions about the many impacts the three-week daily program might have had in their abilities, understanding and appreciation of music.
Support from the United Way Thompson-Nicola-Cariboo and TRU’s community development research fund are helping drive the survey, which will continue to the end of July, when the analysis will begin.
Mangan and Howe see the work as essential to Kamloops, as well as to the collective.
With the branding of the Tournament Capital of Canada, Mangan said, people tend to view Kamloops through that lens.
“We need to bring more focus on how vibrant our arts community is,” she said.
Howe spoke to research already done on the arts which shows evidence its benefits go beyond just learning to play an instrument into other areas of life.
Researchers have found listening to music can improve memory, help aging brains stay healthy, release endorphins in the body that can ease anxiety and pain and stabilize the immune system.
Music connects with brain function, blood pressure and heartbeat, along with feelings and emotions, to cause a body to relax, breathing to slow, tension to ease and, in the case of stroke survivors and Parkinson’s disease patients, help with recovery as brain scans show music and motor-control in the body share circuits.
For more information on Band Together, Mangan can be reached at 236-425-4221 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The collective’s office is at 423 St. Paul St.