INTERVIEW with Executive Director, Kristy Fletcher. MUSIC MAKES A DIFFERENCE, Musicounts!
Deb: It is my distinct honor today to have spoken with Kristy Fletcher who is the Executive Director and inclusive leader of Canada’s National Music Education Charity, Musicounts. She leads energized and collaborative teams to develop a strategic vision while delivering great results, plenty of driving purpose, and is one who helps change the lives of many children, by keeping the music alive in schools across Canada. Musicounts is associated with CARAS and the Juno Awards and places instruments into the hands of kids that need it the most from coast to coast. Musicounts has and continues to ensure that Canadian children and youth have access to music programs through school and their communities ever since it’s conception in 1997. We can all agree that music has a massive impact on our lives, it’s everywhere. It heightens our senses, influences our emotions, moods, thoughts, feelings, and in my opinion, that’s why the power of music should never be underestimated. Listening to music from birth or even before, will create neuron pathways in the brain making understanding the world around us a little easier and to be able to excel in regards to communications a bit faster. Deb: Q. 1) If listening to music does all of that, then what would you say learning an instrument does, and what is the significant importance of musical education? KRISTY: “Thank you for your incredible support of MusiCounts! As you mentioned, music is essential to a child’s development, and its impact can’t be overstated. The cognitive benefits of music education are well documented. We know engaging in music education can improve competency in math and science, and can quite literally increase IQ scores. However, just as important, music is the great equalizer. It encourages socialization, collaboration, and communication. It bridges cultural gaps and teaches us about the world around us. Music is a powerful tool.”
Deb: In the last 24 years, Musicounts has significantly made an impact by enlightening, empowering, and elevating with its Band-Aid program and I heard it is back for the 2020/2021 season. It provides schools with whatever instruments, equipment, and resources are needed to help keep music education thriving inside the schools. This could be in the format of ukuleles, Pow Wow drums, air filters, turntables, and schools can request up to $15,000 in equipment to keep music class inclusive and sustainable in these challenging times. I noticed that your deadline was set for November 19th and it looks like it was extended and most recently ended on December 11th, 2020. Applications received before October 20th, I understand will be entered into a chance to receive one of a two-piece Paragon stage Maple drum kits valued at $3,000 each. Deb: Q. 2) When will the recipients be announced and can you describe how Musicounts Band Aid Program Awards are allocated and who can apply? KRISTY: “The MusiCounts Band Aid program allows schools across Canada to apply for up to $15,000 in musical instruments for their music program. All public schools that are in need of musical instruments or equipment for their program are welcome to apply. Our application window for this’s years program just closed, but it’s never too early to think about applying for next year! We are so pleased to announce that this year we are allocating $1,000,000 worth of instruments and equipment! Each year we receive between 300 – 500 applications from schools across the country. This year’s applicants will be adjudicated in January and the recipients will be announced in March. Each application is adjudicated by a minimum of two people, so the process can take some time. Priority is given to schools in high needs areas, and also remote communities that might be facing specific challenges.”
Deb: Q. 3) To date, Musicounts has awarded $14 million in support of Music Education. On a yearly average, how many schools have benefited, how many extraordinary music teachers and Musicounts Ambassadors have also been acknowledged since its conception almost a quarter of a century ago?KRISTY: “Yes, since 1997 we have awarded millions of dollars to support music education. Each year we award anywhere from 70 – 80 schools with a Band-Aid grant. Unfortunately, access to music education is threatened across Canada due to a lack of funding and inadequate resources. Last year MusiCounts saw a staggering 59% increase in applications from schools that need our assistance to keep music class alive. By providing new instrument and repair grants to schools and community organizations, MusiCounts helps programs free up funds for other much-needed music resources. MusiCounts is grateful to the many champions of music education who help us keep music alive in schools and communities all across Canada. It starts in the classroom with many music teachers who inspire children, generates meaningful musical experiences, and ensure that even when resources are limited, music is still heard. We’re so pleased to honor these remarkable teachers with our MusiCounts Teacher of the Year Award, which we announce during The JUNO Awards. To date, we have awarded 14 teachers with this honor. There are also many tireless advocates, supporters, and champions of MusiCounts. MusiCounts Ambassadors are vocal music education advocates and give their time and resources to help us fundraise and build awareness. Artists use their music and voice to help MusiCounts engage with youth and raise awareness for our initiatives. Many industry leaders lend their expertise to ensure MusiCounts’ success and help inspire the next generation of music pioneers. To date, we have awarded four ambassadors with our MusiCounts Inspired Minds Ambassador Award.”
Deb: Musicounts grants have impacted thousands of Canadian students through supportive and diverse music programs and even reaches many First Nation communities. Q.4) Can you share the special connection that the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network or APTN has with Musicounts? KRISTY: “MusiCounts is fortunate to have had a strong partnership with APTN for many years. We work with APTN to help identify and support remote communities and will continue to work with them as we grow our outreach and indigenous programming. “
Deb: Musicounts programs like Band-Aid, TD Community Music, Teacher of the Year Award, it’s Inspired Minds Ambassador Awards, and the Canadian Scholarships of music initiatives. Q. 5) What other special programs does Musicounts associate with as of current and into 2021? KRISTY: “We’re working on several new programs to help facilitate music education in this challenging new environment caused by COVID-19. Teachers are facing unprecedented challenges, and our goal is to help fill in some of their gaps. For example, we’re conducting Town Halls, facilitating dialogue between educators across the country, and we’re developing tools and resources that teachers can bring into their classrooms, whether in person or virtual, to help make their jobs easier.”
Deb: Learning an instrument can be a very social aspect of a child’s upbringing where they form significant friendships and social skills. Not only does playing an instrument have benefits but so does singing in choirs as it’s good for your soul emotionally and mentally. As well, music trains the ear as we listen for rhythm, tone, and even language which advances are dexterity and increases are fine motor skills. Enter in Covid-19 pandemic to the in-school curriculum. Q. 6) How would you say the music programs inside our Ontario school systems have been impacted by Covid-19?
Deb: On December 10th, 2020, Musicounts showcased it’s 1st ever virtual Unsilent Night featuring Corey Hart, Meghan Patrick, Fred Penner, and so much more! They celebrated the missed and valued school children’s Christmas plays/concerts and further celebrated the permanent role that music played during this pandemic, as it has been an important connection for teachers, and particularly young kids. KRISTY: “This year we are allocating $1,000,000 in instruments as the need is greater more than ever. Just as important as the instruments would be the resources that are currently being developed to help teachers teach through a pandemic, to know how to engage and we are creating a portal,” says Kristy Fletcher. Deb Q. 7) Can you elaborate more on the portal Musicounts is creating? KRISTY: “In response to the pandemic, and the unprecedented challenges this presented for music education, we launched our newest program, MusiCounts Learn. This program aims to create new teaching resources for music educators; resources that offer something new and meet the unique needs of music education at this time. We were busy this fall facilitating virtual town hall conversations with expert teachers across Canada and building new resources that teachers can use when teaching remotely. All of this was received really well, so we are in the process of building a new web portal to house existing and future MusiCounts Learn resources. There are a few new and exciting things that we’ll be releasing in early 2021, so stay tuned for that! “
Deb Q. 8) Who was the lucky recipient of the beautiful handcrafted necklace from your Unsilent Night Fundraiser on December 10th that was officially drawn on December 14th, which was made with 1 of the TREWS guitar strings? KRISTY: “Shelagh Henney from Toronto was the winner of the Sheepdogs necklace! “
Deb Q.9) What motivates you the most Kristy and how did you get involved in this side of the industry? KRISTY: “I’ve had the great fortune to work in two incredible industries – sports and music. At first glance they might seem very different, but in reality, there are many similarities. Sports and music both bring people together – social connectors rooted in passion. Also, both industries belong to the masses. Everyone has an opinion, everyone feels a sense of ownership and engagement. MusiCounts checks every box for me. It’s an incredible organization and cause that is providing direct and immediate impact to children across the country by literally putting instruments into the hands of kids that need them most. I am also passionate about the music industry which is diverse, dynamic, and very socially aware. I couldn’t ask for a more fulfilling job.”
If you would love to find out more about the magic that Musicounts creates, and how you too can make a difference, don’t delay visit http://www.musicounts.ca/donate today you’ll be glad you did!! Merry Christmas.
Kristy Fletcher Executive Director CARAS | The JUNO Awards | MusiCounts