Music teacher Notre-Dame-des-Neiges in the running for a Juno award

Being nominated for a Juno award is a big deal. When you’re a music teacher at a small school nestled in the Canadian Rockies, this appointment may come as a surprise.

CANMORE – Being nominated for a Juno award is a big deal.

When you’re a music teacher at a small school nestled in the Canadian Rockies, this appointment may come as a surprise.

Janell Toews of Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Academy is trying to take the news head on, and there was certainly no expectation to be part of the bigger celebration at first.

“I thought, OK, they’ll announce the award to the JUNOS as part of supporting local programs like MusiCounts and the Band Aid funds and grants that they distribute to Canadian schools,” she said.

Toews first found out she was a finalist in late December, but was told to lay low until all of this year’s nominations in all categories were confirmed. The enormity of the occasion wasn’t really taken into account until the official announcements were made on March 1.

“It wasn’t until Tuesday (March 1) that I realized it was a real JUNO,” Toews said, as she mimed holding a small statuette that could be hers for real. in mid-May.

“It was definitely a shock because it’s music teachers from all over Canada and I’m just a music teacher in a small K-12 school,” Toews said. “I went back and watched some of the people who have won in the past and they’re all such fantastic advocates for music. I am so honored to be part of this group.

Presented by the Canadian Scholarship Trust Foundation, the MusiCounts Teacher of the Year Award is designed to encourage and celebrate a music teacher who has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to their students. Sixteen teachers have already won the award, and in addition to Toews, there are four more nominees this year.

Toews has worked at OLS for 14 years and teaches music from grades 5-12, including guitar and harmony programs from grades 7-12. She comes to work through her own experiences as a teenager in Valleyview, Alberta.

“I come from a small northern town that had the most beautiful music hall ever built,” Toews said. “And by the time I was in high school, the band program was dying out to the point where there were only four of us, and so we ended up doing a little jazz combo.

“But, I just thought it was so sad because in the 80s the band’s program was huge at Valleyview and it won all kinds of awards.”

Watching this process unfold over time inspired Toews on his career path.

“That’s why I became a music teacher,” she said, “because I didn’t want to see band programs die anymore.”

The Juno Awards are presented by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and the MusiCounts Award was established in 2005. Toews’ name was proposed by fellow fine arts teacher at OLS Kendra Silk , who was more than happy to put in the time and effort to present the strongest case for her colleague and friend.

“What inspired me to write the nomination is how students experience her classroom,” Silk said. “Despite the complexities of the past two years, when the students left her classroom, they had the potential to share an aspect of their history through music.

“Students had the opportunity to collaborate and be part of a sound bigger than themselves and to join their peers. What could be more inspiring and easy to write than someone who helps students see the value they have within? »

The students themselves also participated.

“I know a lot of my students are a big part of that,” Toews said. “They wrote letters and submitted videos and I think that’s the most amazing and special thing you can have as a teacher.

“Students feel like you’ve made a difference in their lives to the point of wanting to write you a letter of recommendation, because most of the time it’s the other way around…it was really, really special to me. .”

True to the spirit of creativity and artistic expression that looms large in his life, Toews was quick to point out that the Bow Valley is blessed with many options for people to explore. their creative side, at any age, at any time. discipline. Reinforce the idea that art can be a lifelong pursuit.

“I want to thank the Town of Canmore and the people of Canmore for being able to support the fine arts in the Bow Valley. It gives people, young and old, the opportunity to express themselves.

As the energy and emotion of big news softens for Toews in the weeks ahead, there is still the small matter of Canada’s annual celebration of excellence in music to look forward to.

“Like any other contestant, I will be sitting in Toronto on May 15 and when my category arrives, that’s when I will find out if I won, or if one of the other four people won,” Toews said, looking like someone who still can’t believe it’s all really happening.

“So, I’m taking my husband to the JUNOS. And I think I can also organize events in advance, where I will meet other Canadian artists, legends and nominees, and I can’t even imagine it right now. It’s so big and surreal that I have this opportunity and can represent my school and my school division.

The 2022 JUNO Awards are scheduled for Sunday, May 15 in Toronto and will be broadcast live nationally on Radio Canada.

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