Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Music Therapy

I try and use music when I am teaching to engage students in the content and have discovered that it transcends into my counselling practices as well.

I see a student regularly because he has difficulties dealing with the loss of his mom who left his family and moved away. In our counselling sessions, we deal with his feelings and develop strategies to deal with his frustration and anxiety. At Christmas time, this student was very agitated, because he wanted to get his mom something special but he didn’t know what to get. I suggested that he write a poem of his feelings for her, which we could send her. Once the poem was finished, however, we decided to put his poem and voice to music in the form of a song. After we recorded the song together, we burned it to a CD, took a photo, and made a CD cover of his song. He then sent his very special present to his mom.

This student is very proud of his song project and gave me permission to share it with others.

Strathmillan Stars are Shining

After word got out about our song project at Brooklands School, a number of other schools in our division contacted me to help them develop similar song projects to highlight their unique communities and values. Strathmillan School is an elementary school in our division and they wanted an uplifting theme song for their school, which would serve to motivate and celebrate their students, staff and community. I met with the principal and a focus group of students, and they provided a number of different ideas, programs and values that they wanted incorporated into the composition. I used these ideas as lyrical content for the song and wrote the melodies and music, involving the student choir and student soloist in the recording. When the song was presented, it was met with an overwhelming response from students, staff and the community. Since its debut, a school dance has been choreographed to accompany the song and it is consistently used at community events and musical moments with a sense of pride and purpose.

“We are Strathmillan School.
We come prepared, we make it cool
To try our best and make good friends…
Strathmillan Stars are shining!”

Our Community

On February 19th, 2009, the demolition of Stephen Krawchyk School, which was the original Brooklands area school from 1911 to 1997, commenced and drew a crowd of curious onlookers, community residents and former students. To coincide with the demolition, we composed and recorded a song to acknowledge the struggles and celebrate the partnership between students, staff and parents in our school. Staff and students participated in the recording and in the true spirit of collaboration, our song was titled – Our Community

“Take a minute, think it over…
Yes, we can make a difference in our community”.

LISTEN - A Song Mosaic

--> This year, Brooklands School applied for and received an Equity and Social Justice Initiative Grant, which proposed the idea of composing and recording an original song mosaic, which dealt with Social Justice from a child’s perspective. When we began to prepare for this project, we decided that the grade 4 and 5 students would be taught a short unit on Social Justice and Human Rights. Focus questions were then developed for discussion: (Why are some people poor and some people are rich? What are some things that all people should have? What is your biggest wish for the future? Why are all cultures important in our community? How can you help people who are less fortunate?) The students were empowered to provide answers from their own experiences and understanding, and the discussions were rich and powerful. Based on the content of the unit, the song melodies were then composed and arranged. Students were then selected, based on their interest and input, to record their voices and to provide their ideas as lyrical content for the song. The students were recorded using the GarageBand application on the Macbooks. Our school choir also became involved and were recorded for the chorus parts. The song material was then brought to a professional studio to record instruments. A professional sound engineer then began mixing the parts and producing the final product. As a true representation of student voice, this song is aptly titled – Listen. This project was very exciting for everyone involved and it was a genuine infusion of Social Justice, Student Voice and ICT.


My name is Ryan Miller and I am a Teacher and Guidance Counsellor in Brooklands Elementary School in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I am also a musician and songwriter and have performed in various bands in the Winnipeg circuit and in festivals across Canada. As a teacher, I believe strongly in character education, specifically in teachers utilizing individual talents as a vehicle to engage student learning. At Brooklands School, I have used my interest in music to communicate curriculum objectives in just about every subject area including counselling and have included and empowered students in the process.

This blog site will serve to promote and showcase these music projects. Please feel free to comment on our work and visit often!