Band program shares indigenous knowledge through music

A band program in Flin Flon has combined musical knowledge with traditional teachings.

Grade 6-8 band teacher Anna Harrison gave a report to school trustees during the Nov. 27 Flin Flon School Division board meeting on how she has found ways to incorporate the traditional Seven Teachings – love, respect, courage, honesty, wisdom, humility and truth – into the band curriculum.

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Harrison began looking for ways to incorporate the teachings two years ago, inspired by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action. Over time, it became a multimedia vision growing outside the band program to other students and the community at large.

“The vision that I had for the concert was for the whole school to be invited to contribute. I wanted to have artwork from the classes to display around the gym to highlight the teachings,” said Harrison.

Harrison worked with liaison officers Erin Dadson and Leslie Power, now a school board trustee, to help put together the first show in May 2017. Elder Margaret Head-Steppan also was involved. The trio helped Harrison come up with new ideas on how to incorporate the Seven Teachings for students.

“They really became my dream team,” said Harrison.

Later, the teacher began to learn from some of her own students. One member of the so-called “dream team” was then-Grade 7 student Kaydence Custer, who Harrison heaped praise on during the presentation.

“I knew that she had knowledge of these teachings from her kukum, so I would prepare what I would say to the kids, got resources from Leslie and Erin, then I’d go see Kaydence and would say ‘Okay, this is what I’m going to say, should I add anything? Do you have anything I could contribute?’ She would weigh in and I would bounce things off her. She was really great,” said Harrison.

Shortly before the final concert, Harrison asked the students to write reflections on the Seven Teachings, the impact they felt from them and about the band program in general. The end result, she said, moved her to tears at times. Harrison shared some of the reflections with the school board.

“I learned respect for the band and my instrument. When I learned to respect the music, it felt different. It makes me feel free when I play,” said a Grade 7 trumpet player.

“I learned about courage over my years in band. Playing solos has given me the confidence to join other clubs and made me more comfortable in my own skin. I can be brave and give my honest input in class discussions, or even in everyday conversations. Playing an instrument is about more than just playing notes – it’s about the seven teachings too,” said a clarinet player in Grade 8.

Another clarinet player, then a Grade 6 student, added, “I learned to respect myself, my instrument and my friends. I also learned to respect other people’s decisions.”

“They were starting to become more understanding of each other, especially with kids that are trying really hard and not quite getting it. That can be really frustrating for a kid,” said Harrison.

“I found they were a lot more patient and a lot kinder and helping each other.”

A second Seven Teachings concert is being planned for May 2019.

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