Indigenous students discover a love of music from a park instructor

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Two brothers, one of whom lives in Sherwood Park, have used their musical talents to teach music in Aboriginal communities.

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Jack Cooper, co-owner of Cooper Studios, and his brother Jan have been doing it for years.

“I retired from teaching, but my last years were spent in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. We recognize that many Indigenous schools in the territories and Alberta did not have vocal music programs,” Cooper explained. “Music is essential, especially for primary school students, because it helps them with reading, confidence and many other things.”

It started with a few workshops at schools the couple was invited to, but it grew from there.

“We covered many schools there. We did that for about five or six years, and the Government of the Northwest Territories brought us to Yellowknife and thanked us for what we were doing,” he said.

When the music teacher moved to Sherwood Park, he decided to see if any First Nations schools in Alberta were interested in musical instruction.

“The next thing I knew, we were invited to these schools and started a similar program of two-day workshops here, and then we were invited to help with the summer programs,” he said. he declares. “I started writing a manual that could be given to schools and teachers, even if you weren’t a music teacher, and that seems to have helped.”

The brothers worked in Frog Lake, Sturgeon Lake and many other Aboriginal communities in the province.

“We had a wonderful time working with them and even asked the Elders to help us translate modern songs and children’s songs into Cree or their language, to incorporate their language into the teaching,” said Cooper.

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The pandemic put music lessons on hold for a while, but Cooper said it didn’t take long for them to find a way to teach students online.

“We did it through FaceTime and Google Meet. We’re currently working with an aboriginal school in Surrey, BC, and they’ve asked us to work with their kids once a week. We still do, but not in so many schools,” Cooper said.

Cooper has been teaching music since he was 19 and loves teaching students and helping them become musical.

“It does as much for me as it does for the children. It keeps me alive, I believe,” he joked. “I like the idea of ​​creating ideas to help schools. We have created posters, manuals and videos. We made a singing video and it is used by many of these schools. He teaches them breathing and vocal exercises.

Cooper said the key message he gives to students is that music is fun and once kids see that, they’re all on board.

Cooper Studios has two locations, one in Sherwood Park and the other in Vancouver.

You can find out more about upcoming performances and the company at cooperstudiospro.com.

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