Wilfrid Laurier University's Bachelor of Music in Community Music – the only stream of its kind in Canada – is celebrating its first graduating class. The milestone is notable for students and faculty alike.
“I’m glad I was able to pave the way for the students following in our footsteps," says graduating Community Music student Dalyce Dostal. "It was also a great experience to be a mentor to some and be someone younger students could look up to if they needed guidance or advice.”
A first-of-its-kind degree pathway, Laurier's Bachelor of Music in Community Music is designed to strengthen both musical and job-ready skills, preparing graduates to take their next educational or career steps.
Assistant Professor Deanna Yerichuk says she couldn't believe her luck when she was hired as coordinator in 2017.
“I couldn’t have conceived a job that centered around social justice and developing musicians, as well as allowed me to continue to do research and make music,” says Yerichuk. “I am really lucky.”
The task of developing and implementing the stream was sometimes daunting, as there was no similar degree pathway in North America. Using UK models as an example, Community Music initially focused on community development through musical intervention with seminar courses on social justice, facilitation and leadership.
As the years passed, Yerichuk and her fellow professors sought feedback and suggestions from students. As a result, students have informed and helped shape the direction of the stream, including adding more musicianship courses, as well as sight reading and improvisation.
One of the key strengths of the Bachelor of Music in Community Music is the diversity among its student population, says Community Music Ensemble director Brent Rowan, who has served as ensemble director since its inception.
“We are blessed to have a diverse student body,” says Rowan. “There are significant differences in the backgrounds of each student’s culture, race, religion and musical experiences. Learning how to listen to all of the voices in the room is something that I am still learning.”
Diversity has provided a rich texture to the Community Music stream and helped shape and connect its community of students in a deeply meaningful way. For many graduating students, the program’s Community Music Ensemble offered the highlight of their undergraduate experience.
“It was one of the first classes early on that had all of us together in one room,” says graduating student Jack Stevens. “I really feel like that’s where we all became a family.”
Fellow graduating student Lisette Pineau fondly remembers her first performance as part of the Community Music Ensemble, to a small room of invited guests.
“We poured our hearts and souls into songwriting and creative musicking and we performed something truly magical,” says Pineau.
Yerichuk fondly remembers watching a performance by Community Music students at the Kitchener Public Library. Under the guidance of Assistant Professor Gerard Yun, the students performed pieces alongside members of the community they had worked with, including youth from families that had recently immigrated to Canada.
“The integration of music and community was so clear in that performance,” says Yerichuk.
Graduate Emma Verdonk, who will be continuing her studies in Western University’s Master of Composition program, says that “confidence, hospitality, inclusivity, confidence as a facilitator and leadership” are just some of the future-ready skills outside of music that she developed during her time in the Bachelor of Music in Community Music.
When graduating students were asked what advice they would give to incoming Community Music students, clear themes emerged. “Expect the unexpected. Be willing to learn. Step outside of your comfort zone.”
“Expect to learn more about yourself and how capable you are of making a change in a community,” says graduating student Rachel Nafziger. “Expect to be inspired and challenged.”
Congratulations to the first graduating class of Laurier’s Bachelor of Music in Community Music!
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