A Yellowknife music teacher is heading to the Juno Awards next month after garnering a nomination for his work in mentoring and training his students.
Stephen Richardson teaches kindergarten to Grade 7 students at Ecole St. Joseph School and said he is very excited about his nomination in the MusiCounts Music Teacher of the Year Award category.
This is the second Juno nomination for Richardson who was also nominated in 2020-21. Musicounts is a music education charity associated with the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) and the Juno Awards.
MusiCounts offers grants to schools across Canada, one specifically for schools that need instruments fixed or for starting a music program, he said.
After applying for and receiving the grant, Richardson said it enabled them to buy parts to repair some of the well-used instruments themselves and also to buy additional instruments and books, plus put aside money for instrument repairs that will have to be done in Edmonton.
“After you receive the grant, they write you a letter indicating that you should put in an application for the Juno Awards,” Richardson said, hence the nomination.
The difference the grant made for students was exceptional, he said.
“It’s fantastic,” he said. “Before, I was fixing, in every class, at least five instruments. Students were doing everything right (in terms of playing) but the instrument itself was in such rough shape that the sounds coming out weren’t what they were putting into it,” Richardson said.
With the grant, Richardson was able to send out all the flutes for repair and also buy new clarinets and trumpets.
Receiving the grant was good timing, he said, as they just started up the full band program again after the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions and regaining the space needed for practice.
Overall, he said it is a great feeling to see his students start music early on in their lives because once they leave school, they can continue on and even teach their own kids someday.
In terms of his musical career path, Richardson said after attending St. Mary’s University and receiving a degree in creative writing, he developed an interest in writing lyrics for some of his guitar-playing friends which eventually developed into a desire to learn guitar himself.
After realizing how much he enjoyed playing, he decided upon a career change which then prompted him to apply to the St. Francis Xavier University jazz program. Eventually, that brought him to Yellowknife where he now teaches and plays in his band Agony of the Leaves.
According to the MusiCounts website, Richardson was nominated for demonstrating commitment and community and for empowering kids to reach their full potential through music.
The MusiCounts Teacher of the Year Award was established in 2005 “to recognize and honour an exceptional Canadian music teacher’s impact both on students at their school and the broader music education profession each year.”
Richardson said he also looks forward to attending the pre-Juno activities, including attending a songwriter’s circle and networking with other musicians. The award ceremony will be held in Edmonton on March 13.