Fredericton High students bring seniors' stories to life through musical composition

Article Posted: Tuesday, June 04, 2019

​Twenty-five, Grade 11 and 12 students from Fredericton High School provided a musical interlude for seniors at the Parkland Shannex retirement residence June 4 as part of a multi-age experiential learning project called Barrier Mitigation and Connection.

The students wrote and performed their own musical compositions based on earlier recorded interviews with the seniors about their lives, accomplishments, hobbies or favourite memories. The students then wove and translated those stories into music. 

Grade 12 students surrounded the talking voices of the seniors with digital music, while Grade 11 students created purely instrumental works based on the thoughts, feeling and sentiments the seniors had expressed.

"I got to hear the stories while the students were composing," said music teacher Craig Woodcock. "It was a great challenge and unique opportunity for them. Many of the students were touched by the stories they heard."

Woodcock explained the students received their inspiration from the interviews and used mood, notes, harmony and rhythm to put their pieces together. They were excited to hear and play their music during class and for the seniors at Parkland Shannex.

"It's not that often that we get to talk to seniors," said Grade 12 student Jaime Little. "It was neat to hear about their experiences and pass it along in the pieces we put together."

"It was great to see the music come to life with our instruments and see the reaction of the audience," added Georgia Christie, Grade 11.

Students also performed a vocal number, Three Little Maids from The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan, to close out the concert.

Compositions by the Grade 11 students were entitled Lake Time, Teaching, Mother's Hymn, Ostern, Bowls, Fools and Trees, Cartoons at the Cottage, and Jigsaw.

The seniors will receive a listening copy of all the music performed to enjoy again in the future.

"It was really nice," said 88-year-old Jack Maxwell. "They did a great job. It's unbelievable what they can do."

Maxwell told the students about his many years working underground as a coal miner in Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia. The song performed for him about that experience made him feel closer to home, he said.

The school project was made possible through a grant from iHub Learning Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting innovative education in the Anglophone​ public education sector of New Brunswick.​

Shown in the photos below are (1) (left to right) Rhael Merten, Maggie Kerr, Georgia Christie, Anajose Ryes Guevara, Kate MacGregor, Tony Yu, Logan Aalders, Madelyn MacLean; (2) (left rto right) Megan Murphy, Georgia Christie and Madeline Yerxa singing Three LIttle Maids.