Setting an Innovative Course for the Future of a Music Program

As virtual learning continues we know the importance of media and film production in schools and how critical the use of technology is in the digital age. Youth Active Media empowers youth by teaching them the art of filmmaking by creating short films about community issues that matter to them.

Youth Active Media ventured into a new space in 2020 by working with St. Francis Xavier High School Music Department. We worked with students on a music video around themes of students’ relationships with music in their lives. John Yemensky, a teacher at St. Francis Xavier shares his experience below. 

In 2019-20, my Grade 10-12 Instrumental Music Class and I partnered with Youth Ottawa to conceive, plan and execute an event under the Artistic Mentorship Program. Youth Ottawa met with us once per week for eight weeks and guided the students through the entire process of putting on an elaborate event in our community.  The students had to first decide what that event would be and then make it happen from the ground up including finding sponsors, finding a venue, enlisting performers, designing concert tickets, and devising methods for selling tickets.  As students moved through this process, they had to learn the music they themselves were to perform, but of equal importance, they learned to interact with other musicians, venue managers, representatives from various charities, radio stations, and online ticket distributors – all of which was completely foreign to the students. Thus, the real world transferable skills they acquired prepared them for life outside the classroom, built character, confidence and determination, exposed them to the artistic community, and gave them an opportunity for growth yet unseen in their experience. I can think of no better example of deep learning.

Cut to 2020-21 and doing such a collaboration with Youth Ottawa was pandemically impossible.  But when I asked Youth Ottawa about the possibility of collaborating with this year’s music class,  the creative sparks flew! We were able to involve not just my one music class, but all of our music students as well as many professional musicians and music educators in our community.  Through Youth Ottawa’s initiative, the students learned media literacy in numerous forms, promotional skills, creative skills such as songwriting and composition, photography, videography, and interpersonal skills. They confronted their fears to try things they had never done before developing character and moxy along the way – again, deep learning at its finest. 

The students have a learning experience that they will remember for the rest of their lives and can draw upon that experience in all of their future endeavours.  As a music teacher, I too have been able to expand my horizons. In the future, I can continue to put kids to work in similar ways, engaging students to take ownership of their music program by promoting it to peers and the next generation of students not just through video, but through all manners of promotion will be a staple for years to come.  In short, our partnership with Youth Ottawa has provided students with opportunities rich in deep learning and set an innovative course for the future of the Music Program at St. Francis Xavier High School.


John Yemensky 

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