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Bringing music back to Kugluktuk

Laura Power
Northern News Services
Published Monday, October 01, 2007

KUGLUKTUK - When Maurice Randell started teaching Grade 9 at Kugluktuk high school four years ago, there wasn't much in the way of music education for students.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Kelvin Taipana is one of the students involved in the music program at Kugluktuk high school. - photo courtesy of Gary Kennedy

But when he discovered a bunch of old, broken guitars in the school's storage room, it didn't take long before they were being used again.

"At the first opportunity, I just pulled them all out," he said. "We got a little bit of money out of the school budget and we got them patched up and ready to play."

When the guitars were first re-introduced to the students, there was no formal class. Randell instead took it upon himself to turn it into an extracurricular activity.

Students would gather in his classroom a few times a week after school and learn to play the instruments.

"It was very loosely structured and every day you'd have a group of students just come in," he said. "Some days you might have 10 there and other days you just have two or three."

One of the students who has been playing guitar since the program started at the school is Gavin Ayalik, now in Grade 10.

"It's been great - everybody can excel in this program," he said.

Ayalik, who also plays the piano, is into playing anything from rock to country. He still plays after school, and said Randell is a great teacher.

"He is so good," he said. "I play with my guitar teacher all the time."

Since the instruments came back out, the school has made music a regular part of the curriculum for students in Grades 7-9, but other students such as Ayalik are still welcome to play after school hours.

The students in the classes are getting better, Randell said.

Recorders have also been introduced as part of the students' music education.

"More and more we've been doing performances," he said. "Whenever there's a school assembly we'll have something ready to perform."

During a performance at the end of the last school year, he said, about 30 students got together and played on guitars and recorders and sang.

"To me I was just really proud because I thought it sounded really good," Randell said.

He also said that some of the older students who are no longer involved in the program now play on stage when local band Akhaliak are performing.

Ayalik, who is also an athlete, said sports keep people too busy to get really into music in the community.

"There's a lot of people in town that are interested in it. We just can't get really into it right now," he said.

Randell can't predict what the future holds for the school's music program, but doesn't see it ending any time soon.

"As long as I'm here I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing," he said.