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Music from space an astronaut's gift

Students across Canada join Hadfield in song

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The music and the picture were so crystal clear he could've been in the same room.

Except his guitar floated.

So did he.

Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield, zooming by at eight kilometres a second high above the country in his perch in the International Space Station, took a few minutes out of his space duties Monday to sing a song live with hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren across Canada. It's estimated about one million people watched in total.

His appearance on computer screens across the country was held to mark Music Monday, a national event to showcase the importance of music in schools. Hadfield's main appearance in Winnipeg was at the Manitoba Legislative Building, where 160 elementary and high school students performed.

"Just like exploration on a space ship, music is an amazing human invention and something that needs to be shared. It shouldn't be kept to yourself," Hadfield told students, encouraging them to take photos and video of the event so it can be shared through social media. "So please share this and make Music Monday something that we are all participating in."

Hadfield sang this year's official Music Monday song, I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing), which he co-wrote with Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies. It was co-ordinated through the Ontario Science Centre and the Canadian Space Agency.

Hadfield sang for about 31/2 minutes -- all eyes were glued on him -- and then he was gone, speeding around the Earth from 400 kilometres above.

That brief moment was not lost on Nelson McIntyre band students, including trombone player Alex Darcel, 17.

"This really shows people that music is important to us," he said. "They normally wouldn't see that. We have a fantastic music department, which teaches a lot to our students about perseverance and other skills that can be applied in other areas."

Matthew Kohli, 16, said the band repeatedly practised its performance of three jazz songs as they knew they were being watched. "We definitely had to practise a lot to make sure we didn't mess up in front of everybody on national TV," the trumpet player said. "We had to tighten it up over the time that we had so that it would be as perfect as we could perform it."

Alto sax player Erica Slejko, 18, said the highlight was being part of Hadfield's performance.

"I'm always going to remember this day," she said. "I'll look back on it, at how I was part of the beginning of this, to think that you're broadcasting to space. It's a big story you can tell people. They're never going to get to space. Well, I was broadcast there."

Premier Greg Selinger said the event showed the power of music, and with Hadfield's help, taught kids what's possible. "It shows kids that they can have a future that they hadn't imagined before," Selinger said.

Eric Marshall of the Manitoba Music Education Association said the event took weeks to organize. There were a few worried faces when the link froze with Hadfield and the hosts at the Ontario Science Centre, but that was only temporary due to so many people logging on.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 7, 2013 A2

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