City educator wins MusiCounts teacher of year at Junos


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MusiCounts’ teacher of the year award arrived just in the nick of time for Winnipeg’s Jewel Casselman.

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MusiCounts’ teacher of the year award arrived just in the nick of time for Winnipeg’s Jewel Casselman.

The Lakewood School music teacher, who has taught xylophones, glockenspiels, drums, recorders, ukuleles and singing and dancing to kindergarten to Grade 5 students across the city for 34 years and is retiring at the end of June, won the annual honour Monday night at the Juno Awards gala ceremony in Edmonton.

“I was flabbergasted, that’d be a good word,” she says. “It’s my last year of teaching, so it’s amazing this has come to me in my last year.

“I want to go out on a high note and I want to go out still loving the job and having lots of energy, so that’s what I’m doing.”

She’s taught at Lakewood, which is part of the St. James-Assiniboia School Division, for the past 17 years and she’s taught music at other schools across the city, side by side with the three Rs in a student’s school day.

“I love the fact that I’m able to bring music into the children’s lives, every other day. I see the entire school in two days, and that goes on day after day after day,” she says. “I think it’s great that they get that much music in their school education.”

Casselman teaches the same instruments in 2023 as she did when she began her career in 1988 — she follows the Carl Orff method of music education, named after the Carmina Burana composer and educator — but the music scene and how children listen to it has changed drastically.

“As you grow and you become more involved in your teaching, and become involved in what your kids are learning and what their culture is,” she says. “Social media has changed a lot to influence the classroom, what with TikTok and YouTube. They see a lot more music than I did when I first started teaching.”

Casselman, who first applied for a MusiCounts grant for Lakewood School in 2003, was nominated for the award in 2019, 2020 and 2022.

Prior to that, she won the Morna-June Morrow Award in 2014 for excellence in music teaching in Manitoba, and the Michael J. Proudfoot Award from the Winnipeg Music Festival for choral excellence in 2019.

Besides the Juno Award, Casselman wins a $10,000 cash prize, and MusiCounts will provide a grant to Lakewood School’s Band Aid program.

She enjoys listening to jazz singers such as Michael Bublé, one of the many nominees for Juno Awards last weekend, when she heads to school, and has introduced nominees’ new music to her students, whether it’s R&B, jazz, country or folk music.

While she’s retiring from teaching, music and education will remain a big part of her life, as a volunteer and as a board member of the Manitoba Orff Chapter, a program focusing on teaching music to children across the province.

”I’m still going to come in and do some work at my school, do some volunteering and working with some of my neurally divergent (students),” Casselman says.

Her goal is to write a book on teaching the recorder to children, adding her method differs from school textbooks.

She also will continue making her own music — she sings with two choirs in Winnipeg and is part of the Ring Out handbell quartet — and meeting musicians at the Junos has given her the inspiration to keep on going.

I want to do some drumming, learn some new instruments and get involved in some music groups that advocate for music education,” she says. “I’m not going to be bored, I don’t think.”

Twitter: @AlanDSmall

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Alan Small

Alan Small

Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.

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