Cobden – Music students at Cobden District Public School were excited they had the opportunity to not only learn about the history of Blues music, but write their own song.
Jeff Mains, a graduate of the school, paid the $1,500 tuition of the Music Enrichment Program titled Blues In The Schools hosted by the Ottawa BluesFest, which was held virtually this year due to COVID, said music teacher Jennifer Bell. She explained Mr. Mains hosts a fall classic golf tournament each year and regularly makes donations to the school. This year she told Mr. Mains about the program and that is where the money went.
Mrs. Bell said it was a two-week virtual musical roots-based presentation. The first week saw students throughout the school hearing from a variety of Canadian and international artists daily. During the second week, artists worked with Grade 8 students on a guided song writing process as well as rhythm overviews and discussions.
She noted prior to COVID, this program was only in Ottawa-area schools, but then branched out virtually during the pandemic.
In reviewing the mandate of the program, Mrs. Bell noted it stated, “Music reflects the feelings of the times. Through Blues music and other styles, students learn how people can empower themselves with song through good times and bad. Our intent is to integrate students from different ethnic backgrounds and in this way teach harmony and coping skills that will lead to a more fulfilling school experience.”
When the program was almost completed, four students spoke about the experience of learning the history of Blues and writing their own song.
“It was fun to learn about it (Blues),” Grade 7 student Morgan Stewart said. “Where it came from.”
Grade 8 student Ally McLaren said watching and listening to the different presentations was quite interesting, because not only did they learn the history of the rhythms, but also the chords and how the songs’ tempo should go.
While she admitted she had heard about Blues music in school, it was interesting to hear from the musicians themselves.
“It’s a cool style of music,” she said. “I didn’t know any Blues songs. We learned the different styles. We learned to recognize it by listening to it.”
Grade 8 student Logan Pate said prior to the presentations the students searched on the internet about who the musicians were.
“Each day it was a different performer,” he said.
Throughout Week 1, the performers were TJ Wheeler; JW Jones, Jamie Holmes, Rick Fines, Tyler Kealey, Shawn Tavenier, Arthur McGregor and Graham Lindsay.
While it was great music throughout the week, Logan admitted, “Rick Fines stood out for me,” while classmate Lexi Stairs added, “The music was different for each one.”
She added it was a great opportunity to ask questions of musicians and get explanations of the concepts of the music.
“We learned the different parts of Blues, something I hadn’t thought about before,” Lexi said. “We learned a lot of random facts.”
Ryan Yuke, also in Grade 8, said he liked the flow of the music. “It’s smooth,” he said.
Two Blues’ artists they learned about were BB King and Albert King.
Morgan said it was great to interact with some of the musicians, recalling they spoke about some famous performers, such as Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, who were influenced by the Blues.
Lexi added, “You can hear a little bit of the Blues in some of their songs and how they incorporated the style.”
Ally said, “During the first week, I really enjoyed hearing the music. Not only did they play songs we knew, but some of their own songs.”
Ryan said some songs were catchy.
Mrs. Bell said Blues started out because of sadness, but many people sing the Blues to feel better.
Lexi is optimistic of learning about other genres of music through listening and learning from musicians, not just from textbooks and their teachers.
As she is graduating this year, she said while that won’t happen for her Grade 8 class, “It was something special. It’s something to remember.”
Mrs. Bell said music draws people together.
“I was able to witness that. Music really does bring people together,” she said. “I especially noticed how it brought the Grade 8 students together. I was able to see the bonds created throughout the process.”
In the second week, the students worked with Blues artists Graham Lindsay and Arthur McGregor, who helped them learn how to come up with lyrics.
Ally said each student was tasked with creating rhyming lines about Cobden.
“We had so many different ideas,” Lexi recalled.
Teacher Derek McLaughlin worked with the students the second week.
Ryan explained that things within Cobden they were familiar with is what they were encouraged to write about. Students’ ideas included local businesses, including The Scoop and Chip Pit; Muskrat Lake and its creature; COVID, especially how no one liked on-line learning.
“It’s all about how we see Cobden from our perspective,” Ally said. “I liked learning the process of how to write a song.”
Mrs. Bell said the rhyming lines were handed in anonymously so no one knew whose lines were whose when it came time to choose them.
Editor’s Note: It’s expected the song will be performed at Grade 8 graduation in June.
Cobden is the best place I've ever been
No wonder, we’re all so keen
Oh, Cobden. Cobden.
Cobden is the greatest town you’ll ever see
With beautiful countryside and lots of trees
You can see our water tower from miles away
Our smashup derby is our way to play.
Muskrat Lake is so very long
When you’re on it you’ll sing this song
Breezes blow cool as we slowly wake
Water calm and chilly on the lake
(Refrain: Oh, Cobden.)
The Voyageurs are a mighty team
When they hit the ice, the whole town screams!
If you’re looking for us we’ll be at the rink
If *you’re* out on the lake - hope you don’t sink!
Our big brick school stands tall and strong
The yard’s so big - what could go wrong?
Folks here come from all around:
Forester’s Falls they show up
Osceola (AWE C OH LA) they’re on the bus
Haley’s Station gets here too
Douglas joins the crew with
…to Oh, Cobden.
Covid struck so no lunch at The Pit
Online learning was not a hit
We’re the Cobden Cougars on the prowl
watch us win and hear us growl!
Connie Tabbert, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader