Students Sing: We Are One

TDSB Media Release


Students from several TDSB schools in Northwest Toronto perform in We Are One, a concert featuring jazz legend Barry Harris.


It’s been said many times in so many eloquent ways: Music brings people together.


John Denver once mused that “No matter what language we speak, what color we are, the form of our politics or the expression of our love and our faith, music proves: We are the same.”


In that spirit, Howard Rees’ Jazz Workshops, Canada’s oldest independent school of jazz, has partnered with several TDSB schools and a notable jazz music giant to present We Are One, a program featuring the strength of young voices in northwest Toronto working together.


Under the direction of internationally renowned musician and composer Barry Harris and We Are One’s founder/director, Toronto jazz pianist and respected educator Howard Rees, a children’s jazz choir made up of almost 300 students from elementary and high schools have been rehearsing and working since October 2008 to make the project a success. Harris has flown in from New York City to join the students every other week, while Rees and choir conductor Brian Katz have worked with the group on a weekly basis. The culmination is a show at the Toronto Centre for the Arts on January 22. The choir will be accompanied by a student big band and string section from Earl Haig SS, an adult jazz choir, plus a professional rhythm section and guest soloists, including Charles McPherson, who has played with Charlie Mingus and was the featured alto saxophonist in Clint Eastwood’s biopic about the legendary Charlie Parker, Bird.


The children’s choir is made up of students from Albion Heights JMS, North Kipling JMS, Greenholme JMS, West Humber JMS, Emlea JS, and West Humber Collegiate Institute. Students and their teachers have shown tireless commitment and dedication to the project, which Superintendent of Schools Annie Appleby said is an oft-overlooked and critical part of the artistic process and key to its success. “It take an incredible amount of work to learn pieces and prepare for a concert like this,” she said. “We simply couldn’t have done it without students and teachers who were passionate about music and about the project.”


Appleby is excited and honoured for her schools to be a part of the project. “It’s such a privilege to have Dr. Harris in our little corner of the world and for him to be working with our students is very special,” she said.


Howard Rees shares that excitement. He said that Harris has a very easy rapport with children that helps them feel comfortable and receptive to learning complex pieces. “These are not simple songs,” Rees said. “The ensemble will be performing a selection of songs that are rich in the melodic beauty and harmonic complexities that have made Dr. Harris one of the most celebrated voices in jazz.”


Harris is well known for sharing his musical passions with others. In the 1980s, he opened the Jazz Cultural Theater in New York City to provide people of all ages and backgrounds an opportunity to learn about jazz. His Toronto students also learned about Harris’ contributions to the jazz world as they prepared for the concert. For many of the group, We Are One will be just the beginning as they continue to explore the boundless benefits of music. Appleby said that’s the real gem in this partnership. “Music can inspire children to learn in so many different ways,” she said. “It helps develop creativity, concentration, memory skills, personal enjoyment and a life-long appreciation for the arts. And most importantly, it’s a language so many of us enjoy in its countless forms. That shared passion connects us all and can serve to inspire us to greater heights whatever our age and background.”


Click here to see a clip of the NW1 choir rehearsing (requires Windows Media Player).



We Are One was held on Thursday, January 22 at The Toronto Centre for the Arts. Parents, teachers, music lovers, and other students gathered to hear a memorable performance. To see an excerpt of the concert, click here (requires Windows Media Player).


Original article:



Project Partner
Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board
Lead Sponsors
Lead Sponsors Telus Mobility Black Artists' Networks Dialogue TD Canada Trust
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