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B.C. teacher says music gives kids opportunities on World Music Therapy Day

With World Music Therapy Day in mind, a B.C. teacher says music plays an important role for students to work together and create something special.

Jennifer Riley teaches high school students fine arts, music and English. She says that kids often are looking for ways to fit in with a group. While that often works in sports, it can be more difficult unless music or other art forms are available.

“Often, teens don’t want to be seen individually, they want to be part of the bigger group but it still allows them to pursue that perfection,” said Riley.

“I also think for students, it’s a hard time right now in their teens. They’re going through lots of shifts and changes, and we often talk about how intellectually they go backwards before they go forwards. It’s a place they can come and learn about self-regulation.”

Over the years of teaching, she has found that teaching choir has been a very fulfilling part of her life. She says this is because she gets to watch young kids find their voice and encourage them to grow.

“It’s interesting to just watch the evolution of kids. When they come in, they will sing for four or five years with me,” said Riley.

“Just watching the growth in their confidence as they become more comfortable in themselves and with their voice, they release that fear of putting themselves out there.

“It’s a really nurturing and reciprocal relationship. You fill them up but they also fill you up in return because you have to be vulnerable.”

Riley adds that she is fortunate to teach in the Comox Valley because it supports the arts in schools and its importance to kids.

“We really have been able to ride that wave and be successful throughout budget cuts,” said Riley.

“We have to tip our hats to the people on our board that support it because there really is an understanding in the Valley about how important music and the arts are for our community.”

She adds, however, that she wishes people would add the sense of community arts and music into their kids’ lives more often.

“People recognize the value of it (music), but we don’t always step into supporting that with our actions,” said Riley.

“I do believe there is a huge benefit to having music in schools and it’s just unfortunate that we live in a time where we support academics as top tier.”

With files from Hussam El-Ghussein

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