Musical Pathways – final report

Musical Pathways was a project funded by the Dept. of Education and evaluated by the NS Health Research Foundation, that was to take place in the 2016-2017 school year, but was pushed ahead to the 2017-2018 school year because of the labour unrest early in 2017.

The goal of Musical Pathways was to ascertain whether extra, out of school, music programming could assist with learning outcomes in youth. AHA! was hoping to show that extra music could reduce youth anxiety, help with the development of healthy coping strategies, improve self esteem and self expression, build leadership skills, support social-emotional learning and healthy socialization, and support knowledge retention and application.

With the assistance of the Strait Regional School Board and Schools Plus, and after significant challenges in finding facilitators and supportive school environments for the project, AHA! managed to offer Musical Pathways in Richmond County at an elementary school and a junior high, at Paq’tnkek, to all youth through the youth health centre, and in Sherbrooke for school-identified ‘at-risk’ high school boys. In total, 32 youth regularly attended these programs. Programs consisted of singing, playing a variety of instruments, learning to read music, dancing to music, playing musical games and song writing.

Once established, there was strong support from school administrators and Schools Plus staff for the program. Students and parents loved the programs! There was very positive feedback from the facilitators and administration as to the engagement of the students. A common thread was that it gave students, who often suffered from isolation, a chance to meet other students and make friendships. Another comment shared by administrators was that attendance and self-confidence of the ‘at risk’ students improved, and they felt there was a direct correlation between the program and these two points.

Musical Pathways sparked a love and knowledge of music for the students involved. The kids were ‘jamming’ and making music with each other, or independently working on something themselves. They were truly present and engaged in the playing and learning of music. Nurturing, caring and respectful relationships developed between the facilitators and the young learners. These trusting environments and relationships were key to nurturing their musical skills, to improve their self-esteem and to give them a sense of belonging, responsibility and purpose.

New collaborations with more rural schools were established, and a new awareness of AHA! and our programs was a positive result of Musical Pathways. One of the unexpected achievements of this program was the request of students and/or parents to be part of Musical Pathways, as these sessions in no way were it seen as programs for “at-risk students”.  At least one school in Richmond County and St Mary’s in Sherbrooke have found ways on their own to continue these programs in the current school year.