Local music teacher wins a Juno

In a little over a month, the Juno awards will be given out to Canada’s best recording artists. But music teacher Anne Turner, of Vanier…

In a little over a month, the Juno awards will be given out to Canada’s best recording artists.

But music teacher Anne Turner, of Vanier Catholic Secondary School, got hers early.

Turner received her unique Juno, made of red, blown-glass, when she was named MusiCan teacher of the year in Toronto on January 29.

“You go day-to-day and it doesn’t feel like you’re making a big difference and then something like this happens — it’s really quite wonderful,” said Turner when asked about winning the award.

“It’s a combination of being very thrilled and very humbled.

“Band teachers tend to be hard working; it’s that kind of a program where you put in a lot of time and I know that there’s lots of us across the country, so it’s very thrilling to be the one that was chosen for this year.”

Vancouver’s swing singer, Michael Buble, sponsored and presented the award to Turner, along with a $10,000 cheque.

It wasn’t until Turner was called out of class and down to the principal’s office to address a “situation” that she found out she had won an award.

“I got into the office and there was this conference call from Toronto and that’s how they told me,” said Turner.

“Then I had to go back to class with this exciting news that I wasn’t allowed to tell anybody until the press release went out a week and a half later.”

When word finally got out, Turner’s students were very excited.

“They were very excited to have something like this come,” said Turner.

“It’s just that acknowledgement that we’re doing something worthwhile and that they’re part of it.

“A little school in Whitehorse, you know, you’re expecting things to always go to the bigger southern schools with big programs and lots of students and whatnot, it’s pretty nice when it comes to a small program acknowledging our community and how great Whitehorse is.”

Turner’s band program speaks volumes about why she won the award.

She maintains a jazz band and former students still living in the community drop in to play.

She is also incredibly active with her students.

She’s taken them to jazz festivals in Juno Alaska and on a trip to Cuba.

“We can still think big even though we’re in a little community,” said Turner.

“I’ve had Hugh Fraser, a Juno-award winning five-piece band, in my band room.

“I’ve had Bill Maze from New York in my band room.

“I’ve had Joe Paulson from Iceland — so I think they were just kind of caught with the idea that even though we’re a tiny community in the North, we’re not really as cut off as most people think.”

Turner’s teaching philosophy is simple.

She goes to one class at a time and tries to make that class the best it can be, she said.

“I think for the kids, you don’t wait for the performance night or concert night to play your best,” said Turner.

“I try to tell them that every time you pick up that horn you give 100 per cent of yourself and that is all they can do.

Turner was introduced to the world of music at a young age.

She started playing the piano when she was six and, by Grade 7, she was playing the viola.

She played for the Edmonton Youth Symphony, the University of Alberta Symphony and the Edmonton Symphony.

Turner received a degree in classical music education from the University of Alberta and started teaching in Edmonton in 1972.

She has taught for a collective 23-years.

In the mid-‘90s she started playing the bass while she was teaching a jazz program at Malaspina University-College on Vancouver Island, BC.

She is now part of the Whitehorse jazz scene.

“We have a small little jazz community here and we all sort of intermix and play in different combinations of duos and trios and four and five piece bands,” she said.

“I play as much as I can.”

The MusiCan teacher of the year award is something that keeps music in the forefront of the minds of the community, school administrators and the government, said Turner.

“It’s definitely all about advocacy; it’s just raising public awareness that music does so much for our students,” she said.

“We know that across the board students do better academically if they are involved in a strong music program.

“It’s nothing you can put your fingers on, but when they do studies of thousands of students, their scores are higher across the board.

“It’s really one of the few areas in school where we touch on the creative and the emotional and I think that’s really important and we don’t want to lose that.”

Turner can’t say for sure why music students do so well in school, but she thinks it has something to do with opening the connections between your right and left side of your brain.

It also teaches the kids how to focus and concentrate and gives them a sense of confidence each time they learn a new piece of music or hit a note just right, she said.

“If they are confident standing up taking a solo in jazz band, then they’re more confident standing up and presenting a paper in English class,” said Turner.

“If they’ve got those concentration skills then, of course, they are going to do better.

“They’re able to get focused and get going. When I look back, I remember students that stayed in school because they were part of the music program and that was the thing that kept them walking through that door.

“So we see it in lots of different ways and it just helps develop a more well rounded individual.”

Turner enjoys the flexibility of being a music teacher.

“I think I like that I have a lot of freedom to create my programs,” she said.

“I can be very innovative.

“I’m not in the same textbook on the same page year after year.

“I have the choice of what kind of music we work on.

“I think working with teenagers is always challenging and never dull and combine that with the fact that I’m just passionate about music, I love paying it, I love teaching it – so how much better does it get.”

As part of her award package, Turner and her husband will be flown to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for the televised Juno Awards, April 1.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Turner.