Francophones outside Quebec often lack resources to ensure their children maintain their language and culture. It took a pandemic to crack open a treasure trove of French language programming from thousands of kilometres away.
Since 1949, Jeunesses Musicales Canada (JM Canada), a Montreal-based non-profit, has been promoting the discovery of classical music among youth and supporting the development of young classical musicians.
When live shows and workshops ceased at the beginning of the pandemic, JM Canada adapted. With a three-year grant from the Azrieli Foundation, JM Canada was able to transform its popular educational workshops and accompanying concerts into online learning modules with theatrical flair – all with the help of a professional TV production team.
These modules, or Digital Ballads (such as a Hansel and Gretel opera), were offered in English and French – much to the delight of Francophone teachers.
“To have classical music in your mother tongue, and for it to be interactive, creates a whole other level of learning,” says Danièle LeBlanc, JM Canada’s Executive and Artistic Director.
Sonia Chabot, a Grade 3 teacher at École Beausoleil in Victoria, British Columbia describes the ballads as entertaining and engaging. “They allowed us to experience musical elements that are harder to explain – like opera – and to have age-appropriate content,” she says. “The students were always happy to complete the task each facilitator offered. That itself is great impact.”
Over a period of two years, about 234,000 students in mostly French schools watched the Digital Ballads. Going forward, JM Canada aims to offer a mix of live and digital programming so French schools across Canada can continue to access their unique pedagogical tools and develop new classical music lovers.