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Opinion: Laurentian U. cuts and the precarious state of music education

Termination of the music program at Laurentian University ‘is devastating to the cultural fabric of our community and leaves a future that is regretfully uncertain’
Laurentian University. (File)

The current state of music education in our province is troubling. Music education is important. It stimulates the brain, improves language, math and social skills, and fosters creativity and lateral thinking. 

The pursuit of music education is vital to building meaningful, successful careers in the music industry. In turn, the industry contributes significantly to the economy.

The lamentable decision to eliminate the music program at Laurentian University is of great concern to Jazz Sudbury. Laurentian’s music program had maintained a robust local talent stream.

Its termination is devastating to the cultural fabric of our community and leaves a future that is regretfully uncertain. 

Jazz Sudbury has been proud to provide jazz students from Laurentian’s Department of Music with opportunities to perform and network with A-list jazz artists. 

Master jazz pianist Oliver Jones has had an important connection to Jazz Sudbury through Laurentian. As an adjunct professor, he was bestowed with an honorary doctorate, performed at Fraser Auditorium to dedicate its new grand piano and penned a composition for the university. The time Oliver spent with Laurentian’s jazz students was an invaluable life-changing experience for them.

The Laurentian scenario is not unique. Music programs across the province, from elementary to secondary to post-secondary, are on the verge of provincially mandated extinction. Students are being denied the creative freedom to think outside of the prescribed consensus. 

Creativity is indispensable. Careers are at risk. Some Laurentian music professors have already left the city. The next batch of budding young jazz artists have one less venue to learn their craft here in Sudbury.

The positive news is that others are rising to the challenge for the expression of jazz music in the community. 

During these challenging times, Jazz Sudbury successfully delivered an outstanding summer concert series that featured young local artists. The performances were attended by well over 1,000 jazz enthusiasts. 

We cannot underestimate the value and power of our participation on the national scene, with events like the Canadian Online Jazz Festival.

The Sudbury Symphony Music Conservatory, in co-operation with Cambrian Music Academy, has introduced the adventurous Sudbury Jazz Institute

Some of Sudbury’s finest jazz artists will be offering private lessons. The faculty will also focus on coaching jazz combos with a varied perspective on the genre. Also planned are monthly Jazz Talk and Play series, pop-up clinics with jazz musician-guests performing, and discussing various jazz styles and influences. 

Plans have begun for the return to a live jazz festival in 2022. The youth are a critical part of maintaining and building our audience. Despite the loss of the Laurentian music program, Jazz Sudbury will continue to advocate for music education.

This statement was written and provided by the Jazz Sudbury board of directors.