School Music Broadcasts | The Canadian Encyclopedia


School Music Broadcasts

School music broadcasts. Radio and TV programs designed to supplement school classes.
School music broadcasts. Radio and TV programs designed to supplement school classes. Before the advent of the CBC in 1936, private Canadian radio stations experimented with school broadcasting as early as 1927, when the Vancouver station CNRV provided for school children a weekly evening hour that included a music segment directed by Miss A. Roberts, the assistant music supervisor for Vancouver schools. (BBC radio, the pioneer in the field, had begun school broadcasts only a few months earlier.) On 19 Mar 1928 the Halifax station CHNS produced an experimental two-hour program that included the Harmonica Band of St Patrick's (Boys') School directed by Cyril C. O'Brien.

Because education in Canada is a matter of provincial jurisdiction, school broadcasts were initiated and developed largely in the individual provinces prior to the formation of co-operative programming among the four western provinces in 1941 and the creation of the Maritime school broadcast network in 1943. Provincial and regional school programs developed as joint presentations of the provincial departments of education and the CBC, with the latter supplying the technical facilities and resources. A National Advisory Council on School Broadcasting was established in 1943 to set up between the federal agency of the CBC and the provincial departments of education the liaisons necessary for the production of national school broadcasts.

Provincial School Broadcasts

The Maritimes and Newfoundland
The first regular school broadcast series in Canada began in the fall of 1928 on CHNS Halifax. The two-hour weekly program for the junior and senior high schools of mainland Nova Scotia included vocal music, instrumental music performed by school bands and by the Wolfville School orchestra conducted by Basil C. Silver, and some music instruction. A series for Cape Breton schools was begun in 1930 on CJCB in Sydney. On the initiative of the CBC the departments of education of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island in 1943 joined Nova Scotia to form the Maritime school broadcasts network, and in 1944 Douglas B. Lusty was appointed network organizer by the CBC. The music portion - 'Junior School Music' - was prepared by Irene McQuillan, director of music for Halifax schools. This 15-minute weekly series, which emphasized singing for grades 1 to 3, ran for 20 years (1942-62) and in 1943 won an Ohio State Award. John Arab was an original participant. Other series on music appreciation were broadcast for junior high school students, notably by Harold Hamer of Mount Allison University. When the French station CBAF in Moncton inaugurated a school series in 1954, it included 'Chantons ensemble' for grades 1 to 3, directed by Sister Marie-Lucienne. Newfoundland joined the Maritimes network (Atlantic network after 1954) in 1949 and began contributing to the school broadcasts in 1952. Its first music program was a concert of Christmas carols in December 1953 on the National School Broadcasts network. However, Newfoundland did not originate music programs until 1967, when a series for grades 1 to 4 was presented. After that, 'Music in the Classroom,' directed 1968-73 by Sister Mary Catherine Burke, was part of the Atlantic school broadcasts. Although Atlantic school broadcasts terminated in June 1975, local programs, including 'Let's Sing a Song' (1974-5), 'Something to Sing About' (1976-7), and 'Old Times and New' (1978-9), continued to be heard in Newfoundland. Paul O'Neill, who joined the CBC in 1955, produced many of these series in St John's.

National School Broadcasts

By 1941 the CBC had established effective network coverage of most of Canada, had created school programs as part of its participation in and contribution to the CBS 'School of the Air' broadcasts (including a series on Canadian and British folk music), and had made clear its interest in the field of education. The CBS programs heard in Canada in their turn had provoked a strong reaction in favour of Canadian productions relevant to Canadian conditions and culture. Most of the provinces had developed local school programs, many using CBC facilities and some using CBC resources and expertise. Partly as a result of a national conference in 1942 and one experimental series of national school broadcasts, the National Advisory Council on School Broadcasting was established in 1943 to provide the means of co-operation between the federal agency and the provincial educational authorities. That same year the CBC named R.S. Lambert national supervisor of the school broadcasts department.

All national broadcasts were co-ordinated and packaged in Toronto and were carried on the CBC network of stations or affiliate stations. The music series, designed mainly for grades 3 to 9, emphasized music appreciation and included concerts by orchestras (eg, the TSO, the Winnipeg SO, and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra), opera performances (Gluck's Orpheus in 1949, Britten's Let's Make an Opera in 1951 and 1961, and Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance in 1953 and H.M.S. Pinafore in 1956), dramatizations of composers' lives, and series employing Canadian singers, instrumentalists, and composers. Several of the national series received Ohio State Awards - 'Music in the Making' in 1960, ' Let's Make an Opera' in 1962, and 'The Folk Element in Music' (with Edith Fowke) and the Orff series 'Living through Music' in 1965. However, because of wide differences in levels of music teaching in Canadian schools, these relatively sophisticated broadcasts were not widely used, and regular programs ceased in 1966, although special series, such as the 1978 'Harry Somers' History of Music in Canada' appeared sporadically thereafter.

Experiments in national school telecasts began in 1954 and were produced in Toronto. Two of these early programs - Eugene Kash's 'Magic of Music' and the series 'Music to See' - won Ohio State Awards in 1956 and 1958 respectively. Regular TV series started in 1960 and included 'Rhythm and Melody' for grades 2 and 3. The 1961-2 telecasts included music programs for high-school students. 'Music - From Bach to Rock,' a five-part series of music appreciation programs produced by Rena Elmer with Boris Brott as host, was telecast first in 1969 and has been repeated many times across Canada. It won an Ohio State Award in 1970.

The only regular national school broadcast to continue uninterrupted into the 1980s was the annual Christmas broadcast begun in 1949. As in the past it offered a concert of carols by a school choir selected from 1 of the 10 provinces.


In 1925 on Montreal station CKAC Émiliano Renaud gave a series of piano lessons designed for a general audience, but school broadcasts as such were still some distance in the future. The Quebec Dept of Education was created in 1964 and immediately began supporting broadcasts for elementary schools under its jurisdiction. However, in 1941 'Radio-Collège,' intended as a high-school supplement but designed also to interest adult listeners, had been organized by the CBC and broadcast on eight French network stations. Claude Champagne was in charge of music, prepared the weekly series 'Invitation à la musique,' and acted as host until 1945, when he was succeeded by Jean Vallerand, who remained in the position until the conclusion of the series in 1956. At the request of the Quebec (Protestant) Dept of Education, Ontario school broadcasts, including 'Music for Young Folk,' were made available to English- language stations in Quebec beginning in 1945. With the demise of 'Radio-Collège' French-language school broadcasts were relegated to the limbo of reassessment until a change in government took place in 1960. The first two French-language school series - broadcast 1963-4 and 1964-5 under the name 'Place à la musique' - were designed for secondary students. 'Faisons de la musique,' begun in 1965 and aimed at elementary school students, emphasized singing, using French and English folksong, and employed elements of the Kodály method, Orff-Schulwerk, and the Martenot method. The English series 'Making Music,' for grades 1 to 4, was initiated in 1973. Notable contributors to these series have included Marie Bolduc, Micheline Gerber, Monique Leduc, Pierre Perron, and Margaret Tsé.Perron The Office de Radio-Télédiffusion du Québec, the provincial educational broadcasting system, was established in 1968. Its introductory music programs were broadcast through the CBC and some private stations. Beginning in 1972 its programs were broadcast from Radio-Québec's own studios in Montreal.


In 1940-1 CBC Ontario stations carried the CBS 'School of the Air' programs, which included a 26-week music series. The success of these focused attention on the need to develop school programs relevant to Ontario curricula and culture. Organized and informed pressure was applied by the Ontario Education Association, the Ontario Federation of Home and School, the CBC, and other interested groups on the hitherto indifferent and unresponsive Ontario Dept of Education. The province's first school broadcasts were presented in 1942-3, as an experimental series of 10 45-minute music appreciation programs with various soloists and with Sir Ernest MacMillan conducting the TSO. G. Roy Fenwick, provincial music supervisor, was content director. George Drew, elected premier of Ontario in August 1943, also undertook the education portfolio. He and his wife (Edward Johnson's daughter) were interested in the potential benefits of radio to education, and Drew ensured the necessary funds for regular school broadcasts to be planned and presented by the Dept of Education in co-operation with the CBC. Leslie Bell prepared the scripts and Fenwick was commentator 1944-60 for the series 'Music for Young Folk,' designed originally for grades 7 and 8 and later for all levels - primary, junior, and senior. Paul Scherman conducted the orchestra for the early series. 'Music for Young Folk' was presented in various formats until 1964. 'Junior School Music' for grades 3 and 4 was a series that stressed vocal music, with Fenwick as host and Leo Barkin as accompanist for the soloists. As with all school broadcasts, supplementary notes were distributed prior to the series to assist classroom teachers. The CBC produced all the Ontario series and broadcast them on a network of stations - 15 in 1944, increased to 27 by the 1960s. After 1964 programs of a more experimental nature, designed for kindergarten to grade 9, were produced. 'Hear Out' (1969-70, an exploration of sound in all its manifestations), 'The Kodály Approach' (1970), and 'Use Your Voice' (1971-2) received Ohio State Awards. Some of the many performers, writers, and composers who contributed to more than 30 years of broadcasts were C. Laughton Bird, Lloyd Bradshaw, the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, the Hart House Orchestra, Betty Kovacs, Digby Peers, Hugh Orr, R. Murray Schafer, Harry Somers, Mary Syme, Lloyd Thomson, the TSO, and Rudi van Dijk. With the increased use of TV, film, and tape recorders and the advent of tape and cassette service provided by the provincial educational resource centres, live broadcasts became impractical. In the early 1970s few new series were developed, and by 1976 production of Ontario school broadcasts had ceased.


Experiments in school broadcasts began as early as 1925 in Manitoba, but music was not included until 1927, when the unique series of Saturday morning instructional orchestra rehearsal broadcasts began on the Winnipeg station CKY. An orchestra of young musicians of 8 to 18 years under P.G. Padwick was joined by music students in their homes throughout the province in rehearsal sessions conducted via radio. Each Easter all the students would gather in Winnipeg for a massed concert, which was broadcast. The series ran continuously 1927-38 and intermittently thereafter until it ceased in 1949. (See also Youth orchestras, Manitoba). CKY also carried a school music segment as part of the province's school broadcasts in 1938-9. However, regular series did not begin until 1941, when the four western provinces agreed to co-operate in shared school-broadcast programming, with Manitoba providing the primary music series 'Music and Movement' prepared by Beth Douglas and Elizabeth Harris. School choirs and approaches to choral singing were an integral part of the province's music broadcasts from the outset. Beginning in 1944, leading music educators such as Winnipeg's successive school music supervisors - Ethel Kinley, Marjorie Horner, and Lola MacQuarrie - supervised the graded programs carried by the CBC and co-ordinated by Gertrude McCance, the director of Manitoba school broadcasts. For the graded programs themselves (play songs for primary children, narrative and dramatic for elementary, and socially connotative for upper-elementary and junior high) the successive planners were, for primary Frances Christie, Lola MacQuarrie, Beth Douglas, and Roberta Stone; for elementary Douglas, Gertrude Lowry, and Shirley Gibb; and for junior high Muriel James, Margaret Thomson, James Duncan, and Glen Harrison. Betty Friesen gave instruction in rhythm instruments 1970-5. The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra performed on the broadcasts 1950-65. TV series were fewer, because of cost, but still significant. Frances Martin designed a sight-singing series in 1969, and Edna Knock prepared another in 1972. A three-part series, 'Orchestrally Speaking,' was produced in 1975 for secondary schools with the help of the Greater Winnipeg Youth Orchestra. Manitoba's school music broadcasts won Ohio State Awards in 1952 for 'Let's Sing Together' and in 1961 for the series 'Music for Juniors.'


Saskatchewan's regular school broadcasts began in 1941, although some experimental series had been tried in the 1930s and the CBC had carried the British Columbia school broadcasts in 1940-1. Because the province had agreed to become part of the western provinces' co-operative program, in which locally prepared series were to be supplemented by series from the other participating provinces, the first music series heard in Saskatchewan's public schools - 'Music and Movement' - originated in Winnipeg. In 1945 Rj Staples, newly appointed provincial music supervisor, initiated the series 'Making Music Together,' which reflected his distinctive ideas on music education. The broadcasts presented 'a simple graduated approach to music reading for voices and classroom instruments' that combined movement, singing, and performance on instruments, the latter often made by the children themselves (Lambert School Broadcasting in Canada, p 68). Gertrude Murray, who worked closely with Staples, prepared the primary-grades series 'Rhythmic Patterns,' heard in the early 1950s. Saskatchewan continued to contribute series such as 'Sounds and Songs' to the western programs, and Staples was involved in their creation, 1948-66 as scriptwriter, arranger, and/or commentator, and 1966-70 as a consultant. In 1980 the music appreciation broadcasts 'Listening to Music' (for grades 5 to 8) continued to be heard throughout the western region. The television series 'Jeremiah's Music Lesson,' for primary grades, was begun in 1968 and was shared by other western provinces in the 1970s.


Music became a part of Alberta school broadcasts in 1937-8, when an experimental series on station CJOC, Lethbridge, included sing-song sessions conducted by Agnes Davidson. The following year three series, one for elementary grades by Janet McIlvena McLeod and two for intermediate levels by Glyndwr Jones and T. Jenkins respectively, were broadcast for the first time on the provincial educational network. In addition to these, Alberta in 1941 broadcast the results of its co-operative programming with the other three western provinces and added music series from Winnipeg. Janet McIlvena continued her influential elementary school programs 'Sing and Play,' which were heard on the provincial network until 1958. Hazel Robinson developed programs for primary grades - 'Music Makers' - that ran 1950-4. All series employed direct teaching at all grade levels and included a mixture of folksinging and general music appreciation. Crystal Fleuty and Anne Wheeler were among those who developed the programs. TV series, begun in the 1960s, have included 'Making Music' and 'Tune-Up Time,' the latter initiated in 1977. Responsibility for school broadcasts was assumed in 1980 by the Alberta Educational Communications Corporation, working in consultation with the provincial department of education.

British Columbia

Six programs on music appreciation by Cyril Mossop and F.T. Marrige, broadcast in 1936 over the privately owned station CKOV in Kelowna, marked the beginning of serious school music broadcasts in the westernmost province. Because of the interest aroused, the provincial department of education authorized a 10-week experimental series, 'Musical Pathways,' prepared by Mildred McManus and narrated by Sherwood Robson, and heard on Vancouver's CBR and four private stations in 1938. The official 'British Columbia Radio School' was launched in the fall of 1938 and for grades 1 to 12 included three series of music programs which became a regular part of school broadcasts. Magdalene Barton's 'Listening is Fun,' organized and narrated 1945-61 by Philip J. Kitley, won an Ohio State Award in 1956. Robert Chesterman's program 'Masters of the Keyboard' also won an award in 1961. Ann Mortifee and the singer-guitarist Lloyd Arntzen have performed on the British Columbia programs. The TV music series 'Music and Man' was produced with John Avison.

Further Reading