Celebrating Identity Through Music at Derrydown Public School
August 23, 2021
At Derrydown Public School in North York, Ontario, music education and equity work go hand in hand. Through a culturally-appropriate curriculum that explores a diverse range of music, teacher Premal Naik ensures students of all backgrounds feel seen - and heard - in their school. Students at Derrydown have the opportunity to pick up instruments from all over the world. Steelpan, drum, ukulele, Orff music, and other percussion instruments reflect the varied identities and backgrounds of the community. "Our music program is based on celebrating linguistic and cultural diversity that represents our students," says Premal Naik, Music Teacher at Derrydown Public School.
It is vital that our students who identify as Black, First Nations, South Asian, South East Asian, Middle Eastern, and Asian see themselves represented in the music curriculum.
It is vital that students in this community have access to a robust and inclusive music education program while at school; for over 64% of Derrydown students, music class is the only source of music education they have. “We are doing our best to inspire an inclusive music curriculum within the confines of COVID and Toronto Public Health guidelines,” said Premal Naik, though that’s certainly no easy feat.
The pandemic threw a wrench into the music education programming at Derrydown; prior to March 2020, the school offered lunchtime activities in addition to music class, including choir, ukulele, violin, and drumming groups. Between the global pandemic upheaving the classroom structure, an aging and incomplete instrument inventory, and an insufficient annual program budget, delivering quality music programming to students became a great challenge.
The Impact of the MusiCounts Band Aid Program at Derrydown Public School
The school's music program includes opportunities to listen and honour our students' voices, experiences, and diverse backgrounds.-Premal Naik, Music Teacher at Derrydown Public School
Thanks to the MusiCounts Band Aid Program and Freedom Mobile, Derrydown Public School has received a grant to purchase a full class set of djembes and ukuleles, two tabla sets, a powwow drum, and steel pans. Premal Naik will use these resources to bridge gaps in the broader community by collaborating with neighbouring schools, noting that “secondary students who reflect [Derrydown] students' culture and backgrounds can serve as positive role models and leaders for Derrydown students.” Through Premal Naik’s commitment to equitable music education, this investment can reach beyond the walls of Derrydown Public School to create a greater community impact for generations to come.