2023 MusiCounts “Teacher Of The Year” Award Nominee Susan Evoy Shares Thoughts On Why Music Education Remains Critical For Youth + More

Kat Harlton

Canada’s leading music education charity, MusiCounts recently announced the nominees for its prestigious 2023 MusiCounts Teacher of the Year Award, presented by CST Foundation

The MusiCounts Teacher of the Year Award was established in 2005 to recognize and honour an exceptional Canadian music teacher’s impact both on students at their school and the broader music education profession each year. 

This year, the charity is proud to shine a light on the five 2023 Award nominees from across Canada, including Susan Evoy from St. Teresa’s Elementary and Waterford Valley High School in St. John’s, NL.

Susan Evoy brings joy and empowerment to students at not only one, but two schools located in Saint John’s. As an educator at St. Teresa’s Elementary and Waterford Valley High School, she has her hands full teaching string orchestra, concert and jazz band, and choir to students ranging from grades 2-5 and 10-12.

St. Teresa’s Elementary welcomes a broad demographic of students, including those who often see their needs go unmet. When it became clear that some families weren’t able to afford instrument rentals, and the school’s inventory ran short, Susan reached out to the local radio station to engage them in an instrument drive to ensure every kid had an instrument to use without needing to share.

Susan is an active member of the musical community as a saxophone player for Ouroboros and 709. She also shares resources amongst her peers, serves on provincial committees, and acts as a provincial liaison between music programs to ensure the profession is a connected community. This is Susan’s first time as a MusiCounts Teacher of the Year nominee finalist.

I had the opportunity to chat with Susan about why music education in school is so important, and what being nominated for a MusiCounts Teacher Of The Year award means to her.

Kat: Can you share with us a little bit about yourself and your experience being a music teacher?

Susan: I have been teaching since 2004 and have been at WVH since 2015 and at St. Teresa’s since 2016. I actually started teaching as a way to pay back my student loans while I was performing and touring but I really enjoyed it and so here I am today. My day-to-day schedule is pretty hectic since I teach at both a high school and a primary/elementary school and often have to go back and forth between the two. I teach instrumental music (band and strings) at St. Teresa’s as well as in some classrooms. At WVH I teach Concert Band, Jazz Band, Choir and Trad Band as well as two Applied Music classes. It is really fun and the students are wonderful. 

Kat: What does it mean to you to be nominated for the 2023 MusiCounts Teacher of the Year Award?

Susan: I was really honored and touched that Korona Brophy (Celtic Fiddlers) put my name forward and that my colleagues, Tracy Follett and Katherine Dundas-Gough, wrote letters of support. Then I was surprised to find out I was a finalist. I hope this gives me an opportunity to represent the many music teachers in Newfoundland and Labrador who are working so hard to keep quality programs going while facing a number of challenges. Covid has impacted our programs, for sure, but music teachers are consistently finding their music teaching time is diminishing, and funding is often a problem. It is challenging to get time back once it is taken. And yet, music teachers here are still putting in their all to give students meaningful musical experiences. 

Kat: Why do you think it’s important that youth get access to music education in schools? 

Susan: I think it is critical that youth have access to music education in schools because music is for everyone. Without music in schools we run the risk of music becoming something for those who can afford instruments and private lessons. Music education in schools offers all students the opportunity to experience making music with others. They can learn an instrument or learn how to sing. I believe that Arts education is important just for its own sake – Art for the sake of Art. However, learning music also helps students develop sought-after skills in today’s world such as creativity, critical thinking, working as a team, responsibility, and so much more. An education in music is valuable and we should be working to keep it prominently in all schools.

Kat: What has been a career highlight for you so far working as an educator at St. Teresa’s Elementary and Waterford Valley High School? 

Susan: My favorite thing about working with students, whether at the high school or the primary/elementary level, is when the students work on creating something together and then perform it together. At WVH this year, my Applied Music 3206 class participated in the CBC Best Music Challenge and placed in the Top 10 for the Passion Prize, which highlights students who are joyful music makers. That made me very proud. At St. Teresa’s this year, the elementary instrumental students had their first concert in December and they were incredible. I truly value facilitating the music making process with my students. Hearing the results of their performances makes me really proud. I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face.

For more on the MusiCounts Teacher Of The Year Award visit: https://musicounts.ca/en/programs/musicounts-teacher-of-the-year

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