A Little Bit of Journalism

by 38 Concordia graduate diploma students

Jordan Poppenk – Firing on all Synapses

Somewhere between the heart and the brain lies the world of Jordan Poppenk, the multitalented host of The Green Majority (TGM), Canada’s only environmental news hour.

When not involved in radio, the 26 year-old kills time as a neurology PhD candidate at the University of Toronto, a passionate film critic, a cyclist and a swing dancer.  Poppenk’s near-crazed energy for life is enough to make the most self-assured person feel like a disappointment.

The list of his achievements would be maddening if not for his disarming character and his calming radio presence.  To know him is to be sucked into a whirlwind of eclectic activities.  “I’m interested in others’ knowledge and perspectives and so ask a lot of questions. I think people engaging on familiar terrain can put people at ease,” Poppenk said confidently, his charismatic personality complimented by a handsome, sincere look.

The contagion of Poppenk’s enthusiasm is what has made TGM such a success.  Now carried by 13 different Canadian radio stations and on the Internet, the show takes a refreshing look at the environment without becoming overbearing and preachy.  “Our programming is not activist,” he said.  “The Green Majority is a source of news and ideas, but not a campaign.”

While he enjoys cycling and maintains a soft spot for the Lindy Hop, Poppenk’s serious pursuits are decidedly cerebral.  As if taking cues from his neurological research, he uses radio in much the same way that the brain uses neurons: as a vector for information, a way to convey abstract ideas tangibly.

“Radio is personal, and ideal for engaging the imagination,” he said musingly.  “People tune in while they’re on their own doing laundry, commuting to work, times when they have the mind space to really listen and think things through.  Where else in the media landscape can you spend twenty minutes really getting to the bottom of an issue?”

As environmental issues gain steam, and heads become hotter, TGM is unique in the media, an industry innovator.  “Quite organically, we’ve attracted a theologian, scientists, a social justice advocate… all our correspondents are “expert” in their topic area,” Poppenk said.  “That’s surprisingly uncommon in mainstream journalism.”

And TGM runs with a minimalist, volunteer-based budget.  “People are there because they love radio and they’re passionate about the issues,” according to Poppenk.  “We have more fun.”

TGM is refreshing in its scientific, Quirks and Quarks-esque presentation, avoiding the sensationalism and polarized politics that sometimes creep into environmental programming.  “The findings tend to be pretty dramatic on their own,” said Poppenk.  “All we do on our program is give scientists a place to tell their stories and help listeners understand the impact of their findings.”

Even with a research background, though, dealing with the depressing reality of environmental news can be trying.  The usually steadfast scientist has had trouble dealing with the volume of bad news that can arrive at once.  “On those weeks it can be a struggle to put a positive face forwards, but I do my best,” he said

A career as a journalist has crossed his mind, but he said he feels happier volunteering on the radio while pursuing other studies.  “I think there’s a big opportunity for citizen-driven media to make strides in the coming years.”

Despite the incredible amount of effort it takes to produce TGM, Poppenk and company are fueled by a hope that their efforts go some distance to improve democracy in Canada.  He said, “it helps to have a program dedicated to education about green issues and current events – that’s our contribution”

His vision for the community-based stations from which he broadcasts is long term; “I hope to see growth towards community-media models, with listeners providing the substantial funding needed to keep an active news organization humming, and eventually, to fund full-time citizen reporters.”

“For the time being, I’ve found a way to contribute to the best of my ability,” said Poppenk, remaining humble about his own future.  “Regardless of how things turn out, that’s important to me.”

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August 5, 2009 Posted by | People, Print | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Road to Nowhere: Turcot Rebuild Lacks Vision, Not Funds

Urban planners have spent the last 40 years developing ways of making cities more livable.  The verdict is in: highways are out.

The Turcot Interchange, once a marvel of technology and the pride of Montreal, is disintegrating in front of our eyes.  Like anything man made, it has a life span.  It seems though, that people have been taken by surprise by the structure’s demise, shocked that money needs to be spent in order to keep the city running.

The real surprise though, is that the Turcot’s redesign and reconstruction now feels rushed and last minute.

Quebec’s Ministère des Transports has known about the need to eventually rebuild or refurbish the highway since the day it was built.  Engineers working for the ministry are intelligent people, who build room for error and life expectancy into their blueprints.

The mistake of not seeing further ahead does not lie with the designers but with politicians; unfortunately, not many infrastructure projects work on four-year cycles.

Hurriedly rebuilding a structure worth more than a billion and a half dollars is not just silly; it is suspicious.  Questionable, too, are the plans hatched by the ministry to rebuild the highway at ground level, increase the number of lanes by 50 per cent and raze 400 people’s homes in St. Henri, all without a thought about increasing public transit options.

Some say that other designs such as tunnels and newer aerial bridges would cost too much, but initial cost should not be the deciding factor in Montreal’s future.  As Canada’s second largest city, there is money to be had.

Roads built here should cost more than roads in the countryside; they are built with funds drawn from a larger pool.  A road built within the city of Montreal directly affects the quality of life of several million people, whereas one carrying the same traffic in the countryside is built under very different circumstances.  With space at a premium, how could it be appropriate to use it up with bigger roads and parking lots?

There are few things that can destroy a city’s vitality faster than a highway.  Compare Los Angeles with Paris, for example, and the problems with the car-heavy model become obvious.  Los Angeles is a divided city, carved up into blocks of territory only accessible by car.  Paris, on the other hand, is renowned for it’s public transportation and not its automobile access.

While European cities were built before the car craze came along, Montreal bought in to automobiles.  With gas prices rising and car manufacturers going bankrupt, it does not take a genius to know that change is coming to cities everywhere.  Unfortunately, that means an inevitable and comprehensive redesign of our transportation networks.

By ignoring the issue of the Turcot Interchange for the past 40 years, city and provincial politicians have swept a mountain of concrete under the rug.  Now, with the deadline fast approaching, politicians and planners ought to be working hard to create an inspiring vision of the city.  But in the lead-up to this year’s municpal election, Montrealers have received only received short sighted and cowardly attempts to court voters.

August 4, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Print | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

St. Jean Baptiste Day: Portrait of a Pilgrimage

Whatever an authentic Quebecer is, there is no better place to find one than Quebec City on St. Jean Baptiste Day. Every June 23, pilgrims from around the province migrate to the capital for the national holiday, yet the boundaries that define the nation are as blurry as the origins of the day itself.

Having been celebrated for so long, for so many different causes, the holiday’s significance has become a moving target. “Summer solstice was first a pagan festival before it was taken over by the Pope,” said Priscilla LaMontagne, a guide at the St. Jean Baptiste Catholic Church in Quebec City.

Sometimes seen as a separatist celebration in Quebec, nationalist connotations to the festival did not begin until 1834, and it was only in 1908 that John the Baptist was made patron saint of French Canadians by Pope Pius X. Confusingly, St. John is also the patron saint of Newfoundland, where June 24 is celebrated as Discovery Day.

Advance publicity focused on tensions between francophone separatists and anglophone residents of Quebec. Debates raged over whether English music could be allowed in Montreal festivities. Anglophone university students in the province were warned not to approach anyone in English, lest they set off the hair-trigger of rabid nationalistic violence.

Finally, on Tuesday, the highly controversial religious holiday turned province-wide piss-up drew a congregation of over 250,000 to the Plains of Abraham. Bonfires and fireworks were lit over the ancient battlefields until dawn. The next morning, the plains were littered with clumps of bodies; many sleeping and others still nursing their remaining beers.

Despite the ominous warnings issued, there was little doubt, in the dark intoxication of the night, that every one of the revelers was an authentic Quebecer.

“There used to be a lot of riots, because police enforced an end to the celebration on the Plains of Abraham by midnight,” said a tour guide at the St. Jean Baptiste Catholic church. “Now, because people are allowed to stay as late as they want, there are rarely any problems.”

The difficult decision of exactly who should be celebrating St. Jean, and for what reason, was effectively sidestepped by exaggerated alcohol consumption and a lax security presence.

While most boozed away national tensions, Manitoban punk-rock quartet Propagandhi used St. Jean as a springboard for highly politicized songs from their new album “Supporting Caste.”

Propagandhi’s anglophone, anti-establishment, anti-nationalist music was a bold choice for the night. Still, the concert was sold out. “I’m a citizen of the world,” declared front man Chris Hannah, the sweaty crowd erupting into cheers.

Though hardly subtle, the band’s message was clear: “Fuck Zionism. Fuck militarism. Fuck Americanism. Fuck nationalism. Fuck religion.” Fans seemed to feel the same way, viewing nationalist tensions as old fashioned.

St. Jean is “nothing more than a reason to get drunk any more,” said a fan from Montreal standing outside the show.

Despite the holiday’s progression from paganism to Catholicism to nationalism, and now to alcoholism, an undertow of spirituality could still be felt. How else to explain swimmers’ impermeability to pollution in the St. Laurence, or to account for the superhuman endurance of revelers with no regard for tomorrow? How else, other than by some divine power, could Quebec be united for one night?

August 4, 2009 Posted by | Print | , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘A different breed of people’

July 23, 2009
Ball hockey players: ‘a different breed of people’
In the warm sun on a Sunday afternoon, Leo Donovan hoisted his unnaturally small hockey bag over his shoulder as he walked into the inconspicuous Le Rinque Arena and Sports Bar on chemin de la Cote-de-Liesse. Donovan’s FW Legends, in light blue, faced off against the Leftovers, in yellow jerseys, in what promised to be a good ball hockey game between the top two teams in the NABHL – Not Another Ball Hockey League.
In the first 15 minute period, running time, the even back and forth playing ended with the Leftovers leading 3-1. The momentum changed, however, as the Legends scored six goals in the second period, four within the last two minutes. The Legends won 10-3.
The second and third periods were full of great passing plays by the Legends. Donovan’s line accounted for five goals, most from passes fed across the crease by Adrian Humphreys to the waiting Francois Courion. Donovan scored with a nifty backhand on a pass from Courion.
The differences between ball and ice hockey were immediately apparent. With no blue lines there are only two zones and no offside rule. The refs have interesting techniques to keep out of the way. One ref jumped up and grabbed the top of the glass to hoist himself up and stand on the ledge.
“Ball hockey players are a difference breed of people,” said Jordan Topor, Legends player and co-owner of the almost two-year-old NABHL. “Ice hockey refs don’t enjoy reffing ball hockey. They get less respect.
“The players’s knowledge of the game is less than ice hockey players, and they think they can convince the ref to change the call,” sair Topor.
“It’s harder to deke,” said Chris Cormier, manager of the FW Legends. “You can cut easier on the ice.”
All of the players wear gloves and most wear either soccer or hockey shin pads strapped to their legs in various ways. A few wear mouthguards and only one wore a helmet.
“I don’t want to wear a helmet, but it’s a bit sketchy,” said Donovan, the youngest player on the team at 19, and one of the only players still playing junior-level organized hockey.
“I’ve seen people get their teeth knocked out.”
Even with little equipment, players show no mercy. They run hard into the boards and it can be “a bit chippy sometimes,” said Cormier. Big Legends defenseman Jason Clement fended off three yellow players against the boards after a rush, which ended in a mini shoving match after the whistle in the second period. The game was pretty clean, however, with only four 90 second penalties, mostly in the third.
Topor and Josh Naygeboren’s NABHL is quite the success. Their website, http://www.nabhl.com shows player and team statistics, top scorers, and suspensions, which the players enjoy. The two owners/players are looking to expand to another venue, said Topor after the game.
“We saw a huge need,” said Topor. “Before us, the only time people could play in a rink was in the summer.” Topor and Naygeboren put together the NABHL comprising of three seasons in a facility built specifically for ball and roller hockey with real boards, glass, and a specially made floor and smaller sized rink.
“It’s more about finesse because there isn’t much room,” said Cormier. “You have to rely on the team more and know where everyone is because you have less room to move around.”
Both Cormier and Donovan still prefer ice hockey but devoted ball hockey players take their game seriously. It is not just another kind of hockey but a sport unto itself.

July 23, 2009

Ball hockey players: ‘a different breed of people’

by Johanna Donovan

In the warm sun on a Sunday afternoon, Leo Donovan hoisted his unnaturally small hockey bag over his shoulder as he walked into the inconspicuous Le Rinque Arena and Sports Bar on chemin de la Cote-de-Liesse. Donovan’s FW Legends, in light blue, faced off against the Leftovers, in yellow jerseys, in what promised to be a good ball hockey game between the top two teams in the NABHL – Not Another Ball Hockey League.

In the first 15 minute period, running time, the even back-and-forth playing ended with the Leftovers leading 3-1. The momentum changed, however, as the Legends scored six goals in the second period, four within the last two minutes. The Legends won 10-3.

The second and third periods were full of great passing plays by the Legends. Donovan’s line accounted for five goals, most from passes fed across the crease by Adrian Humphreys to the waiting Francois Courion. Donovan scored with a nifty backhand on a pass from Courion.

The differences between ball and ice hockey were immediately apparent. With no blue lines there are only two zones and no offside rule. The refs have interesting techniques to keep out of the way. One ref jumped up and grabbed the top of the glass to hoist himself up and stand on the ledge.

“Ball hockey players are a different breed of people,” said Jordan Topor, Legends player and co-owner of the almost two-year-old NABHL. “Ice hockey refs don’t enjoy reffing ball hockey. They get less respect.

“The players’s knowledge of the game is less than ice hockey players, and they think they can convince the ref to change the call,” sair Topor.

“It’s harder to deke,” said Chris Cormier, manager of the FW Legends. “You can cut easier on the ice.”

All of the players wear gloves and most wear either soccer or hockey shin pads strapped to their legs in various ways. A few wear mouthguards and only one wore a helmet.

“I don’t want to wear a helmet, but it’s a bit sketchy,” said Donovan, the youngest player on the team at 19, and one of the only players still playing junior-level organized hockey.

“I’ve seen people get their teeth knocked out.”

Even with little equipment, players show no mercy. They run hard into the boards and it can be “a bit chippy sometimes,” said Cormier. Big Legends defenseman Jason Clement fended off three yellow players against the boards after a rush, which ended in a mini shoving match after the whistle in the second period. The game was pretty clean, however, with only four 90 second penalties, mostly in the third.

Topor and Josh Naygeboren’s NABHL is quite the success. Their website, http://www.nabhl.com shows player and team statistics, top scorers, and suspensions, which the players enjoy. The two owners/players are looking to expand to another venue, said Topor after the game.

“We saw a huge need,” said Topor. “Before us, the only time people could play in a rink was in the summer.” Topor and Naygeboren put together the NABHL comprising of three seasons in a facility built specifically for ball and roller hockey with real boards, glass, and a specially made floor and smaller sized rink.

“It’s more about finesse because there isn’t much room,” said Cormier. “You have to rely on the team more and know where everyone is because you have less room to move around.”

Both Cormier and Donovan still prefer ice hockey but devoted ball hockey players take their game seriously. It is not just another kind of hockey but a sport unto itself.

July 30, 2009 Posted by | People, Print | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wiihab, yes please!

July 6, 2009
Rehab, no thanks. Wiihab, yes please!
In a bright room called the Solarium at the Mackay Rehabilitation Centre and elementary school in NDG, the Wii console has to be locked up when not in use. “We have a problem with all the kids wanting to play it whenever they come in,” said Maria Angulo, a phsyiotherapist at the school.
Physical and occupational therapists at Mackay have been incorporating the Wii, donated by Nintendo, into the children’s therapy for a year. They use the technology to work on balance, range of motion, strengthening and fine motor control, to name a few, in a fun and new way.
“The idea is to give the kids another possibility to exercise, although they’ don’t think they’re exercising,” said Angulo. “It’s an alternative to formal or routine therapy and we are having really good results.”
The therapists assess the children and create a plan with particular goals to work on through the Wii. Most of the children who they work on have cerebral palsy, a condition marked by problems with the central nervous system. “It’s not a progressive disease but they can deteriorate over time if not treated,” said Angulo. Other children who benefit from Wiihab are those with neuromuscular diseases and spinal cord problems such as myelomeningocele, a defect that happens in the development of the central nervous system.
Not all the children at Mackay can use the Wii; it depends on the severity of their impairment. “They do need to have a certain intellectual level to use the Wii,” said Angulo.
“It’s not just that they can improve in one area of their physical abilities,” said Angulo. “It’s also the idea of playing a sport. It increases body image and self-esteem.”
Angulo and other therapists found out about the Wii as a tool for therapy from newspapers. There are many articles and forums and even a blog about WiiHab or Wiihabilitation on the internet, such as http://www.wiihabilitation.co.uk and http://wiihabtherapy.blogspot.com.
“A lot more people are involved and interested,” said Marianne Dutil, a Therapeute en Réadaptation Physique at Mackay. Some therapists, not being of the Nintendo generation, still shy away from the unfamiliar technology. “The kids will show you what you don’t know,” laughed Dutil.
Wiihab can be used for many disabilities, spinal cord injuries and other traumas. “One of our reverse integrated kids had a fracture,” said Angulo, speaking of one of the able-bodied students that can attend Mackay for up to two years. “We used the Wii to help strengthen his arm after the cast was removed, but we prioritize use of the Wii for the kids with the real need.”
Both Angulo and Dutil attended a seminar put on by the Institut de réadaptation de Montréal (IRM) in May. Jean-François Lemay, a physiotherapist with the IRM, is conducting research comparing the results from Wii therapy to the results from therapy with their more sophisticated machines. “The Wii as a therapy tool is working really well,” said Angulo. “I hope we will have the results from the research and be able to know if we are doing the right thing and see if the Wii can be reliable.”
There are still obstacles to using the technology in therapy. When using Wii Fit, it is difficult for those with standing balance problems to get onto the platform said Dutil. “The Wii tells them to stop fidgeting but they just don’t have postural control so their weight keeps changing.” Mackay therapists have had to create homemade adaptations to the Wii.
With Wiihabilitation’s growing popularity, there may be a market for adapted Wii consoles and equipment for therapy uses.

July 6, 2009

Rehab, no no no! Wiihab, yes please!

by Johanna Donovan

In a bright room called the Solarium at the Mackay Rehabilitation Centre and elementary school in NDG, the Wii console has to be locked up when not in use. “We have a problem with all the kids wanting to play it whenever they come in,” said Maria Angulo, a phsyiotherapist at the school.

Physical and occupational therapists at Mackay have been incorporating the Wii, donated by Nintendo, into the children’s therapy for a year. They use the technology to work on balance, range of motion, strengthening and fine motor control, to name a few, in a fun and new way.

“The idea is to give the kids another possibility to exercise, although they don’t think they’re exercising,” said Angulo. “It’s an alternative to formal or routine therapy and we are having really good results.”

The therapists assess the children and create a plan with particular goals to work on through the Wii. Most of the children who they work on have cerebral palsy, a condition marked by problems with the central nervous system. “It’s not a progressive disease but they can deteriorate over time if not treated,” said Angulo. Other children who benefit from Wiihab are those with neuromuscular diseases and spinal cord problems such as myelomeningocele, a defect that happens in the development of the central nervous system.

Not all the children at Mackay can use the Wii; it depends on the severity of their impairment. “They do need to have a certain intellectual level to use the Wii,” said Angulo.

“It’s not just that they can improve in one area of their physical abilities,” said Angulo. “It’s also the idea of playing a sport. It increases body image and self-esteem.”

Angulo and other therapists found out about the Wii as a tool for therapy from newspapers. There are many articles and forums and even a blog about WiiHab or Wiihabilitation on the internet, such as http://www.wiihabilitation.co.uk and http://wiihabtherapy.blogspot.com.

“A lot more people are involved and interested,” said Marianne Dutil, a Therapeute en Réadaptation Physique at Mackay. Some therapists, not being of the Nintendo generation, still shy away from the unfamiliar technology. “The kids will show you what you don’t know,” laughed Dutil.

Wiihab can be used for many disabilities, spinal cord injuries and other traumas. “One of our reverse integrated kids had a fracture,” said Angulo, speaking of one of the able-bodied students that can attend Mackay for up to two years. “We used the Wii to help strengthen his arm after the cast was removed, but we prioritize use of the Wii for the kids with the real need.”

Both Angulo and Dutil attended a seminar put on by the Institut de réadaptation de Montréal  (IRM) in May. Jean-François Lemay, a physiotherapist with the IRM, is conducting research comparing the results from Wii therapy to the results from therapy with their more sophisticated machines. “The Wii as a therapy tool is working really well,” said Angulo. “I hope we will have the results from the research and be able to know if we are doing the right thing and see if the Wii can be reliable.”

There are still obstacles to using the technology in therapy. When using Wii Fit, it is difficult for those with standing balance problems to get onto the platform said Dutil. “The Wii tells them to stop fidgeting but they just don’t have the postural control so their weight keeps changing.” Mackay therapists have had to create homemade adaptations to the Wii.

With Wiihabilitation’s growing popularity, there may be a market for adapted Wii consoles and equipment for therapy uses.

July 29, 2009 Posted by | Print | , , , | Leave a comment

Jazz 101

July 9, 2009
Jazz 101, the most fun at the festival
by Johanna Donovan
The small, brightly-lit stage in the Complexe Desjardins with a large, blue, tap-dancing cat entrancing a slew of children, is quite the contrast to the sprawling General Motors Stage under an almost full moon, with light shows moving on the surrounding buildings and massive crowds swaying to the sounds of Rocksteady’s reggae vibe.
For 21 years La Petite École du Jazz has taught children the basics of jazz at the Montreal International Jazz Festival.
“No, we don’t have fun at all on stage,” joked Victor Ménard, “Le Prof,” as he handed out Jazz Diplomas to the kids who walked up to him sitting on the steps to the stage after the show.
For a whole hour, children from day camps and daycares sit on blue mats and learn how to count to jazz music, learn about different styles of jazz and have to help some of the performers — especially Jacques L’Heureux, or “Rémi” — pass their exams. The fun show has former École du Jazz graduates coming back with their families years later. “It ages me a little to admit it but it happens all the time,” said Ménard.
“This is our first year and we’re definitely coming back,” said a daycare worker holding the hands of three children all wearing bright yellow reflective vests. One little girl was excited that she had been chosen to sing into the microphone at one point in the show.
L’Heureux and Le Prof frequently go down into the audience and elicit the participation of the children as well as the adults. L’Heureux teased a father in the audience for not counting in the proper jazz way. “It’s ok, it’s not your fault, she’s the one who showed you how to do it,” he said, pointing to the man’s wife who hid behind a curtain of hair, laughing with embarrassment.
“Every five years we create a new show,” said Ménard. La Bande Magnétik is a five person a capella group, accompanied by James Gelfand on the piano and Michel Donato on the bass. The talented performers really know their music and audience. “The kids really hear the jazz and remember hearing the jazz because it’s not formal teaching,” said Ménard.
The show is full of crazy antics. Ste-Cat, the festival’s jazz cat mascot, tap dances and plays the detective. La Bande Magnétik run around the stage dressed as firemen, dance and sing beautiful harmonies. All of the performers have to pass an exam: the bass player is blindfolded; the drummer is forced to use badminton rackets for drum sticks and the piano player, lying on his back, has to play upside down.
The Little School of Jazz is an oasis in a festival where there seems to be less and less jazz. Many of the free shows during the day are rooted in jazz but the big crowd attractors, like Rocksteady and Steevie Wonder, are often of a different genre. “It’s become a popular festival rather than just a jazz festival,” said Ménard. “But jazz has influenced so much music.”
The Little School of Jazz focuses on real, old-school, basic jazz. The performers often sing different genres of music and ask their audience to yell out if it’s jazz or not. The small show is one of the gems of the festival, fun for all ages and away from large crushing crowds.
At Jazz school, it’s all about the experience and the participation said Ménard. “The kids are such a great audience,” beamed Le Prof in his blue lab coat.

July 9, 2009

Jazz 101, the most fun at the festival

by Johanna Donovan

The small, brightly-lit stage in the Complexe Desjardins with a large, blue, tap-dancing cat entrancing a slew of children, is quite the contrast to the sprawling General Motors Stage under an almost full moon, with light shows moving on the surrounding buildings and massive crowds swaying to the sounds of Rocksteady’s reggae vibe.

For 21 years La Petite École du Jazz has taught children the basics of jazz at the Montreal International Jazz Festival.

“No, we don’t have fun at all on stage,” joked Victor Ménard, “Le Prof,” as he handed out Jazz Diplomas to the kids who walked up to him sitting on the steps to the stage after the show.

For a whole hour, children from day camps and daycares sit on blue mats and learn how to count to jazz music, learn about different styles of jazz and have to help some of the performers — especially Jacques L’Heureux, or “Rémi” — pass their exams. The fun show has former École du Jazz graduates coming back with their families years later. “It ages me a little to admit it but it happens all the time,” said Ménard.

“This is our first year and we’re definitely coming back,” said a daycare worker holding the hands of three children all wearing bright yellow reflective vests. One little girl was excited that she had been chosen to sing into the microphone at one point in the show.

L’Heureux and Le Prof frequently go down into the audience and elicit the participation of the children as well as the adults. L’Heureux teased a father in the audience for not counting in the proper jazz way. “It’s ok, it’s not your fault, she’s the one who showed you how to do it,” he said, pointing to the man’s wife who hid behind a curtain of hair, laughing with embarrassment.

“Every five years we create a new show,” said Ménard. La Bande Magnétik is a five person a capella group, accompanied by James Gelfand on the piano and Michel Donato on the bass. The talented performers really know their music and audience. “The kids really hear the jazz and remember hearing the jazz because it’s not formal teaching,” said Ménard.

The show is full of crazy antics. Ste-Cat, the festival’s jazz cat mascot, tap dances and plays the detective. La Bande Magnétik run around the stage dressed as firemen, dance and sing beautiful harmonies. All of the performers have to pass an exam: the bass player is blindfolded; the drummer is forced to use badminton rackets for drum sticks and the piano player, lying on his back, has to play upside down.

The Little School of Jazz is an oasis in a festival where there seems to be less and less jazz. Many of the free shows during the day are rooted in jazz but the big crowd attractors, like Rocksteady and Steevie Wonder, are often of a different genre. “It’s become a popular festival rather than just a jazz festival,” said Ménard. “But jazz has influenced so much music.”

The Little School of Jazz focuses on real, old-school, basic jazz. The performers often sing different genres of music and ask their audience to yell out if it’s jazz or not. The small show is one of the gems of the festival, fun for all ages and away from large crushing crowds.

At Jazz school, it’s all about the experience and the participation said Ménard. “The kids are such a great audience,” beamed Le Prof in his blue lab coat.

July 29, 2009 Posted by | Print | , , , | Leave a comment