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GCVI Band Director and Music Teacher Wins Beckwith Award

Dan Austin, a secondary school music teacher at GCVI in Guelph has received the inaugural Beckwith Award, 2020.

Charlie Glasspool nominated Dan Austin for the Beckwith Award because had heard about his great work through some friends and colleagues. He is particularly impressed by Dan’s use of ‘living and breathing’ composers in the classroom as well as his dedication to community involvement. He added that, “Canada covers a vast geographical area and there is a need for community connection and to find the silver lining in the current ‘COVID’ situation.”

Matthew Fava, the Director - Ontario Region at the Canadian Music Centre explained that this award celebrates educators such as Dan who co-create music and engage with current composers within the classroom setting. They look for a candidate that encourages community involvement. Fava recognizes that, “many educators throughout the province contribute to the groundwork needed to promote and maintain music programs in schools.”

Matthew Fava speaks highly of Dan and his contributions to music. “Dan encourages a team environment in his classroom where students are given input into the selection of the repertoire for the year.” Fava added, “Dan invites a variety of current composers into his classroom so that students can see music and composition as a career.”

When Dan Austin received the news of this award, he was certainly surprised. While plans were being made to put together an awards ceremony, the COVID 19 emergency was declared in Ontario, making it impossible to hold an awards ceremony in a typical manner.

Dan is ecstatic about winning and stated, “We all need to collaborate and we are in this together”. The receipt of this award has allowed Dan to use the opportunity to increase his connections and in particular with the other award winner, Danica Brokelman. “Winning this award has allowed me to meet people I never would have met and I am thankful for the opportunity”.

Dan uses many different techniques to reach the students he teaches such as inviting composers like Cait Nishimura into his classroom. He feels that when students see composers who are working, it brings the career to life and students see real possibilities.

Dan had plans to go to the UK with his music students to play a repertoire of Canadian music for their audiences, but those plans were thwarted when COVID 19 changed travel plans around the world.

Dan’s patience, dedication and professionalism over the years have resulted in an expansion of the music program at GCVI. He has created a marching band and directs 20-30 musical performances per year. Many audiences have enjoyed the musical performances of his students.

Currently, he is in touch with students and asking for their input on pieces to focus on for next year and collaborating with a family of musical performers and composers through Zoom to redefine what music may look like given the new realities of COVID 19. He is grateful for the community and plans to move forward as best he can with the new realities of learning music digitally.

Congratulations Dan!

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