To Chris Poynter, music is more than just notes on a page. The elementary school music teacher says it fosters a sense of confidence and teamwork among his students. He sees music as an integral part of his students’ learning success but says that their access to music education has been limited during the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, however, Poynter found a way to celebrate his students’ talent and the gift of music with the return of a popular live community performance.
Poynter has taught music at Sangster Elementary School on the West Shore for seven years. Last year, he had the opportunity to witness students he previously taught in Kindergarten move on to middle school. But he says his memories of last year’s class are bittersweet. Due to the ongoing pandemic, his students were unable to perform at their end-of-year community concert, something that has become a much-anticipated tradition on the West Shore.
“It just kind of fizzled out for those Grade 5s,” he says.
The annual holiday concert has always attracted hundreds of people from the community, Poynter says. It features a play, written by students and teachers, as well as a school-wide song that all students take time to memorize.
“The Christmas concert we always do here has always … been a big deal. It’s a really big thing,” Poynter says.
Last year, in place of a live performance, Poynter recorded the voices of every class independently and combined the audio recordings in a video to make it seem like they were all performing together.
“It was really successful, that thing. It was all over the news, and it was really… it worked. But I didn’t want to just try and do the same thing again this year.”
Sharing a passion for music
Poynter has made it his goal to get youth excited about music. But he’s had to get creative during the pandemic. From home, he made a website where he uploaded videos of himself teaching music class, which teachers then shared with their students during virtual lessons. Although he says this was time-consuming work, he did so without hesitation, fueled by his passion for music.
This Friday, Poynter will have the opportunity to showcase his passion and his students’ talent to the community. On Dec. 10, starting at 6 p.m. at Meadow Park in Colwood’s Royal Bay neighbourhood, the Sangster Elementary School choir will perform a holiday-themed concert for the community.
It’ll be the first time Poynter’s students have performed live since 2019.
The City of Colwood is loaning equipment for the show and GableCraft Homes is sponsoring the event. Sequoia Coffee is also providing hot chocolate for the children.
The performance will feature songs from each grade and perhaps a surprise performance by Poynter himself.
“I just wanted to give them an audience to sing in front of,” Poynter wrote on a Facebook post about the event.
Every day, Poynter comes to work hoping to inspire his students to be more confident and work as a team to achieve new feats.
“[Music] brings everyone together. You go to a concert, you listen to it on the radio, it’s ingrained in us,” he says, stressing that music education is “crucial” to keep in schools.
“It’s an essential part of our culture and our society and it can’t be a part of our culture and society if we’re not teaching it from a young age,” Poynter says.