Music Class Applies “Uniquely Better”, Wins Canadian Music Class Challenge
TOPICS IN THIS STORYEducation
Paul Hanash is an elementary school music teacher at Beechwood Elementary School in greater Montreal, Canada. After attending The Global Leadership Summit in 2017, he applied what he learned and discovered new ways to lead creatively and “uniquely better” within his sphere of influence in his classroom. Little did he know how far these new ideas would take his class!
Little did I know when I returned home to Montreal after the 2017 Global Leadership Summit how the talks were going to impact me and my students.
With a thousand thoughts running through my mind, I decided to pray the only way I knew how when I don’t know what to say: “Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day…”
I felt a sense of peace flood over me. Soon after my prayer, I ran into my neighbor, Gary. I had no idea that God was going to use this moment to intersect with me.
Gary and I had not seen each other all summer. I told him I was currently teaching music at an elementary school, and he told me he had heard of something called the Canadian Music Class Challenge hosted by CBC Music. This challenge required music teachers to involve their students in covering pre-selected songs by Canadian songwriters. He suggested I send in a submission. The winner would win a recording studio for the school.
God was nudging me.
I needed to come up with a strategy, and that’s when I leaned on the talks I heard from the Summit. Ironically, the two talks that didn’t tug on my heart strings were the two talks I gleaned from the most!
The first was Andy Stanley. His talk centered on the idea of doing things uniquely better. He asked a series of questions, Is what you are doing better? Is what you are doing uniquely better? Is what you’re doing uniquely better, really? I took his series of questions personally! I knew the CBC would be taking hundreds of submissions from schools all across Canada. How was our school’s submission going to stand out from everyone else’s?
I was also reminded of Fredrik Haren’s talk on creative leadership. He shared a few examples of what creativity means and looks like, including the concept that you can create something new by combining two existing ideas in a new way. This proved to be the catalyst that inspired me to create an original mash-up of the two songs I was considering of covering. I knew I had found the secret to making our submission uniquely better!
I asked the 5th and 6th grade students to participate in the challenge.
Though the mash-up was nearly perfected, it was Harrison, one of my grade 5 students, who suggested that the finale of the mash-up could be technically tighter by switching back and forth between lines from both songs instead of singing both songs at the same time.
Throughout this process, I kept asking, Is this uniquely better, really? This question framed all my decisions. I was telling my students that it was not about winning the challenge, but that it was we had fun during process. But secretly I wanted to win.
CBC received nearly 500 submissions, and our school was competing against 140 other submissions in our category: elementary schools—vocal. A week later, the CBC released the top 10 winners in each category. Our students made the top 10! A week later, we learned we won!
What I learned at the Summit played an important role in helping my students climb to the top and create something uniquely better for them to be proud of.