Sandie Heckel

Power Glen Public School, Ontario, Canada


How long have you been working with Musical Futures?

My relationship with Musical Futures began in 2013 when I was searching for something new and found Lucy Green’s video about informal learning where she outlined her research in UK schools. This then led me to the Musical Futures website where I joined the international pilot project, Find Your Voice. I watched all of the vocal music and mobile technology workshop videos online and began connecting with teachers all over the world through the Find Your Voice professional learning community on social media. At the conclusion of the pilot project I travelled to London, UK to take part in the final sharing session, which was a highlight for me being able to meet many of my MF friends in person and also participate in a Gitika Partington workshop.

Read more about Sandie’s Find Your Voice pilot project experience.

What do you do?

I am an elementary school teacher in Ontario, Canada. I teach music, drama, dance and a bit of library too. I also work on the board of directors for the newly forming Musical Futures Canada and have just launched a Teacher Network to connect teachers across our vast country that are interested in the Musical Futures approach.

What is your background?

I am a classically trained musician – my major instrument is piano. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a major in Music, a Bachelor of Education and I recently graduated with a Master of Music Education degree from Western University, which is the academic research centre for Musical Futures in Canada. I also have a long-standing interest in the dance world having been an accompanist for many dance schools over the years.

Five words that sum up Musical Futures

Personalized, meaningful, creative, collaborative, real 

What music are you listening to at the moment?

I’m interested in learning more about the Indigenous Canadian experience, so I’ve been checking out www.digitaldrum.ca that features Indigenous music, interviews and blogs. I love the electric pow-wow beat of A Tribe Called Red and the passion of singer-songwriters like Iskwe. I also listen to any and all music that my students love – Twenty One Pilots, Chance the Rapper – whoever.

About your school

Power Glen Public School is an elementary school in the District School Board of Niagara with about 420 students, located in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada.

This is my fifth year teaching music at Power Glen and it is rewarding to see the development of the Musical Futures vibe throughout the school as it has spread from the Grade 6’s in 2013 to now involving the whole school; early primary grades through to Grade 8. Students are setting goals for themselves and collaborating to make all kinds of music that they are interested in. We do everything from beat boxing and body percussion, to singing, playing the ukulele, and bucket drumming. Our Parent Council generously donated $3000 a few years ago, which allowed us to purchase a keyboard, one electric guitar, one bass, one small digital drum kit, two vocal mics, one Jamhub and amplifiers for these instruments. This one band setup is in constant demand and groups have to share this during class time as well as schedule rehearsals at recess and lunch breaks. We also have a class set of ukuleles and various small percussion instruments such as, hand drums, tambourines, etc. I have my own set of bucket drums and I bring in other of my own instruments to share – my doumbek, djembe, chimes, more ukes and my Mac computer, Blue Yeti microphone, etc. Following a summer music technology conference I attended at NYU Steinhardt, IMPACT, I have become increasingly interested in working with students to create music using digital technology. The Intermediate students are making track & hook style songs using Soundtrap on Chromebooks.

The rewards of being involved in Musical Futures, in particular the informal music learning approach, has been an increase in a sense of inclusion and collaboration in the music program. Students are now much more willing to teach each other and help each other out. They don’t always look to me for all information and are building a growth mindset in music. Music isn’t viewed as a subject just for those who have “talent” – it’s for everybody. Students learn by listening really closely, not being afraid to try, making mistakes and working together.