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Uniting difference beyond words and sounds: overcoming limits through music

École Madeleine-Bergeron and École oraliste de Québec recently received an Essor Recognition Award for their innovative project entitled "Uniting Difference Beyond Words and Sounds". We present this project in this article.

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For the past 25 years, the Essor Recognition Awards, presented by the Quebec Ministry of Education, have recognized the excellence and originality of artistic and cultural projects carried out in Quebec schools. In December 2022, two schools in the Capitale-Nationale region, École Madeleine-Bergeron and École oraliste, were honoured in the pedagogical development category for their innovative project entitled "Uniting the difference beyond words and sounds". We present this project in this article.

Facing the St. Lawrence River, in Quebec City, on Cap-Rouge, stands the Madeleine-Bergeron School, which welcomes students who are usually severely handicapped. One hears sounds that are sometimes melodious, sometimes rhythmic, but always envelop the heart. They come from the class of Marie-Dominique Boivin, who has been teaching music there for 14 years. With her colleague Jonathan Bolduc, a teacher at the École oraliste pour sourds et malentendants de Québec and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Music and Learning at Université Laval, the duo received one of the ESSOR recognition award.

The project of the Madeleine-Bergeron school and the École oraliste de Québec was carried out with students from seven classes all living in a context of difference. They composed and illustrated three songs that can be found in a digital booklet designed for the occasion. From French to performing arts, different skills were developed during the composition and illustration of songs. 

The students of the Oralist School wrote the lyrics, which allowed them to improve their language. Those from the Madeleine-Bergeron school "were able to, as the the department on its websiteIn order to overcome their severe physical limitations, they create musical accompaniments and design avatars in the plastic arts.

Not only are Marie-Dominique Boivin's class and instruments adapted to her students, but she also explains that she uses the Frog Touch so that its pupils emit sounds. This invention, created in France by Olivier Carrillo, consists of silicone pads attached to the ankle or wrist. These are connected to a software with which it is possible to program various sounds. The effect is spectacular.

Mariam Sangpa-Kapata's smile says a lot about her pleasure to participate in the joint musical project of the Madeleine-Bergeron School and the Quebec Oralist School. Credit: Jean-François Bolduc

Trust beyond the arts and digital technologies

Beyond the alliance between digital technologies and the artistic aspect, it is also - and perhaps above all - the trust and complicity that exists between a teacher and her students. Mariam Sangpa-Kapata, a sparkling high school student and maracas specialist, had stars in her eyes when the École branchée representative asked her what her favorite class was: "Music! I will never know how to thank Ms. Marie-Dominique for everything she does." You can't make this up, such collaboration and love between teachers and students!

The teacher also has the support of the school administration and the Centre de services scolaires des Découvreurs. Julie Boulanger, principal of Madeleine-Bergeron school, who points out that her school is regional in scope, says that when she sees all the passion generated by a teacher like Marie-Dominique Boivin, "we can't help but embark on such a project.

A view of Marie-Dominique Boivin's music room. Credit: École Madeleine-Bergeron

This reputation is now transcending the walls of the school. Indeed, the teacher particularly remembers a musical performance by the students with her colleague Jonathan Bolduc at a Quebec Remparts game. The father of one of her students said, "I gave up on my son playing field hockey, but you made sure he was on the ice to sing!"

For the time being, Ms. Boivin's troupe, led by Mariam, is putting the finishing touches on a show as part of their major project Unir la différence au-delà des mots et des sons, which will be presented free of charge at the end of March in Quebec City. The Wendat storyteller Isabelle Sioui and the singer Arthur L'aventurier will also be part of the show. The event is already sold out. 

Main image: Marie-Dominique Boivin, left, and Jonathan Bolduc, right, leading their respective students. Credit: Jean-François Bolduc

About the Author

André Magny
André Magny
For more than 30 years, André Magny has been going back and forth between journalism and teaching French to teenagers and adults alike. Freelance freelance writer for various media including Francopresse, he was also a cultural journalist at Law in Ottawa and in charge of new technologies at Soleil de Québec. He also did sports journalism in France. He has a weakness for the Francophonie, culture, sports, cuisine and politics.

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