Steve McKay: To Be a Music City, Hamilton Must Have Music Education

By Joey Coleman // @JoeyColeman
Published: Nov 27 2016 (8 months ago) // Last Updated: Nov 27 2016 (8 months ago)

This is the most insightful column I've read on how Hamilton can become a Music City, and of the myths of Hamilton's music past.

Over on the Hamilton Arts Council website, Steve McKay writes his thoughts about the recent Hamilton Chamber of Commerce Ambitious City talk on becoming know as Music City .

McKay says we must think beyond the myth "blue collar roots":

That is the traditional legacy story, and the storytellers would have us infer that there is something about Hamilton’s tough steel-town edge that lead to such an amazing crop of talent.

I take exception to this legacy story. I’ve always had a hard time accepting it, perhaps because I’m not a part of that legacy, being an upper-middle class son of two teachers. Perhaps it’s because that story excludes the kind of music that I make and want to make, which is essentially art music.

Also, I’ve never seen any real connection between the steel town and the people who have risen in the musical ranks here. Most of the celebrated artists from Hamilton came from affluent neighbourhoods and families.

He then lists the suburban roots of Hamilton's most famous musical performers, and writes their success can be traced to great music education in their suburban schools::

Thanks to some pretty excellent music education in the 70s, 80s and 90s, a large number of our greatest artistic contributions have come out of strong suburban schools, like Westdale, Westmount, Ancaster High or Parkside in Dundas.

He lists some of the great programs in classical music and jazz, and closes his great post by stating Hamilton cannot become Music City without music education in our public schools - the very foundation of our past successes:

Hamilton’s success in music is that we have been great incubators of talent.

I should say, we WERE great incubators of talent.

Investment in music education has dropped off fairly dramatically in the last fifteen years. Where it was once a matter of policy to hire a full-time permanent music teacher, we have decided that it is optional (read: a bonus).

I strongly recommend reading his full post on the Hamilton Arts Council website:
https://hamiltonartscouncil.ca/livingarts/posts/hamilton-sleepy-suburban-community-gave-us-teenage-head

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