Literacy Through Music

Gregg Lawless works with school boards to create an intensive, cross- curricular project that establishes links between music, literacy, visual arts and character education. In addition to learning the elements of music, students compose an original song based on one of ten character attributes. Participating classes perform their compositions at an evening gala concert in a theatre, backed by a professional five-piece band.

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ARTICLES

PEEL DSB PROJECT

"The comments from the teachers and the kids reflections were outstanding. I want you to know that you have done very important work with our students, not only in songwriting, but in working with rhyme schemes, rhythm in lyrics, metaphors, repetition and contrast, brainstorming ... and the list goes on. You have a special way with kids. They love your energy, and teachers appreciate your multi-tasking and your creative mind. Thank you so much for working with our kids and providing them with a once in a lifetime opportunity. You have made in a difference in many peoples' lives over the last five months, especially last night."
Mary Ann Fratia, Instructional Co-ordinator of the Arts, Peel DSB

"I can sum up last night's concert at Mississauga Living Arts Centre in four words: awesome! awesome! awesome!awesome! From the presentations of each and every school, it was evident there wasn't a single student who didn't want to be there wholeheartedly. The excitement was such a high - even for us teachers, and yet the delivery was still superb. The look on our kids' faces, and yours as you stood in their midst performing, is a picture imprinted on my mind forever. I truly am in awe that you can do what you do with freshness, enthusiasm and such diversity EVERY TIME!!!!! You are a hero in the eyes of our kids, apparent by the reception they gave you when you first walked on stage. - A hero in the sense of advocating for and facilitating our kids to believe in something and work towards a goal together - including and respecting each other. That kind of hero worship is O.K. by me! (Not to mention of course that you and your band REALLY ROCK!!!!) This has been a most enjoyable experience for Leslie and I - and a privilege to be part of this wonderful project. You are a visionary - you communicate to kids and empower them in such a remarkable way. Thank you for sharing your gift with us. We will never forget this experience - it has been one of the high points of my teaching career. I thank you thank you thank you thank you! God Bless and ROCK ON!"
Ellen Shilton, Neil C. Matheson PS, Peel DSB

WHAT THE KIDS SAY:

"We learned so much, but I think that the most important thing is that our class became very close through working together."

"The concert was the most magnificent day of my life!. We were astonished by what we could do, and so were our parents!"

"People say that we were 'like' professionals, but I say, NO! ... we WERE professionals!"

"This project made me feel more confident in myself and in my singing ... I am proud of myself for what I accomplished. This is something I will remember for my whole life."

"My class never felt so excited. Our song was wild, wacky, fun, and very true!"

"You made my life different. This was the best thing I have ever done in my life."

"It was an awesome experience. It made me feel great to perform the song that we had been working on all year and it was a blast to play it with you and the band."

"Learning how to write a song, sing, and perform to a large crowd was awesome. This experience made me feel like a star!"

"You definitely changed my attitude about writing and performing. I enjoyed this so much! It was a wonderful challenge and and amazing experience!"

"I can't believe we really did this! It was so cool seeing ourselves on TV the next day!"

"All of our hard work really paid off, just like you promised. Thank you again for giving us so much happiness and pride!"

YORK REGION DSB PROJECT

"Thank you for your patience, your commitment, and your expertise ...you are a gifted, lean, mean, songwriting machine!"
Yana Ioffe, Music Consultant, YRDSB

"Exceptional! Tonight we have seen and heard what literacy, music, and character education are all about. Come back next year, Gregg!"
Bill Hogarth, Director of Education, YRDSB

"I have been thinking all day of how to put into words how simply amazing our experience has been these past months. The one thing that kept running through my head is a line from a poem called "Desiderata": "With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world."And that sums it up for me. It is very easy to become cynical in this world and, it pains me to say, especially among our profession as educators. Last night, my kids were just that: kids. Happy, full of life, and so damn proud of their achievement you could feel it in the air.Your efforts have helped me refresh my love for this job.Last night was so much more than a concert for us. Thanks to you, my kids were reminded to look to themselves to find happiness, to rely on their own skills to face obstacles, to be kind, to be a friend, to enjoy this life.So I am reminded, as well.So, know that despite what I finally managed to put down on paper, there are few words to express our thanks."
Devon Law, Lorna Jackson PS, YRDSB

WHAT THE KIDS SAY:

"My favourite part was writing the song because Gregg wasn't uptight and he took in everybody's ideas. We had so much fun!"

"I loved it when Gregg would just make up all of those songs using objects on the desk or things on the wall. He gave us great examples and was really entertaining."

"I used to think that singing was boring, but sing with Gregg and the band was the best thing that ever happened to me. This experience has made our class better and stronger."

"I loved brainstorming ideas for our song. We came up with 500 song titles in under 5 minutes. That was so cool!"

"I think that every school should have the opportunity to work with Gregg and see how fun making music really is!"

"Gregg might not be as famous as Britney Spears, but he is a star to me because he made me laugh and learn at the same time."

"Gregg taught us how to make a really good song even better by using expression, creativity, excitement and a positive attitude. We learned so much about songwriting and had a great time doing it."

"I felt like I got to know my peers better. We felt so great when we completed our own song. I have never seen my class cooperate so well. We learned so much from Gregg."

"This project helped us to learn about, and show, our true selves!"

SIMCOE COUNTY DSB PROJECT

"The project has allowed the character traits to be woven into every aspect of the curriculum form literacy to the arts. The students have become aware of what each trait truly means."
Angela Welsman, Algonquin Ridge PS, SCDSB

"The students' awareness of empathy continues to grow not only within the class but throughout the community and school."
Chery Duncan, Upergrove PS, SCDSB

WHAT THE KIDS SAY:

"When Gregg walks in the room his excitement and energy are contagious ... it rubs off on everyone. Writing our song, with him leading us, was such an amazing experience."

"It is very fitting that Gregg taught us about the "Commit To Character" attributes because he certainly has all of the attributes himself."

"This project brought our class together in a whole new way."

"It taught me about the great feeling you get when you work together and create something so amazing."

"Gregg Lawless is exciting, inspiring, cool, a great musician, and very, very funny. I would recommend this project to the world!"

"An exhilarating, once in a lifetime opportunity."

"It was an amazing opportunity to be able to sing on stage, have the music recorded, and have it made into our own CD!"

"We really love the song we made! It makes people understand what we are singing about and makes them think about the bright side of things."

"I never actually knew what optimism meant until this wonderful opportunity came to our class. I learned so much about music and song writing ... and so many new words!"

"Singing the song together in class made me see how my classmates are inside, rather than the everyday personality they display. Before, there was a part of me that was unable to participate in music activities, but doing this project made me more optimistic and helped me change my point of view."

"Literacy Through Music was all about group work and we learned to work really well as a group. We practiced and practiced ... in the end, we felt like stars!"

"It meant so much to me performing in a professional theatre. I used to have stage fright, but I faced my fear ... now I have a fantastic time performing!"

"This performance made us feel like stars and professionals!"

HANA'S SUITCASE

Gregg composed the song "Hana's Suitcase" with Grade 8 students from Ventura Park Public School in Thornhill, ON. Have a listen (MP3, 4.3 MB).

PHOTOS

Click on thumbnail photo for larger image.