Churchill School of Rock

Ray Kalynuk

Tiiu Tsao, one of the Grade 4/5 teachers who has been involved from the start, and the one who brings out the passion in the performances of the students through the moves she choreographs for the rockers, reflects on the magnitude of the event with some (understandable) trepidation. “There are so many of us involved, and it takes so much time and effort, that it seems like we question whether or not it is all worth doing each year. But then it is performance day, and the students are shining in the spotlight, and the crowd is standing up, cheering and singing along, and you just know that it is all worth it … and that you will gladly be doing it all again next year.”

I was in my first year at Churchill, teaching Grade 5/6 back then. I still remember going to the first band rehearsal, not really knowing how to play more than a couple of chords on guitar, but wanting to help out somehow. The students were excited about the idea of singing rock and roll songs, and I thought that this was really going to keep them more interested in singing as part of a choir. Then I sat in on that first night of the band, and realized just what this was all going to sound like. It hit me that we were not getting these students ready to sing in just a choir recital – we were creating an opportunity for them to perform. That is when I decided that I could best support the project by taking on a production role.

Over the years that production role has grown. I now spend a considerable portion of the school year managing two blogs for the program, booking performances, arranging volunteers to perform with the choir, rehearsing with the choir, meeting with graphic designers to create a poster and t-shirt design for the year, and delegating roles to other volunteers.

Churchill has had a strong commitment from many parents who help out throughout their child’s time at Churchill. Building a band from volunteers relies on people committing to a rehearsal schedule for several months before a show. This has meant that on Tuesday nights at Churchill, from late January onward, a group of between 5 and 10 musicians gathers to run through the set list (not that it is difficult to talk musicians into getting together to jam once a week and perform on stage for hundreds of fans).


Students sitting at large desks in classroom

The point of talking about privilege is not to make people feel bad, or guilty; it is that recognizing privilege is the only hope we have of breaking down the system to make it fairer for everyone.

students standing at round table creating art from construction paper

One cold winter morning I was teaching my grade 8 class when halfway through the first period Joe came in, late as usual.