ARNOLD’S COVE, NL — Growing up, Stephanie Boland always loved listening to and playing traditional Newfoundland music.
In her position as music teacher at Arnold’s Cove’s Tricentia Academy, she has found a way to pass that love and knowledge on to her students.
“I grew up playing traditional music my whole life,” she told the Packet.
Boland, who grew up in Burin, says there’s a lot of talent in Placentia and Trinity Bay, where students of Tricentia hail from.
“I knew it was out there and I wanted to get it into the school and start exposing the young kids to it.”
She formed a traditional music club in 2011 for students in grades 7 to 12 – a club that is still going strong today.
The group of about 10 gathers at lunch time each Thursday to practice and arrange music and create set lists for upcoming performances.
“It’s like a jam session,” says Boland. “I think those are the most productive times, when we just sit and play and try to figure things out. (The students) are involved with it just as much as I am, which is important because when they leave here, they can carry that on with them.”
The group plays local concerts and for the last several years has performed in the Newfoundland Labrador Teachers’ Association Christmas Suite at the Arts and Culture Centre.
Students say they love the opportunity to both develop their skills and perform publicly.
“I started to learn how to play because I saw my dad play, and I decided to take it up,” explained Megan Foote, a Grade 11 student who plays accordion.
“When Mrs. Boland asked me, I figured it would be a good way to start performing with a group on a stage.”
“Older generations in my family used to play, so I get a chance to play traditional music too,” said Brianna Bolt, a Grade 10 student who also plays accordion.
And has it been a challenge to win student’s interest to the more traditional sounds?
“Absolutely not,” said Boland. “Even in regular music classes, when I give them the chance to pick a piece they want to learn, there’s a really good chance they’re going to pick something traditional.
“A lot of kids enjoy the music but don’t get a chance to play it, so this provides that opportunity.”
This year’s group includes fiddle, tin whistle, button accordions and guitar.
In the past, the group has had mandolin and bodhrán players as well.
Student provide their own instruments, which can prove to be a challenge.
“Not everyone has the opportunity to play because of that,” explained Boland, noting the high cost of instruments.
She says she has applied for funding on several occasions but has not received any yet.
With or without funding, the group shows no sign of slowing down, playing music that transcends all ages.
“When you do concerts, you can see the older people in the audience, their faces light up and they start tapping their foot when they hear the more traditional music,” explained Mitchell White, a Grade 11 student who plays the fiddle for the group.