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  • Writer's pictureKamara Hennessey

TO COLLABORATE IS: Paying It Forward

“A true Master is not the one with the most students, but one who creates the most Masters. A true leader is not the one with the most followers, but one who creates the most leaders.”

- Neal Donald Walsch, Conversation With God: An Uncommon Dialogue

A book in my library that I often pull out for reference on a particular subject is Jim Clemmer’s Growing the distance; Timeless principles for personal, career, and family success. Clemmer includes the above quote in his chapter Lead to Succeed. This quote resonates and reflects my own intent as a Music Educator to be a positive influence on others as I help them learn and grown within and outside of themselves.

Unlike many individuals, I have not created a defining identifiable branded type of Leadership Program that can be evaluated as the one direction path to follow to become successful. I think of my abilities to pass on to others a music education is like choosing to be ecumenical in one’s beliefs despite having been brought up to practice and stick with a particular organized religious point of view. Therefore, I prefer to explore all avenues where I can extract a teaching and life’s philosophy that express ethics, values and styles that highlight several strands of coloured threads within an embroidered tapestry that show unity within diversity.

The shelves in my music library display a range of practical and theoretical pedagogical texts by various authors / composers; past and present. But, over the years in my private music studio I have become more discerning to which teaching materials and programs have earned their rightful places to harness contents that will eventually result in successes that prove to be meaningful and fulfilling to me and my students. This apparent awareness was excavated from having taken as many opportunities to attend seminars / conventions / conferences / workshops / webinars / global summits where one encountered the experts in their respective designed out field / disciplined program. I have often mused to myself on why do I need to reinvent the wheel in developing something “new”? Even though an existing wheel has taken a different / innovative musical-theoretical path to traverse, when pursued it ultimately allows one - whether it was for me or my student (regardless of age, abilities / disabilities) - to reach the same destination; that is, one of a growth mindset that allows for expansion …

I have registered to become a member in many music and non-music organizations as this profile gifted me with many privileges. Over the years, I was approached to be on these organization’s executive committee where, with dedication and commitment, fulfilled the required responsibilities in different roles. Even though I am, to a greater extent, a follower / team player in these platforms, in many a serendipitous moment, whether it was through necessity or by design, I found myself trusted into an unexpected leadership role such as being voted in as President in a two to four year period to lead a team.

A project that I initiated was to form an exclusive small group with my saxophone colleagues within the larger Burlington Concert Band ensemble. I pursued this in order to tap into an inner drive to be more creative and somewhat inventive in the process. Not one for settling for an obvious / unimaginative name like “The Flute Ensemble” (the only wind ensemble in this band that have become so well-known / recognizable over the years for concert engagements outside of BCB), I doodled around to come up with some catchy names. I finally settled for Sax ’n Sync; one that I though would sound quite appealing. This moniker I trusted would express a collective agreement that when I and my colleague worked together as “one” in every aspect, we will deliver a concert performance program and a memorable stage presence in its synchronicity; over time develop a uniqueness that separates us from all others. I would often remark to my colleagues we need to look and sound exceptional so we don’t leave the audience criticizing us as the “sinking saxes”.

When I look back on how this ensemble got started back in 2010, it was formed out of a need in support of other organizations that I am a member of. Through Sax ’n Sync’s engagement to participate in fundraising efforts for these organizations, we have helped to draw a greater interest from the public. My assertive stance in advocating for and promoting the need to align with these respective organizations’ mission statements that revolve around their particular program offerings was done with the intention to ignite the philanthropic spirit of “paying it forward”.

In the Ontario Registered Music Teachers Association, Hamilton/Halton branch Teachers Concert to raise funds for the Scholarship Account, my sax ensemble added variety to the program when we jazzed up the evening with swings and blues. As the piano accompanist and assistant Choir Director of the Hamilton-Halton Chinese Choir (2004-2010), as well as being on that organization’s Executive Committee, I had the opportunity to help plan concert programs in their annual fundraisers for the choir. In its Autumn Showcase 11 event held in November 2010, the newly formed Sax ‘n Sync group was part of the entertainment. Each member in the ensemble was encouraged to invite their families and friends for the opportunity to integrate with and experience the authentic music and culture of my Chinese colleagues and friends.

One of my biggest achievements was nudging the Burlington Concert Band Board of Directors to agree on a partnership with Bereaved Families of Ontario, South Central Region. In 2019 the band presented a free community concert in BFOSC’s annual signature fundraising event Walk in Remembrance and Butterfly Release. My goal: to draw a large public gathering. As we provided the entertainment relevant to the occasion, I knew that for attending families and individuals who were there to reflect on and celebrate the life of loved ones who have died, the music performed during the butterfly release, in particular, would be therapeutically uplifting; therefore, help in each one’s healing journey. The band was to appear again in September 2020. Unfortunately, Covid-19 pandemic halted everything thus preventing BCB to make another collaborative appearance.

I look forward to the day when my small Sax ’n Sync wind ensemble regroups again in person to continue to be engaged in community activities. Each time my saxophone colleagues and I make a public appearance this leaves us very happy and fulfilled knowing that we have lifted someone’s spirit through the music we share.

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