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Nakoda Elementary wins CBC national music contest

The school’s three grade 5 classes came together to cover Drake’s “Passionfruit” for the CBC’s “Music Class Challenge.”

Grade 5 students at Nakoda Elementary School in Morley have won the CBC’s national “Music Class Challenge,” and brought home some much appreciated prize money for the school’s music program.

Music teacher Drew Van Allen said his students winning the prize was less about the financial benefit and more about having pride in something they accomplished together.

“I'm really proud of the kids and all their hard work,” he said, “and I think that this acknowledgement is well-deserved because they are an incredible group of kids that come from a very important part of our cultural fabric as Canadians, and I'm just happy to share their story.”

The school’s three grade 5 classes came together to cover Drake’s “Passionfruit” for the CBC’s “Music Class Challenge,” and filmed a great video to go with their performance. It was ultimately this blend of video technology and musical style which led to their win in the “Innovation” category.

“Because we use music and technology in the classroom, we were submitted into this category, and it's a celebration of a technology-forward music classroom,” explained Van Allen.

According to the CBC’s description of the category, it also recognizes schools that use hip-hop, beatmaking or electronic music in their submission, or showcases “culturally specific musical instruments and traditions.”

“The CBC ‘Music Class Challenge’ is a national contest that they hold every year, and CBC pre-designs a list of Canadian songs, and they can vary from kids’ songs, to adult contemporary, to country,” explained Van Allen, whose classes have taken part in the challenge every year since 2017. “The premise is that it's all Canadian musicians, and so CBC encourages music classrooms to essentially cover one of those songs from their predetermined list, make a video of the kids performing that song, and then submit it to CBC for voting to a panel of judges.”

Van Allen said that first contest in 2017, and a video tribute his students did later that school year to honour recently deceased Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie, lit a fire of musical creativity in his students, who have taken part in the CBC’s annual “Music Class Challenge” ever since. This was the school’s first win.

“We were very much inspired by this challenge years and years ago, and it inspired us to look at music in a broader sense,” he said. “As you take a song and you place it under the magnification, or the parameters, of an Indigenous context, the song immediately changes. We were really fascinated by how a song in one context, when placed in a different context, changes entirely.”

What will Van Allen do with the $5,000 prize? Use the money to enhance the Nakoda Elementary School music program, of course.

He has seen how music helps open new horizons for his students and allows them to share who they are with others.

“Music really is a universal language that allows communities to connect with one another in a shared experience, and based on the context in which they're living in, that experience can be explained universally,” Van Allen said.

To view the school’s winning video and performance visit Here are the winners of the 2023 Canadian Music Class Challenge | CBC Music Events. To see other videos Van Allen's students have done view the the Nakoda Elementary School YouTube page.


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