Headed by Jill Mont, Aspengrove’s music program gives students a taste of magic—powered by hard work
Jill Mont has always been a bit of a magician, transforming her career multiple times since completing jazz studies at Grant MacEwan University in Alberta in 1984, and subsequently completing three additional degrees. The music and math teacher is a working musician who plays piano, French horn and trombone. She has also written music curricula and instructional books, created a publishing company, taught musical theatre and produced musicals. And she has trained horses (presumably not to play music) and raised angora goats.
“This is my fourth career,” Mont says, of her 11-year tenure at Aspengrove. “I also conduct several community bands — a swing band and a community concert band — and I play French horn and trombone in the Nanaimo Concert Band.”
Mont is nothing if not versatile, but her approach to teaching music is practical. “We can make magic through the non-magical process of hard work,” she says.
On Aspengrove’s Music Program
The music program at Aspengrove reflects Mont’s versatility. “It’s a paint splat of variety,” she says. “Every student takes music up until grade 8. Then in grade 9 it becomes Performing Arts, and weighs more heavily into drama. The in-class program is about 30 hours per year, and it is their testing ground for things they may or may not enjoy. In grade 10 Performing Arts is an optional course.”
For students (and staff) who are looking for more musical opportunities, Mont started junior and senior morning concert bands, as well as a jazz band. “The extra-curricular music program is designed to challenge students at every level and accommodates any goal or aspiration that a student at this school may have musically.”
On Performing in Cuba
Last year, Mont and the senior jazz band travelled to Cuba to participate in a music tour that had them performing all over Havana over the course of nine days. But the trip proved to be about more than just music.
“We took a lot of donations down with us,” Mont explains. “We ascertained all of the places we were going and their needs. Then we divied up all the stuff — toothbrushes, cymbals, clarinets, soldering tools. All of us had 10 pounds of donations in our bags. When we arrived at 1 am there were four of us in this hotel room sorting it out by venue for the next day. I was so insanely proud of what these kids did for other people.”
On Teaching at Aspengrove
The desire to help others is just one of the things Mont appreciates about teaching at Aspengrove. “I love to come to work every day,” she says. “I like walking through the doors every morning because the first person to see you will look you in the eye and say good morning — could be a colleague, could be a student. They will hold the door open for you. This speaks to the values and attitude of our community.
“I know the names of every student from grade 6 to 12 in this school. And I have a strong relationship built from effort and hard work with many of them. It’s all about relationships here.”
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