This school year has been a year unlike any other, as we all navigate the challenges of teaching to our best potential while operating during a global pandemic. While all educators have had their practices impacted by COVID-19, there has been little attention given to Manitoba music teachers and their concerns.

From the beginning of the 2020/2021 school year, government regulations have prohibited indoor singing and music-making on woodwind and brass instruments. As a result, many music teachers have been reassigned to new positions and subject areas, have traded their music rooms for travelling carts, and have had their practices turned upside down.

These struggles have motivated us to initiate a research project into the experiences of music educators during the pandemic, giving voice to Manitoba music teachers’ successes and concerns, and formulating recommendations to the provincial government and school administration on how to support music teachers and the future of their programs. To these ends, in February, with the support of the Manitoba Music Educators’ Association (MMEA, an MTS-affiliated SAGE) we launched a research survey/questionnaire open to music teachers across Manitoba. The intent: to gather their perspectives on how the pandemic has impacted their professional practice and sense of well-being. There has been a significant interest in this research as 218 music teachers across Manitoba participated in the survey/questionnaire. The preliminary findings have been noteworthy (as outlined in the table on page 19).

Les Chalmers, a music teacher in River East Transcona School Division, and president of the Manitoba Music Educators’ Association, comments that: “Our research findings from this study have now been reported by the Winnipeg Free Press, CBC Manitoba, and on the CBC national program, As It Happens. The findings highlight what we are seeing with teachers every day and what we hear through anecdotal stories. These findings help to let people know they are not alone. The prospect of losing good, experienced teachers is obviously upsetting.”

Chalmers further notes that “The MMEA is working tirelessly behind the scenes to advocate for them. We are all music teachers and are living with similar struggles and realities every day. We have a personal stake in the outcome of this and other issues affecting quality music programs.”

These findings are only preliminary, as the research study is ongoing. We expect to release a more thorough preliminary findings report to Manitoba music teachers for May, 2021, and a final report during the summer. Music teachers across Manitoba have demonstrated outstanding resilience in the face of adversity and have continued to provide rich artistic experiences to children and youth. They deserve a standing ovation for their efforts. We are confident that educational leadership across the province will consider these findings carefully and listen to what teachers are suggesting, in order to secure the future of our school music programs.