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YK Music Teacher Receives National Award at JUNOs

A local Yellowknife music teacher has just won an award on a national stage!

Teaching music at the École St. Joseph School, Stephen Richardson was nominated for the 2024 MusiCounts Teacher of the Year Award earlier this year, and was revealed as the winner during the 53rd Annual JUNO Awards live broadcast from the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax on Sunday night. While he had been nominated for the award several times before, this is the first time he has ever won, making him the first educator from the Northwest Territories to receive this award. He will receive a JUNO Award statuette, a $10,000 cash prize, a grant for École St. Joseph School through the MusiCounts School Music Funding Program, and grants made to additional schools of his choice.

Richardson said that receiving the award felt surreal, and joked that he’s still processing the announcement. He explained that after the first time he had been nominated, a friend of his had to explain how big of a deal it was, which helped him improve his focus on his work and make it a real goal. He also understood that his nominations and eventual winning of this award reflected well on the school.

For Stephen, there was also a personal goal in mind as well.

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“A main goal of mine was, my father turned 80 last year, and I wanted to kind of do something like this if I could for Dad before he gets past eighty-years-young and gets older and older. I think him seeing it on tv really meant something, so I called him immediately afterwards. My mother passed away the first year I was up here, and she’s the picture on the guitar you see in all the interviews. So yeah, I’m glad I got it done. You always try to please your parents!”

Stephen’s students range from Kindergarten to Grade 12, and he does his best to make his lessons as engaging as possible. He makes use of music theory, band and choir, songwriting, as well as music video creation and even video game scoring, all in an attempt to better connect with the things that his students are interested in, and reaching them through those avenues.

As Stephen shared, however, he’d like to take his modern approach one step further.

“With the money that I receive, I’d like to start going towards the more modern approach. I’ve been kind of inching my way towards that and away from the traditional band approach for quite a while. I think that’s one reason why MusiCounts was looking at me. So I’d like to get some more loop stations, so kids can instantly get into making music together in a group and maybe design their own album covers, their own t-shirts, and set themselves up as a complete, functioning band, even though their in Grade 7.”

Stephen contributes to the profession by mentoring school staff and brings artists touring the North through to École St. Joseph School for performances, workshops, and Q&As. He mentors homeroom educators who are expected to deliver music programming to ensure that students are getting the best music education possible.

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