The PETES Annual Musical Performance – A Collaborative Success

Ms. Medley and Mr. Piper pose for a picture together

Great initiatives are achieved when the people of Western Québec work together. At Pierre Elliott Trudeau Elementary School (PETES), this has certainly been the case for Grade 3 teacher Fiona Medley and parent volunteer Timothy Piper’s annual PETES Musical Performance.

Ms. Medley and Mr. Piper began working together over 13 years ago when Mr. Piper’s first child started kindergarten at PETES. A talented musician and composer, Tim played the piano for the school choir. Since then, Ms. Medley and Mr. Piper have enjoyed a creative partnership developing the music and creative arts at PETES. Over the years, the school choir turned into the PETES Performance Group (PPG), run by both Tim and his wife Laura Piper, with Ms. Medley providing a helping hand as staff facilitator.

In 2018, the idea for a larger scale production involving a whole cohort of students and providing more in-depth teaching of the musical elements began to grow. Their first performance in 2019 was a huge experiment and turned out to be a resounding success. “From that point on we knew that we had a winning combination”, shares Ms. Medley. Since then, Mr. Piper and Ms. Medley have joined together as a teaching team. Their goal is promoting healthy development and learning through quality music education.

Preparation for the next PETES Musical Performance begins as soon as the current musical ends, and it starts with all the Grade 3 teachers coordinating a schedule together. This year’s 2024 musical involved four classes with over 80 students in participation. Though Ms. Medley leads the musical, the initiative wouldn’t be possible without the support of all the Grade 3 teachers, the physical education teachers who are on board to share the gymnasium, as well as having supportive administrators.

In November, Mr. Piper begins visiting the Grade 3 classes and teaching the basic elements of music. Through lots of exploration, students start to appreciate pitch and melody, learn to recognize the difference between rhythm and beat and eventually learn to make their own compositions. During this process, Ms. Medley and Mr. Piper encourage students to develop and have confidence in their singing voices.

The PETES Musical Performance is unique in that the students compose their own music. To accomplish this, they peruse quality Canadian literature and books that have a strong theme such as perseverance. This year, they used Canadian author, Ashley Spires’ books, The Most Magnificent Idea and The Most Magnificent Thing.  Using the books as inspiration, an original script is created incorporating song, dramatic movement and speech.

In March, set design begins. PETES is fortunate to have parent volunteer / attendant to integration / exceptional artist, Lynne Walkling, lead this initiative. Using large canvas sheets, she designs the backdrops for the production. Each year, students have the opportunity of working with Ms. Walkling, painting the backdrops.

Any opportunity to integrate more curriculum into the musical is never missed. This year the very creative Grade 3 teachers had the students invent their own “magnificent machines” which were featured around the gymnasium during the production. The “magnificent machines” were part of an inventions unit which provided plenty of learning opportunities for the students to work collaboratively in groups, explore simple machines, develop their creative writing skills and more. The PETES Musical Performance is an artistic presentation that also encompasses a whole host of subject domains.

Throughout the whole teaching process, teachers and volunteers work to break down old stereotypes and have students understand that “music is a team sport”.  This is in keeping with the school’s motto, “Together We Make a Difference”.  Students are more successful when they do things together, when they encourage each other and when they learn from their mistakes together. They laugh at themselves together. So much of the musical is a huge collaborative effort and the key to its success is everyone working together.

Special thank you to Fiona Medley and Timothy Piper for providing the information for this article. Ms. Medley would also like to extend her appreciation to the members of staff at PETES. Many thanks to teachers Laura McArthur, Anna Robertson, Martine Belony, Sylvie Pinsonnault and Wendy Hamilton for all their collaboration and support. The support staff was also integral for the musical, including custodian Anick Bertrand, the office and daycare staff, Mahitab Fathy, Maby RiveraGil and Jennifer Fornelli. Chef Joy Sparling and her mini chef program also helped the Grade 3 students fundraise for a brand-new piano this year!  Lastly, a production this immense needs an administration that supports and encourages the development of the Arts. Thank you Principal David McFall and Vice-principal Jo-Anne Georgeadis.  

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