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The St. James Music Academy: Transforming Lives through Music

September 22, 2015

Enoch Daniel is in his final year at Regent College, completing a Master of Arts degree in Theological Studies with a concentration in Christianity and the Arts. An accomplished pianist, he is passionate about channeling music to create a deep longing for God in this fractured world. From February to June 2015, Enoch completed an arts internship with the St. James Music Academy (SJMA), which provides music education to children from some of the lowest income neighbourhoods in the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver. They offer free classes in classical voice, piano, strings, percussion, brass, orchestra, choir, theory, and jazz. We asked Enoch a few questions about his experience.

Why did you choose to do an internship with the St. James Music Academy?

I came across this organization in We Make Stuff, a publication about Christian artists in Canada. It was a beautiful story of music touching the lives of young ones in the Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. I visited their website and became convinced that I wanted to be part of this wonderful work with a group of artistic people who shared a similar passion, i.e. to reach out to our fractured world with the gift of music.

What is your own background as a musician?

I have a background in classical music and my principal instrument is piano. In my leisure time, you will find me sight-reading endlessly through piano works from the Baroque period to the 20th century and beyond. I recently developed an interest in exploring jazz transcriptions. I also fell in love with choral music during my years as an undergraduate music major. I have had the privilege of performing some major choral works, such as Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Brahms’s Requiem, Faure’s Requiem, Verdi’s Requiem, Bach’s B minor Mass, and many more. Those are some unforgettable moments of my life.

What were some of the concrete activities you were involved in during your internship?

I assisted with the Kodaly class, in which the children were taught rhythm and melody through musical activities and games. I really enjoyed watching the children grow each week not just musically, but also in team spirit and friendship. For seven weeks, I also oversaw the maintenance and supply of orchestral instruments in the absence of the person in charge. I learned to make quick fixes to orchestral instruments when needed. I was part of the team that worked behind the scenes to put on the annual concert. Some minor but necessary tasks included cleaning instrument storage spaces and tagging instruments.

What did you learn from this experience? Has the internship changed the way you make music yourself?

The internship has certainly shaped me in many subtle ways that affect not just my music, but also my whole person. The experience not only gave me the opportunity to learn and reflect at an intellectual and theological level, it also enabled me to connect as a human being with other little human beings and their parents and teachers. Everyone is an image bearer of Christ, whether they're aware of it or not. I felt included when, soon after the teacher asked everyone to get down on the floor for a Kodaly lesson game, little Ellena said, “'everyone' includes you, Enoch.” I felt valued for my mere presence when little Ayden came running into the class for a random hug every week. I was appreciated for my contribution musically and logistically, and for my general availability to help out with big and small tasks. I am deeply grateful for this rich experience at SJMA. 

Another important take-away can be summarized well in Ellul’s words, “for Christians the first consequence of [a wholly revolutionary position which they are led to take] is this: that what actually matters in practice, is 'to be' and not 'to act.'" (Ellul, The Presence of the Kingdom, 74). What does that look like? First, I ought to desire to live under God’s unconditional grace and love. God is calling me to be with him every moment. What does this being with him mean for my everyday life? Everything! Out of this being with him flows a passion to do things for him. I will give my all only when I am passionate about something. He has made me passionate about using music to create a longing for him, to bring awareness of him in our broken world, to move myself and the world to a life lived under God. To this end, I will use all my God-given gifts, abilities, talents, and to this end I will continue to hone my technical skills.

What's next?

I am going back to SJMA in January 2016 to serve that community, to be present, and to observe ways in which music affects people and plays a role in a positive change.

About arts internships
For more information contact:
Ali Cumming
Arts Administrator

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