Recently, Jenny MacDonald moved to the Canning area, and established Red Apple Music. We asked Jenny some questions so as to introduce her to the Canning area community.
Questions: A little about yourself: where you’re from originally, where you live now.
My name is Jenny MacDonald and I grew up in the small, university town of Antigonish, Nova Scotia. I am a songwriter and music educator based in Canning, Nova Scotia.
I studied music at St. Francis Xavier University in my hometown of Antigonish, as well as music and music business at the Nova Scotia Community College in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia where I graduated from in May 2010, receiving the program’s “Highest Achievement Award”.
I studied voice as my main instrument, however I have played piano and guitar for many years as well. I have been performing, recording, and writing songs since 2005 and I released my first CD, “Jenny Kissed Me” in 2008. My second CD, “Bye, Bye, Mr. Bluesman” was recorded this summer with Scott Hupman (of The Hupman Brothers), and will be on it’s way shortly!
With my studies completed, I now maintain a teaching position with the IVY School of Music in Bedford, NS, as well as operate my own music program, Red Apple Music, based in Canning. I teach during the week, and write, record, and perform on weekends, and spend a lot of time touring over the summer months.
Where is your studio located? Or do you go to students?
Private lessons are held in my home studio on J. Jordan Road in Canning. Workshops and camps are held in different locations in surrounding communities including Wolfville, Kentville, and Canning.
How old were you when you became interested in music?
I have been interested in music as long as I can remember. I used to wear out my parents cassette tapes, and I knew all of the words to my favorite songs from my parents’ record collection.I started pursuing music lessons when I was in grade 7. In highschool I became heavily involved in my highschool band, and also performed in over a dozen musicals through that time and the following few years.
I was heavily drawn towards pursuing a career in musical theatre, until I started writing songs. Writing and performing my own songs became my focus almost immediately, and I was lucky to have some wonderful and talented friends to guide me along the way in the first few years.
After studying musical theatre, and jazz for a number of years, I was happy to find the NSCC music program which put a lot of emphasis on contemporary music, and writing original material. The music business program was also a great asset to my music career.
As an instructor, what’s the biggest challenge in teaching music to students?
The biggest challenge I find with students is to try to steer their interest and influence away from digitilized and over produced music. There are a lot of great songwriters and genres of music out there today, and from the past, and I always try to focus on finding material that the students really enjoy learning. It’s difficult to have students who want to learn the latest top 40 or “family channel” stars however, because often the music is irreplicable on real instruments because so much of it is digitalized, and also the lyrical content isn’t always appropriate for teaching material for children.
I try to find a mix of material that the student is familiar with, and material that they have never heard before. It is always my focus to keep lessons fun and interesting, but also important to me to introduce students to the whole, wide, world of music out there. I often use a mix of musical theatre (for singers), country/folk music, blues and jazz, and some modern, popular music as well. There is no getting away from the fact that eight-year-old girls want to become Taylor Swift, and the material is “okay” for teaching because it is age appropriate and often easy enough for beginner players to learn some basic skills, but a lot of it is the same thing over and over again so there becomes a point where the student will not advance in their skill if they don’t advance into more challanging material.
Every student I teach learns different material based on age, skill level, and personality. No two students are the same, so their lessons are treated accordingly.
How is the provincial school curriculum these days?
I don’t really know, because I don’t teach in the provincial school curriculum. I only hear what the students tell me. When I was in highschool, our music program was only offered up to grade 10. I teach and have taught students in a number of different areas and schools, and I get different feedback from all of them. Some students tell me that they don’t have music classes at school in some of the younger grades.
I visited with Ken Hassell and one of his music classes at NKEC and the facilities were great. They had a number of recording devices, and lots of variety of instruments to choose from. I also returned this year to speak to a music class at my former highschool in Antigonish with Brent Bannerman, who was also my instructor in highschool. I know that his older students do a lot of advanced work that many students at other schools don’t get. When I was in his program, we even travelled to Toronto with both our classical band and our jazz band to compete in the Toronto Music Fest.
It seems to me that every school is different and it really depends on the knowledge and motivation of the teacher, and also the budget and the resources available to them.
Who would you say are your musical influences? (favourite performers, etc.)
I listen to a lot of local music. I’ve been lucky enough to play with some great talented Canadian musicians including Gordie Sampson, Ian Sherwood, Charlie A’Court, The Hupman Brothers etc. I’m really a big supporter of local music, not just because it is a moral obligation as a fellow musician, but because I think a lot of it is really good.
I listen to a number of artists in just about any genre you can think of. Blues, jazz, world music, folk, latin, county, swing, classical, pop, and the list goes on… I like different kinds of music for different reasons. I like the raw energy of blues, the great storytelling in folk, the bouncy rhythms of swing, and the soothing harmonies and voices that spread over many genres.My favorite thing to do in the morning, however, is put on a good Stevie Ray Vaughan CD and dance while I make breakfast!
Can anyone be taught to sing, play an instrument?
I haven’t yet come across a student that came to me for lessons that I was unable to teach. There are so many different skills in music (rhythm, pitch, etc) that most students have strong points and weak points, and each skill is much easier to learn when you break it down into basics.
Sometimes young students (5 or 6 years old) will have trouble matching the notes they hear to the notes that they sing, but mostly I find that this is just because of a lack of experience. Once you explain to them how the notes on the piano and the notes they sing have to match, and explain to them how to use their bodies to produce higher or lower sounds, it’s only a matter of time before they’re singing independently.
Anything else you’d care to mention?
RED APPLE MUSIC has availabilities for private lessons in Voice, Guitar, Piano, and Specialized Courses (such as songwriting) on Mondays and Wednesdays.