Feature

Making music to save art education

What do RIM CEO Jim Balsillie, former Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson and Juno nominees Serena Ryder, Jimmy Bowskill and Rick Fines have in common?

They’re all alumni of a Peterborough, Ontario public high school that specializes in arts education — and that is slated to close at the end of this school year.

Earlier this year, the school board’s trustees voted to close Peterborough Collegiate Vocational School, and since then a massive rallying effort involving students, parents, alumni and the Peterborough community has taken place, including the release of this video by two recent PCVS graduates, shot in the school’s stairwell by Jared Raab.

We first saw Kate Macdonald and Janelle Blanchard perform “Star Witness” last summer at the Corktown Ukulele Jam in Toronto, to a pin-drop silent crowd of awe-struck ukelele players. Since then, their effort to get people talking about the closure of their beloved high school has resulted in over 95,000 views and has been making its way around the web — including catching the ear of the song’s author, Neko Case, who tweeted of the video: “Wow. That just made me bawl my eyes out. What beautiful singers. I’m not worthy… Holy god. They broke the shit out of my heart!!”

The community’s collective efforts to save PCVS have resulted in a facilitator being appointed to review the board’s decision. Tickets for an event taking place in February in support of PCVS, featuring Kate and Janelle, as well as Jimmy Bowskill and Serena Ryder are on sale now. Visit Peterborough Needs PCVS for more details.

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