YRHS music teacher featured in Future 40

It wasn’t very long ago that the Yorkton Regional High School was struggling to fill its choir program. Even if that was a mere two years ago, there  has been a major change in the halls of the school, and the choir is again strong, with around 70 students taking part in the program. Kelsey Kuz, the choir director at YRHS, gets some credit for the revival of the program, and her work has been highlighted by CBC’s Future 40 list, highlighting 40 people in Saskatchewan under the age of 40.

Describing it as very humbling, she’s grateful the recognition by CBC, and she was excited to have recognition for what is going on with music in Yorkton.

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Kuz, however, doesn’t want to take all of the credit for the revival of the choir program at YRHS, because she believes it’s a team effort between her, the school, and the community.

“I feel so odd, talking about it and talking about me, because I think a lot of the success of the program comes down to the community and comes down to my administration at the school and things like that,” said Kuz.

“I could be the best teacher in the whole entire world, and it wouldn’t mean anything if I didn’t have support from my principal, my school, my community.”

With music programs, Kuz knows that it starts before the kids get to her at YRHS, and she’s grateful for the entire school division.

“I’m very fortunate that my band programs are very healthy too. I’ve got two very incredible elementary directors who feed me these amazing kids.”

The benefit of choir is that it’s something everyone can do, as everyone comes with their instrument already. The low barrier of entry plus a positive atmosphere in the program are two things Kuz believes are big factors in the revival of the program.

“I’m finding that kids will join even half-way through the year. Or they’ve never sang before but they’ll try it out because it’s a family community that we have in the choir room.”

Kuz is inspired by the history of music at YRHS, and how it has been a major part of the school’s history for years.

“I remember my first day, walking down the hallway and seeing pictures of the choir when it was quite large, with 100 kids in it. So it’s very exciting, I think having music anywhere, especially in a school, is important and it’s an exciting thing to see. I’m just jazzed about it.”

Music also gives kids opportunities beyond school, including in competitions or opportunities to play with other groups. The senior band students will travel to the University of Regina to play alongside the UofR wind ensemble at their annual Christmas concert.

The music department is a natural fit for Kuz, as she describes music as a passion.

“Singing is a passion of mine and music in general is a passion. It’s very easy for me to get involved in this kind of stuff because it’s something I very much enjoy doing.”

That passion is not limited to within school hours, as Kuz also performs with the Yorkton Community Choir and the Yorkton Community Concert Band and Big Band Jazz Band. When she was new to town, moving from Regina, Kuz said that the community groups were a way to become a bigger part of the local music community.

“That was a way that I was able to do music myself outside of school... [Band director] Larry Pearen was extremely helpful in my transition here to Yorkton, and gave me lots of mentorship and advice.”

The list comes at the perfect time to get a first hand look at what Kuz and the music program at YRHS is doing. The winter concert is on Dec. 6 at the Anne Portnuff Theatre, with two bands and choir performing. The school also has a musical coming up with The Addams Family playing from Nov. 29 to Dec.1, and Kuz encourages everyone in the community to come out and enjoy the musical comedy.

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