Category Archives: Arts

Fresh Year, Fresh Start: How Ridley helps students forge their own paths

Written by Head of Upper School, Michele Bett

A new school year is just around the corner, and it is holding out hands full of promise. It is time for another fresh start, time to discover the wealth of untapped potential among our magnificent community of learners. Who can say what great new friendships will be forged in the Houses of Ridley College, what tests of courage, commitment, and collaboration will be faced on our sports fields, or what giant steps will be taken on the path of success?

Ah, but what do I mean by “success”? What do we at Ridley think we are trying to achieve? I would like to explore – and perhaps clarify – what success looks like from a Ridley College perspective, and to suggest a way for you parents to help.

Sir Ken Robinson’s highly regarded book, Finding Your Element: How to discover your talents and passions and transform your life, might be a good place to begin our exploration. Robinson says that one’s “element” is the convergence of natural talents and personal passions, and that finding one’s element is the most important quest that any of us can have. Finding your element is the quest to find yourself.

This quest involves both an outward and inward journey. The outward journey is the discovery of the opportunities the world can offer. The inward journey includes unlocking a student’s academic aptitude and accepting one’s unique purpose. 

Speaking of purpose, I have been impressed by Richard Leider’s recently published The Power of Purpose: Find Meaning, Live Longer, Better. In this book, the author says that to live with purpose is to actively live one’s values. Purpose is our essence and what makes each of us so special. When we get up in the morning ready to contribute to the world, we are living with purpose, living with meaning. Living like this is not just living – it is living well.

Research suggests that having a purpose requires an aim outside ourselves. Naming our purpose helps satisfy our need to matter and feel worthy. Through a Ridley College lens, we can see three important messages for our students:

  • They are part of something bigger than themselves;
  • They are committing to live a life of service; 
  • They are going to transform a world that needs them.

So when we talk about steps on the path of success, we are saying that the quest for each of us at Ridley is to find our element, our passion, and our purpose. Once we identify these, we need to learn how to live these values every day.

We believe that advisors, housemasters, teachers and coaches can all provide invaluable assistance to students on this quest because authentic learning and discovery thrive in a kind and caring community.

I think that high school is the right time for young people to begin thinking about these things. Students confront a bewildering range of choices and must make decisions all the time, but the most important of these decisions have to do with their own identity and integrity. 

I am reminded of a poem that many of you will be familiar with by American poet Robert Frost, called “The Road Not Taken.” In it, the speaker is walking through the woods, comes upon a fork in the path ahead and wonders which way to go. It is not always easy to know which road leads to success, to one’s purpose. As Apple co-founder Steve Jobs once said, you cannot connect the dots going forward; you can only connect the dots looking back. In other words, despite our best-laid plans, we can never know the future. It is only when we look back on those choices, those experiences, those seemingly chance encounters, that we can discern a direction.

So it is in the poem. The speaker finally chooses one of the roads, recognizing he will never know what he has missed by not choosing the other, but concluding that his choice has “made all the difference” in his life. The Grateful Dead sang a similar sentiment: 

There is a road, no simple highway

Between the dawn and the dark of night,

And if you go, no one may follow,

That path is for your steps alone.

As their popular song suggests, this path, this quest for one’s element, passion and purpose is exclusive, singular, “for your steps alone.” This year, each of us at Ridley will make choices that help to define us as unique individuals and to name that purpose that drives us forward. There is always some risk in making a choice, since we cannot know exactly where it will lead us, but when we look back one day we will be able to connect those dots, to see how our life’s path has led us to become who we are.

Given the various quests of the members of our community and the many pathways that lie ahead of us, perhaps you will understand when I write how delighted I am by the wonderful adventure that awaits us this year. But I also mentioned that there is a way that you could help. Of course, as parents you know your children in ways we never can, but there is one area on which to focus that I think could be valuable. 

Lea Waters, the developer of the Visible Well-Being program (which as some of you know has been adopted by Ridley College), has recently published a study that investigates the relationship between what she calls “strength-based parenting” and educational outcomes. 

A strength-based approach to parenting is one in which parents encourage their children to recognize and use their own character strengths. These strengths may include humour, kindness, self-control, persistence and so on. Waters accepts that emotional warmth and appropriate control are important aspects of parenting, but suggests that awareness and acknowledgement by parents of their child’s strengths helps support the healthy development of the child’s character and personality. 

Furthermore, Waters’ work shows how promoting a young person’s character strengths fosters academic achievement. She found that strength-based parenting not only influences a child’s well-being but also positively affects academic outcomes. Surely, it is good to know that Ridley’s emphasis on our students’ visible well-being has benefits both in and outside the classroom. Universities in Canada and beyond are still interested in student grades, and I believe that our educational priorities, along with your support, provide the best possible environment for young people to flourish academically, socially and personally.

In closing, I want to offer a warm welcome as we embark on our exciting, collective journey of discovery this year. Ridley’s faculty and administration are dedicated to helping each of our students discover their element, passion and purpose, and to thrive in every area of school life. This year will provide many challenges for us all – but challenges are simply stepping-stones to growth when we love what we do. 

Author and speaker Simon Sinek famously said, “Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion.” One of our most important tasks as educators – and parents – is to help your children, our students, find their passion by discovering what they truly love.

TOP 10 Highlights from the 2017-2018 School Year

Ridley has had its share of excitement in academics, athletics and the arts over the past ten months. As another school year comes to an end, we look back on some of the most noteworthy events of 2017-2018.

Ridley Becomes First Visible Wellbeing™ School in North America
Dr. Waters’ First Visit | Dr. Waters’ Second Visit

Benefit Raises $275,000 for Ridley

View photos | Watch video

Tigers Represent Team Canada
Training Camp | FIBA U18 photos

Ridley Launches New Design of Tiger Magazine

Read Spring 2018 edition

Ridley Releases First Documentary: Ridley Carries On
Watch documentary | Donate to the Digital Archives Project

Historical Year for Ridley Athletics

GymnasticsBasketballSwimmingHockey | Girls Rugby 
Boys Rugby & Tennis | Rowing

Ridley Celebrates Canada’s 150th Birthday

View photos | Watch Canada flag time-lapse

Tigers Show Selflessness on Service Learning Trips

Read more

Students Celebrate Diversity During Winter Carnival 

View photos 

Arts Flourishing More Than Ever Before

Read more | Watch video

The Gift of a Ridley Education

The story of Ben Johnson ’17 is that of a young man whose challenges seemed insurmountable – until the kindness of a stranger and the gift of a Ridley College education changed the course of his life.

Ben always enjoyed a love of learning and possessed an innate mastery of science, but prior to Ridley, he did not have a nurturing community that would allow him to excel. After years of struggling to overcome challenges, Ben came to a critical juncture in his Grade 11 year, when he was moved to an emergency shelter.

At the shelter, he found it difficult to focus on his studies while dealing with the challenging circumstances of his personal life. In spite of the hardships he was faced with, he recognized he had to persevere and pursue his dreams. With the caring guidance of his godmother, Ben’s grades skyrocketed. Encouraged by this scholastic success, he began to explore the possibilities available to him after high school.

Ben’s drive and determination did not go unnoticed. Julia Bertollo, former Director of Summer Programmes, invited Ben to attend Ridley’s Summer Academy – which included his tuition and board. While studying during the summer, he learned more than just Grade 12 chemistry. He discovered the importance of independent living. At the same time, he took advantage of Ridley’s music department and practiced his co-curricular skills.

While Ben’s talents flourished that summer, an anonymous donor took notice and decided to fund Ben’s final year of high school at Ridley. This generous gift allowed him to attend a school where he could continue to thrive, with the anticipation of continuing to university.

While in Grade 12 at Ridley, Ben embraced the vast opportunities given to him. He became an editor for the TigerPost, Ridley’s student-run publication and was a valued member of the film club, writing the score and recording music for a student film. He immersed himself in the arts, which enabled him to experience the positive influence creativity has on one’s academic achievements.

Ben viewed his academic success as a personal responsibility and took his education very seriously. “As someone who has the desire to make the most out of an education, Ridley was an exceptional place for me to study,” says Ben. Although he was at Ridley for only one year, he ensured that he absorbed as much experiential and academic knowledge as he possibly could. He loved that he was able to incorporate his personal interests into all his classes and personalize his education.

“My Ridley experience was very well-balanced, proving to be encouraging, both on a personal and academic level. My classes were all intriguing, as they expanded on the material in a way that allowed me to discover the various areas of what I personally liked about the subject at hand. My classes, in particular, were mainly in the sciences, however, I frequently took opportunities to bridge together different disciplines in a way that was of my personal interest. I also appreciated the challenges: the workload was demanding, but it was only for the benefit of my education, as it fostered important time management skills and efficient study habits that I know will be necessary for lifelong success.” – Ben Johnson ’17

Ben was the recipient of three scholarships by the time he graduated Ridley. The first was the Brock Niagara Principal’s Scholarship, which he was awarded alongside fellow Old Ridleian, David Biggar ’17. This award is presented to students in the area that demonstrate exceptional academic results as well as a dedication to community service. Not long after, Ben was awarded Ridley’s Robert J. Malyk Prize for Biology. “I was able to meet Bob in person and thank him; he generously funds this annual scholarship to those who share his passion of Life Sciences and hold significant potential in their scientific careers,” says Ben. Most recently, he was the recipient of the PenFinancial Scholarship after he submitted a moving video that expresses the obstacles he’s overcome and the goals he hopes to reach.

This past September, Ben began his post-secondary journey at Brock University in Neuroscience, with a focus on Neurocomputing. While he has only just begun his programme, he is setting his sights on the future. “Main career pathways are research or medicine. Both interest me, however, I am currently aiming for medical school following my undergraduate programme,” declares Ben.

“[At Ridley] I had the opportunity to experience a wider scope of an education. I find this translates effectively to the university environment, as not only am I already engaging in clubs and activities on campus, but a broader skill set makes me able to make deeper connections with the new people I meet.” – Ben Johnson ’17

As a student who embraced all that Ridley had to offer and didn’t take this opportunity for granted, Ben says this: “My advice is to embrace your opportunities. You are in a position that can bring you to great success if you put in the effort. There are others in this world who do not have the same opportunities, so always be thankful. The main way to show appreciation of your opportunities is to make the most out of them, which means putting in blood, sweat and tears. But at the same time, don’t forget to take a moment and enjoy the blessings that you have, for it will help you stay motivated.”

It is hoped that Ben’s story is an inspiration, demonstrating how acts of kindness can powerfully transform the lives of talented youth.

Donate now to enable more bright minds to unlock their potential at Ridley.

Flourishing Lives through the Arts

By Duane Nickerson | Director of the Arts

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” – Pablo Picasso

The arts are different. Unlike most activities, the product of art activity is not useful. Art does not feed us or make our lives more comfortable. It seems the very nature of art is to be without practical use. So why is it that evidence of art making through music and painting pre-dates the invention of writing by over 30,000 years? Why is it that art making traditions have existed in all human cultures throughout history? Just what is it about this activity that compels us to invest time and energy making it, consuming it and storing it in museums?

Picasso touches upon the answer. Art allows us to feel, to sense the wonder and complexity of existence that is ever elusive, that defies encapsulation within language or numbers. Making art is a hard-wired compulsion that can be seen in children who spontaneously make up songs, dance, draw and act out imaginary scenarios. Watch any four-year-old and you will see evidence of this compulsion and the sheer joy that it brings. Children express themselves freely until they move into adolescence and become more self-conscious and invest more time learning the argotic codes required for social standing. Too often the capacities of the artist are left to atrophy as children move through educational institutions that leave behind rigorous arts curricula and thereby denigrate this activity as less important. Children get the message: art is not valued by the adults here so I’ll attend to those things that are valued. The loss of potential is enormous, the capacity for full experience diminished.

At Ridley College, the arts are not left behind.

At Ridley, we aspire to nourish flourishing lives that tap into all facets of our humanity. We aspire to facilitate the full development of the child so that they can reach their maximum potential as productive, creative, happy people. At Ridley, children are exposed to music and art education by specialist teachers beginning in Kindergarten and are able to access increasingly specialized and demanding arts curriculum as they move through the programme into Upper School.

Many of our senior students find that, for them, a flourishing life is one infused with the joy experienced when engaged with art in the studio and on the stage. This joy comes from a state of flow. In a state of flow, a person is fully immersed in an activity because the challenge of the task is matched with their level of competence required to complete the task. As a teacher of visual art, observing students immersed in a state of flow in the studio is one of the most rewarding features of my job. A child who is fully immersed in the process of hands-on creation is a flourishing child.

As Ridley continues to build upon its reputation as a world-class school, its arts programme will grow to facilitate higher levels of performance and deeper engagement. The tools that we use to make art are also expanding to include a wide array of electronic media. More than ever, cultural industries are emerging to encompass large swaths of economic activity in an increasingly automated world. Thus, in the arts, we are also preparing children for rewarding careers as well as ensuring that they keep in their lives the joy and fulfillment that comes from engaging with the arts.

For all of us throughout our lives, we are faced with the task of building identity and generating meaning. Throughout history, the arts have played a vital role facilitating meaning making and affirming cultural identity. Beyond developing artists’ capacities, Ridley’s role as a school is to ensure that its students move on to adulthood with a deep-seated appreciation for the value of art in their lives. If Ridley can do this, it has done its part in ensuring our culture and civilization will continue to nourish our humanity and thereby make the world a better place.

Students Venture to Winnipeg for Speaking Arts Competition

By Paul O’Rourke | Assistant Head of Lower School & IB MYP Programme Coordinator

Ridley participated in the annual International Independent Schools’ Public Speaking Competition co-hosted by the Gray Academy and Balmoral Hall in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Nearly 150 students from over 40 teams throughout the globe were involved in this unique event that features a wide range of the speaking arts- debate, drama, and public speaking. Schools from Canada, the U.S.A., Bermuda, Korea, Peru, Scotland, England, Hong Kong, India and South Africa competed in a five-day tournament that brought together some of the best high school debaters and public speakers in the world.

Each participant selected three events from various categories that included: persuasive, after-dinner, and impromptu speaking; parliamentary and cross-examination debate; dramatic interpretation, interpretive reading, and radio newscast. Ridley was ably represented by returning junior, Bart Skala ’19 along with first time competitors Faraday Kenny ’18 and Rahul Walia ’19. Bart excelled in parliamentary debate and after-dinner speaking, reaching the finals of parliamentary debating, and narrowly missing the finals in the latter event. Newcomer Faraday Kenny competed successfully in persuasive speaking, interpretive reading, and parliamentary debating. Her speech on whether kneeling for the national anthem is un-patriotic was both topical and informative. Rahul Walia earned strong marks for his performances in impromptu speaking and persuasive speaking, in addition to good parliamentary debate rounds.

While in Winnipeg, all competitors enjoyed the unique experience of visiting the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. It was a fitting place for the top debaters and speakers to spend an afternoon exploring this spectacular venue in the heart of the city. The school venues were unique as well, situated as they each are on First Nations and Metis Treaty One lands. Organizers and hosts underscored this unique historical fact whenever possible.

The closing banquet was held at the Shaary Zadek Synagogue on the bank of the Assiniboine River, again underscoring Winnipeg’s diverse roots. Although Ridley did not claim any of the individual or team awards, each student demonstrated growth and progress throughout the tournament.  All students are congratulated and thanked for their outstanding efforts and contributions.

Ahead next on the debate calendar is the National Qualifier at Country Day School on November 21- a tournament that involves both debate and public speaking – followed by the Fulford Cup hosted by Maclachlan College on November 25.

New students are always welcomed at this activity that meets Thursdays at 4:30 p.m. in room 203 of Lower School.

Get to Know Your Prefects: Anthony N. ’18

Introducing Anthony Nguyen ’18– a Prefect who has attended Ridley since Grade 2 and, in that time, has been able to develop into the person he aspires to be. Read how Anthony excelled in his passions and is looking forward to sharing them with his fellow Ridleians this upcoming school year.

Why did you choose Ridley? I was basically born at the school. My brother, Augustine ’11 also went to Ridley from 2004 to 2011. In 2007, when I had my first opportunity to join Ridley, my parents enrolled me and the rest is history.

Did you feel prepared coming to Ridley? I felt as prepared as any other Grade 2. I must note how valuable my Ridley experience has been since then. I have been immersed in countless opportunities that have allowed me to develop into the person I am today. The school has instilled traits of character, resilience and respect within me, which I believe have allowed me to continue to excel!

Who is your favourite faculty member and why? My favourite faculty members are Dr. Baird and Mr. Dawson.

Dr. Baird is one of the funniest teachers on campus. He always comes into class with a good attitude and ensures everybody’s learning is successful. He also shares a love for ultimate frisbee with me. Although he commonly indicates how I, being a part of the International Baccalaureate (I.B.) programme, have Inadequate Biceps (I.B.), I have enjoyed my time with him.

On the other hand, Mr. Dawson has been a mentor for me in terms of music. He has spent countless hours supporting my growth as a musician and has always been there to lend a helping hand!

What has been your greatest challenge thus far at Ridley? The greatest challenge I have faced at Ridley has been my transition from Lower School to Upper School. Like any other new student to the Upper School, I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to fit in. I was very wrong about my fears. As a matter of fact, Upper School is a place where students finally get the chance to grow out of their shells and shape their own legacy. It is here where I began taking a step towards my music and healthcare careers. I had opportunities to play music at retirement homes and opportunities to volunteer my time at the hospital. So, although my transition was challenging at first, this experience was essential towards my development!

What has been your greatest accomplishment thus far at Ridley? One accomplishment I am fond of is being accepted into the CISMF Jazz Band – an honour Jazz Band, composed of students from independent schools. I was the first Ridley student to get accepted into this band and it provided me with an amazing opportunity to play with some of the best jazz musicians in the province.

What has been your favourite Ridley experience? I have absolutely loved my Jazz Band experience. We often play at a range of retirement homes, nearby venues and competitions. My favourite part of this experience is the transcending effect that music has on people. Instantly, no matter the audience, the band can electrify a crowd and brighten a room. In addition, I get the chance to bond with my peers and Mr. Dawson! I always have a fun time in the Jazz Band and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

What is your favourite part of Ridley life? The social life – I have met so many amazing and friendly people who I get to speak with on a daily basis. Whenever I am feeling down, I know I can rely on my newly-made friends to cheer me up. The best part about the social life at Ridley is that you know these friendships will last forever.

What part of being a Prefect are you most excited for? The most exciting part for me would be the orientation day when new students arrive on campus and situate themselves. I am excited to get the chance to meet the next generation of Ridley students and hear every single amazing story that they have to tell.

How has Ridley prepared you for the future? Ridley has prepared me by providing me opportunities to do what I love. Within music, I have had countless of performing opportunities that the music department has set up for me. This includes playing in Roy Thompson Hall, Niagara’s Professional Jazz Festival and various cafés. For my healthcare dream, I have had the opportunity to shadow an athletic therapist, have the confidence to compete in National Biology contests and explore the vast world of medicine. 

What are your plans after graduation? After I finish my Ridley career, I hope to enter into a health science program. From there, I shall see where that takes me. In terms of specific universities, I would love to be enrolled in a seven or eight-year medicinal program in Canada or the U.S. It would be a bonus if that university was close to Ontario, however, I am willing to do whatever it takes to fulfill my dream.

What advice would you give prospective students about Ridley? Don’t do it alone! At various points of the year, Ridley may be tough. An example of a tough time might be your first day moving in, a week of tough school, or even being home sick. That being said, remember that you have your housemates, friends, and teachers to help you to get through these tough times!

Celebrating the Arts at Ridley

The arts play an integral role in leading a flourishing life. The opportunity to explore creativity and practice self-expression allows Ridleians to define who they are, gain confidence in their talents, unlock the potential to innovate and contribute to culture. Great importance is placed on this aspect of student development at Ridley. Students are given the opportunity to create in any way they see fit. Ridley offers both academic and extracurricular options to explore music, drama, visual arts, digital arts, design or the spoken word. Students enrolled in the International Baccalaureate programme have a creativity element integrated into their curriculum as well.

In support of this approach, Ridley recently hosted Arts in April. This series of events captured all aspect of arts on campus. Members of the Ridley community were encouraged to attend and engage with our talented musicians, performers, artists and film makers.

Visual Art Showcase

Arts in April began with a visual art exhibition at Brock University’s Rodman Hall. The Visual Art Showcase allowed our Grades 7 to 11 students to display their artistic works in a public art gallery. The exhibition held its opening night on April 6th, with Headmaster, Ed Kidd sharing his excitement for the partnership between Brock University and Ridley. For the remainder of the evening, members of the community, Brock and Ridley perused the collection, speaking with the artists and admiring the wonderful works on display. The exhibition was open to the public until April 16th.

View photos.

IB Graduate Art Exhibition

“The IB art exhibition was an unforgettable experience; I was not only able to present and reflect on my works as an artist, but also suspend my belief and dissect them as a viewer.” – Monika Morcous ’17

From April 18th to 20th, the Griffith Gym was home to a large collection of art created by IB Art students. All senior IB student were given a section of the gallery where they could display several of their pieces. The works of art on display for the IB Graduate Art Exhibition were taken from a series of studio works undertaken over the two year IB Visual Art course. These works make up the exhibition component of the course, in which each student is required to generate series of artworks that reflected a specific theme and evidence of mastery using a chosen medium. Students enrolled in the SL (Standard Level) course were required to complete seven works of art and students enrolled in the HL (Higher Level) course needed to complete 11. In addition to the exhibition component of the course, students were required to complete a process portfolio and a comparative study paper. Each display was unique, allowing a glimpse into the artists’ creative process, style and technique. The sheer talent, creativity and focus of our IB Art students was impressive.

View photos.

Ridley Independent Film Festival

On April 19th, a red carpet was rolled out in the Mandeville Theatre for the 9th annual Ridley Independent Film Festival, better known as RIFF. This film festival is entirely student-run and was an opportunity to showcase the creative works of the IB Film Studies students.  Each student group was tasked with creating their own short film, from conception to execution. As each film premiered, it was clear that each student involved – videographer, producer, editor, actor or otherwise – was committed to creating a top-quality short film. For several students, this was the perfect opportunity to build a portfolio and get first-hand experience.

View RIFF films.
View photos from the red carpet.

Celebration of the Arts

On April 25th, the Upper School gathered together for the annual Celebration of the Arts. The event began in the Mandeville Theatre, where Head of Upper School, Michele Bett, inspired students with the trying stories of artists, musicians and performers from throughout the ages.

“Rationality, or thinking with the head, is one half of our human inheritance; the other half is creativity, or thinking with the heart. And I submit that this is the place of the arts, both at Ridley College and in our culture as a whole. The place of the arts is the heart.” – Michele Bett

To follow, students from the Music, Performing Arts and Digital Arts programmes performed pieces for their peers in the audience. Our string musicians played a spectacular piece from Star Wars, followed by a song from Hamilton, the musical. Raylon Chan ’19 rapped alongside them and brought the audience to their feet for a standing ovation. A number of IB students showcased their studies during a theatrical piece that told a story through movement. The Jazz Band also performed on stage, after a playfully animated video on the negative effects of climate change. When the spectacular display of performing arts concluded, students reconvened in the Griffith Gym for a visual art exhibition, showcasing the works of both Upper School and Lower School students.

Read Mrs. Bett’s full speech.
View photos.

Upper School Art Awards

To conclude Arts in April, students from Grades 9 to 12 joined in the Mandeville Theatre one last time for the Upper School Art Awards on April 26th. This award ceremony is an opportunity for our students to celebrate the accomplishments and achievements of their peers. Interspersed throughout the award presentations were musical and theatrical performances. Faculty members from the Department of Music: Scott Vernon, Clyde Dawson and Ken Hutton joined Anthony Nguyen ’18 on stage for a fantastic musical performance to begin the night. Dramatic Arts students performed scenes from Ridley’s production of The Tempest.  The String Orchestra, Cadet Band and Senior Choir all performed on stage – sharing both classical and modern songs. Finally, audience members were treated solo performances from Petrina Mo ’17, Alessia Guarducci ’18 and Jim Li ’17. To conclude the event, Senior students, Petrina Mo ’17 and Padraic Odesse ’17 spoke of the importance of the arts at Ridley; not only as a means for self-expression, creativity and culture, but also as an opportunity to expand one’s horizons and make connections.

View photos.

While Arts in April may be over, Ridley’s dedication to the arts continue. In May, our youngest Ridleians are showcasing their creative works at the PYP Visual Arts Showcase, followed by a musical performance by the entire Lower School student body.

TransfORming Our Globe – Thomas ‘Tawgs’ Salter ‘94

For this month’s installment of the TransfORming Our Globe series, we’re sharing the story of Ridley alumnus, Thomas ‘Tawgs’ Salter ’94, who fell in love with music on campus and turned his passion into an award-winning career – producing music for Sony/ATV and many major artists.

Tawgs’ Ridley career began in 1989 and continued until 1992. During his three years, Tawgs would often find himself in the music studios, practicing on any instrument he could get his hands on. The more time he spent there, the more he fell in love with music. A Ridley faculty member encouraged Tawgs to join the orchestra, where he would have the opportunity to collaborate with fellow musicians on campus. While the time he spent honing his musical abilities left an impact on Tawgs, it was the facilities and programmes that he had access to through Ridley that put him on the right path, leading to where he is now.

Tawgs’ passion for music and the chance to succeed was solidified after a school talent show, when we received praise that made him feel he was where he belonged. Then Headmaster, Douglas Campbell, approached Tawgs the following day and congratulated him on his performance.

“It was the first time the Headmaster spoke to me in a positive way like that. That really propelled me. That was what I needed to go forward. Especially as a child, when there is someone in an authoritative position who says that, you think ‘maybe I should do [a career in music]’.” – Thomas ‘Tawgs’ Salter ’94

When Tawgs finished high school, he spent some time pursuing other interests, but he always came back to music. At the time, he was performing in an original band named Dunk, who was then signed by Sony Music Canada. After signing he decided it was time to get serious with his passion. While he enjoyed performing, it was producing and writing that he loved most.

He began writing music and eventually, Gary Furniss, President of Sony/ATV Music Publishing Canada, took notice of Tawgs’ talent. He began songwriting for the publishing company and took a second position at Sony Music Canada as a Staff Producer. While he had little free time working two jobs, his exposure to an array of artists, professionals and opportunities was extensive. After he got his feet wet, he decided to work solely with Sony/ATV, under the mentorship of Gary Furniss. Gary fostered Tawgs’ career from the beginning and helped him move up through the ranks to a point where he was working with high-profile artists, including Lights and Josh Groban.

“The first song I wrote that received international praise with a big artist was ‘You are Loved’ by Josh Groban. I made the demo in my basement in St. Catharines 10 years ago,” says Tawgs. His song was picked up and he found himself at Abbey Road Studios, working with Groban and his producer.

Tawgs has been in the business for 18 years now and has experienced great success during his career. He has received an ASCAP award, was nominated twice for producer of the year at the JUNO Awards and has won awards for nine of his hit songs. Beyond his personal accomplishments, he has worked on a number of records that won pop album of the year and worked on the JUNO winning song, ‘Young Artists for Haiti’.

While winning awards and working with some of the biggest names in music are certainly perks, Tawgs says his favourite part of the job is the job itself.

“When you are a song writer or a producer you start with a total blank page in the morning. Your success for that day is dependent on what you are going to do in the next ten minutes. The best part of the day as a song writer is when you sit down to write a song with another collaborator. You’ve got fifteen minutes of awkwardness and then thirty minutes of inspiration. It is that inspiration that I wait for, and why I find my work so enjoyable.”  – Thomas ‘Tawgs’ Salter ’94

To Ridleians who know what their passions are but are unsure of how to get there, Tawgs says this:

“It’s not easy. I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t wake up today and think – can I do it again today? That’s what you have to go through as an artist, telling yourself to not give up. You really have to want it and you have to silence the inner voice that tells you that you may not be able to do it.”

“You can’t rest on what you have done before, what you did last month, or five years ago. You really have to every day try and create something new that is going to help you out down the road.”  – Thomas ‘Tawgs’ Salter ’94


TransfORming Our Globe is a blog series where we share the exciting stories of alumni who are leading flourishing lives and changing the world. It is important to Ridley College to support our alumni and share the stories of Old Ridleians, who discovered their passion and found success and happiness down the path of their choosing. 

Do you know of any classmates that are living flourishing lives or transforming our globe? Email any suggestions for the TransfORming Our Globe blog series to development@ridleycollege.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Student Filmmakers Ready for the Red Carpet

On April 19th, the lights will go down in the Mandeville Theatre, for the 9th annual Ridley Independent Film Festival (RIFF). This festival showcases an array of films made by Grade 11 and 12 Film Studies students.

Eleven student films will be screened; ranging in genre from comedy to horror. The entire festival – not just the films – is a student initiative. “They are involved in every aspect of the festival,” says Ms. Danielle Barranca, the Film Studies teacher. The students coordinate the gala, write scripts, host, and produce programmes.

Seeing their work on the big screen is one of the highlights of the course. “I think it’s the moment you see your ideas on the screen,” says Amelia Ritchie ’17. Her film Meaning, is a coming-of-age drama about two kids who meet at a driver’s education course and challenge each other to discover the meaning of life.

RIFF, like many film festivals, will feature a red carpet for the student directors, actors and writers to walk down, while being cheered on by friends, family and fans. “It’s a chance to be the star on the red carpet,” says Ms. Barranca.

The student produced films are the largest project of the year, worth 50 percent of the final grade. Students spent the year learning about films, techniques, writing, editing and everything they need to make a film. “I like being able to create something from beginning to end,” says James William Gross ’17. “Being able to make whatever you want.”

His film Smart Casual, is about how people interpret socio-cultural norms and breaking them down. “It takes a lot of interpretation to understand,” says James, who plans on studying film in university.

Before filming begins, students must submit their proposals, write their own scripts, create storyboards and have a detailed filming schedule. The students often spend many hours filming and editing to have their films ready for RIFF.

“It becomes more interesting every year because of technology. The technology has allowed it to come a long way in terms of the quality, polish, and effects that students have access to.” – Danielle Barranca, Department of Visual and Performing Arts

Through filmmaking, students can pursue their creativity and self-expression, while problem solving and persevering through the myriad of challenges that come with making a film. RIFF continues to gain momentum, with an audience of alumni, parents and guest filmmakers growing in size, waiting to see the latest student creations on the big screen.

We invite all members of the Ridley community to come and enjoy this free event, that takes the audience on a visual and dramatic journey. Join us on April 19th at 7:00 p.m. in the Mandeville Theatre.

For now, enjoy a few of this year’s trailers:

Watch trailers on Youtube.

A New Twist on The Tempest

It starts with a storm, but this wasn’t a regular tempest, as Ridley Theatre presented their own twist on Shakespeare’s final play The Tempest, with three performances held in the Mandeville Theatre.

This version of the play takes place far away from the setting of the original, an unnamed island in the Mediterranean, Ridley’s Tempest takes place in turn-of-the-century Nova Scotia. Enhancing this setting is the use of traditional maritime music and sea shanties. The play opens with a stirring rendition “Barrett’s Privateers” by Stan Rogers.

“It’s been fantastic, the kids are amazing, we’re so fortunate at Ridley to have such talent,” says Mrs. Gillian Fournier, who is volunteering her time as a director, while on maternity leave.

This Canadian connection to the show and Shakespeare, makes it more relative to our history, and the audience, according to Mr. Andrew Hitchcox, one of the shows three directors. Especially relevant are the aspects of the play tackling colonization, the arrival of the shipwrecked survivors to the island, and Prospero’s subjugation of Caliban, the island’s original inhabitant.

This production held no auditions, everyone who wanted to be involved in the play got to be a part of it. For many students it was their first experience in theatre. Only nine  of the 19 cast members speak English as their first language. Cast members come from 10 different countries.

“I would never have imagined myself learning Shakespeare let alone performing it and not being terrible. I learned that even though things are new to me, I should always be open and confident in seeing myself succeed in every new challenge I face,” says Obianuju Nwadike ‘17, who plays Prospero, the play’s main antagonist.

The students took a leadership role in the production, including music, lighting. “We give them the skills to be able to do the show,” says Mrs. Anna Blagona, director and Head of English & Drama.

All of the choices and depictions of the characters were up to the student actors. This resulted in some roles being gender-swapped, including the main character of Prospero, played by Obianuju. “I enjoy my character a lot. She switches moods/feelings when conversing with other characters and It’s really exciting to explore multiple dimensions of my character,” says Obianuju.

Ridley’s Troupe 7774 is part of the International Thespian Society (ITS), which was founded in 1929. It is an honorary organization for high school and middle school theatre students located at more than 4,200 affiliated secondary schools across Canada, the United States, and abroad. The mission of ITS is to honour student achievement in the theatre arts.

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View photos.