We all heard the announcement this week from Premier Doug Ford, that Ontario schools would not reopen for the rest of the 2019-20 school year. Though it wasn’t a total surprise, it definitely evoked many emotions in the adults and children of our Ridley community.
Some felt elated at the opportunity to spend more time with family, to continue exploring interests and passions, sleep more and have more choice and flexibility in planning each day.
Some felt neutral. They have developed a daily routine—including school or work, time with family, communicating with friends, exercising, and doing things that interest them—and are comfortable with the continuation of this schedule for the next four weeks.
Some felt distressed at the thought of four more weeks within the same four walls, with few opportunities to see friends or participate in the activities that they love.
Many of us will fluctuate between these different feelings in a day, a week, or throughout the next few weeks. Each of these feelings is normal, and part of being human. In past blog posts, I have shared many research-based strategies and practices to use on a regular basis to support us when our feelings or emotions seem stuck in the negative: focusing on relationships, using our strengths, understanding our feelings to help us navigate them, sleeping well, moving more, and eating healthy.
But what about the moments when our anger, sadness or fear seem to overwhelm us?
Research into somatopsychic (relating to the effects of the body on the mind) actions suggests that movements like the following can be helpful during these moments:
Square breathing: Picture a square in your mind. As you “draw” across the top, take a breath in to the count of four. As you “draw” down the side, hold the breath to the count of four. As you “draw” up, breathe out to the count of four. As you close the square, hold the breath to the count of four. Repeat at least three times, or as long as needed. Discover other breathing exercises for kids.
Yoga Poses:Practice these poses with your child regularly for improved wellbeing, and so that when they are feeling overwhelmed, they know just the right movement to make them feel better.
Exercise: Physical activity has been proven to reduce stress and fatigue, and to improve alertness and well-being. Thirty minutes a day, done together or in smaller time intervals, have been found to be effective. Determine what physical exercise you or your kids enjoy and take action daily. This will support daily well-being, and provide an outlet for overwhelming negative emotions.
Please remember, all emotions are normal. During this challenging time, it is important that we allow children to sit with their feelings, to notice, name and determine how to navigate them. If we see them getting stuck in negativity, however, hopefully at least one of the strategies shared here will help them move forward.
REMINDER: Hanna Kidd and I hope to see you Tuesday, May 26th at 8a.m. or 2p.m. EST—wherever you are in the world—for our Tuesday Tips chat on ZOOM! Next week’s topic will be Savouring Daily Joys.
“If you eat, sleep and move well today, you will have more energy tomorrow. You will treat your friends and family better. You will achieve more at work [or school] and give more to your community.” — Tom Rath, from Eat Move Sleep
This powerful advice is even more important today than when it was written—and more challenging when much of our day is spent inside, sitting and often in front of a screen.
Be sure each member of your household gets up and moves at least once per hour. It’s a great opportunity to get a glass of water (another important aspect of well-being!), check in with others (remember, relationships are important!), and reduce the risk of many long term health concerns. Here are some simple stretches to try during your day.
Speak with your child(ren) about screen time. Its forms are definitely not all created equal. We’re now using screens in so many different ways: to communicate, create, work, and explore. It’s still important to have a balance of screen and unplugged time. Keep in mind, however, given how important relationships are for well-being, screen time spent communicating with others needs to be considered. Talk to your child(ren) to better understand how they’re using their screens, and determine together a reasonable amount of daily screen time.
And please remember, parents, eating, sleeping and moving is not just for children. Look after yourselves, too!
REMINDER: Hanna Kidd and I hope to see you Tuesday, May 12th at 8a.m. or 2p.m. EST—wherever you are in the world—for our Tuesday Tips chat on ZOOM! Next week’s topic will be Cultivating Optimism.
Having redeveloped Portland neighbourhoods for two decades while creating living and work spaces for artists, alumnus Brian Wannamaker ’82 can be most fittingly described as a passionate ‘artpreneur.’
Oakville, Ontario native, Brian relocated to Oregon in 1986 following his
studies at Ridley and York University. He recalls not being entirely certain
where his path would lead, but began saving his earnings in order to acquire
property. With a strong creative compass and solutions-oriented mindset, he
soon found himself working in real estate redevelopment. Brian recalls that in
the early 1990s, his then business partner exposed him to art collecting, which
served to reignite an appreciation he had always had for artistic expression.
”There seemed to be a wrong in the world where artists could work on their craft so hard and barely make ends meet. I just wanted to do a little bit to help these people.”
years that followed, Brian was drawn to reimagining properties of cultural and
architectural significance around the west coast city, and eventually discovered
Falcon Apartments, a diamond-in-the-rough for which he saw immense potential.
Brian bought the property in Portland’s north end in 1997, it was a languishing,
partially inhabited apartment building with low- and fixed-income tenants.
However, he was able to envision how it could evolve into a hub for working
artists without displacing the existing tenants. Brian felt compelled to
breathe new life into the neglected building and to support the struggling tenants
Soon, his plan to transform Falcon Apartments shifted from a
business opportunity into a vision to build and empower an arts community.
Brian came up with a value strategy to blend the higher renovated apartments
rent with the existing tenants rent and the midpoint being profitable without
rental increases to fixed income residents. The “cost average “ approach allowed
judicious rent to existing resident and artists, while directing a portion of
the market rent to support a 14,000-square-foot multi studio space in the lower
level. This way, creators (painters, sculptors, musicians, writers and more)
could work in dedicated studios and feel connected to a broader creative
community. The building and guild of artists are now aptly named Falcon Arts
“My insight for Falcon Art Community came from spending so much time living at Ridley. It’s that basic concept that you want to be around people who you enjoy being around and who you find inspiring.”
that his care for the community comes in large part from his seven years at
Ridley. “It’s a compassion piece that happened at Ridley; it’s about having a
big enough perspective to want others to succeed,” he explains. ”There seemed
to be a wrong in the world where artists could work on their craft so hard and
barely make ends meet. I just wanted to do a little bit to help these people,”
Brian adds, demonstrating his embodiment of our school motto.
his career, Brian has found countless innovative ways to integrate urban
renewal with his passion for artistic creativity—whether he’s beautifying a
stretch of Portland’s North Mississippi Avenue, leasing converted cold storage
unit spaces to a general arts college, conceptualizing an inspiring venue for musicians,
or as owner of the stunning Wannamaker Estate Vineyard in Washington.
asked what advice he has for current Ridleians and youth exploring careers in
the arts, Brian imparts, “I think it’s critical to learn how to be inventive…If
you learn how to be a creative problem solver, that will help take you further
in whichever endeavour you follow through with.”
How Ridleians Are Embodying Our Motto During COVID-19
During these uncertain and challenging times, it can be hard to find the points of light, those moments when the sun spills in through the cracks. However, since the onset of this global pandemic, we’ve heard countless light-filled stories of our own alumni working on the frontlines fighting COVID-19. Their contributions are sure to fill you with pride and hope.
Check back in for updates as we bring you the stories from alumni who are working to make our world a better place, at a time when things may seem a bit dark.
As the pandemic threatens the health of people all over the world, our frontline workers are responding with care and working on a solution.
Sir John Bell ’71, one of the U.K.’s leading immunologists and life science champions, has been named to Britain’s COVID-19 vaccine task force. The Canadian-born Oxford professor and physician has been making headlines for his leadership in improving testing practices and for his cutting-edge immunization research. Knighted in 2008, Bell also continues to be a key parliamentary advisor.
New York State has been hit particularly hard during this pandemic and its healthcare workers are working around the clock to care for their patients. One of those workers is Joshua Miller ’04, an E.R. nurse at Kenmore Mercy Hospital in Buffalo, NY — the embodiment of our school motto, Terar Dum Prosim.
Local alumna, Ellen Stevens (Went) ’07 is stepping up to support our community. The Public Health Nurse is serving the Niagara Region as part of its COVID-19 response team. Prior to government recommendations that healthcare providers should only work at one facility during the pandemic, Ellen spent her days off working at the local hospital NICU.
Sisters NurNisa (Nuri) ’21 and MehrNisa (Mehri) ’25 couldn’t be prouder of their father, Dr. Mamoon Bokhari who’s working bravely on the frontlines in both Canada and the US.
A warm thank you on behalf of our community goes out to anesthesiologist, Jordan Meyers ’12. Jordan is busy caring for patients in the Intensive Care Unit and Emergency Room at Vancouver’s St. Paul Hospital.
Food banks, health care workers and underserved communities are needing help more than ever, and our savvy alumni are stepping up in generous—and ingenious—ways.
When Christopher Edwards ’87, along with co-owners of their newly expanded Dallas clothing company, was forced to lay off workers, he knew they had the means to help. The trio soon re-tooled the manufacturing side of their 13,000 square-foot store and got to work producing face masks. What started as one or two soon turned to 100 face masks a day. “We still can’t keep up with the demand,” he reports.
Clean Works co-founder Paul Moyer ’84 is using a machine built to safely and effectively sanitize fruits and vegetables to sanitize the personal protective equipment (PPE) worn by health-care workers on the frontlines of the pandemic. The company’s Clean Flow machine can sanitize as many as 1,200 masks—including N95—an hour, destroying up to 99.99 per cent of pathogens on surfaces. Learn more.
The Giffin family, which includes Alison ’98 and Doug ’07, are working hard to support the COVID-19 effort. Their solutions-based business has teamed up with the Ford Motor Company to help convert Ford’s Michigan-based components plant, so that its employees can safely work to produce 7,200 ventilators per week. Doug has proudly joined his father, CEO and Founder, Don Giffin in the family business. Learn more.
Rally and Rise
It’s easy to feel helpless during times such as these, but these motivated alumni are raising funds and finding ways to ensure communities have the resources they need.
Megalomaniac winery owners, John Howard and daughter, Erin Mitchell ’90 are helping us raise a glass to our brave frontline workers. Proceeds from their new wine, Much Obliged will be going to Food Banks Canada—but they aren’t stopping there. The Beamsville-based duo will soon be out delivering 720 bottles of their best to workers at hospitals and care facilities across Ontario. Learn more.
Kelsey Peters ’10 has written and illustrated a children’s book, Where Has the World Gone? to help explain the pandemic to little ones. All proceeds raised through Amazon sales will be donated to charitable organizations requiring an extra boost during COVID-19.
A conversation on dwindling PPE compelled community member Ryan Dorland, (son of Scott ’73), to get involved. Ryan set up a Go Fund Me page to help purchase 3D printers which can, in turn, produce the bands used to hold the plastic shields for protective masks in place. He’s raised more than $5,000 so far, has donated hundreds to Toronto East General and Milton Hospital, and currently has eight machines running. Future funding will go to pay for the plastic rolls the machines require. Learn more.
“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful, it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.” — L.R. Knost
This quote is a reminder to us all that we will get through the “awful” and that life will be “amazing” again. One way we’re encouraging students to get through life’s challenges—in addition to its more “ordinary…mundane…and routine” parts—is to use their strengths. Beginning in Grade 3, each and every Ridley student learns about the VIA Character Strengths. Classes talk about identifying both character and performance strengths, and how to use them, not only to succeed, but to flourish.
Ridley College became a Visible Wellbeing School after spending two years working closely with Dr. Lea Waters. Her research-based book, The Strength Switch, focuses on the need for parents and educators to focus on children’s strengths in order to build resilience, optimism, and achievement. There is no more important time than now to focus on our strengths.
So, what can you do?
Discuss your child’s strengths with them. Reference the VIA Character strengths survey (for more information, check out these videos), and also discuss the strengths you see in them every day. Remind them how important it is that they know and use them.
Reference their strengths every day. One great activity that can be done around the dinner table is “Three Good Things,” which helps children reflect on what went well that day, why it went well and which strengths they or others used.
Choose a daily activity to do together. (Here are 101 from which to choose.) Talk about the strengths you used to complete these activities, and discuss how knowing and using their own strengths will help them during this challenging time.
And please remember, parents, you are using your own strengths to navigate these challenging times! Recognize all that you are doing—and please be kind to yourself.
REMINDER: Hanna Kidd and I hope to see you next Tuesday, April 28th at 8a.m. or 2p.m. EST—wherever you are in the world—for our Tuesday Tips chat on ZOOM! Next week’s topic will be Nurturing Social Relationships.
This is a short week at Ridley, but another week of adjustments — and enhancements — for us all. To support our important work of ensuring students feel connected to the Ridley community, we’ve incorporated division-wide Assembly in Upper School, weekly Advisory times, class meetings in Lower School, and school-wide opportunities for student check-ins with teachers and Heads of House. Ridley, at its core, is built on relationships. We want to continue to maintain and grow these, knowing that they are a vital part of flourishing lives.
With relationships in mind, I share my current top five resources to support parents and introduce opportunities for them to build relationships and learn remotely with Ridley.
In addition, we look forward to launching our Flourishing for Parents virtual connections next week. Please join us for learning and community!
Opportunities for Parents for the week of April 13th
Tuesday Tips with Hanna Kidd & Sue Easton: 8:00a.m. & 2:00p.m. This week’s topic is Time Management. How can you support your child in achieving during this challenging time? Let us share some tips to support our Ridley family!
Abstractionist, Sandy Rasmussen is proving to the art world that his has staying power.
“The grid started out as a pattern
resembling my mom’s tablecloth,” Sandy laughs. “We would have dinner outside,
and she’d put a tablecloth on the counter and tell us not to make a mess. I’d
wonder, why have it? But that tension, that feeling of do not spill anything—I
Abstractionist and Old Ridleian,
Alexander ‘Sandy’ Rasmussen ’07 always knew he would work in the arts. His
grandfather, an artist and set designer at the Canadian Broadcast Corporation
(CBC), encouraged Sandy from a young age, and his time at Ridley was largely
spent hanging around the art department, fascinated by stories of the abstract
expressionists who broke visual traditions and found new ways to communicate.
From his mother’s tablecloth, to the famous grids of Agnes Martin, to the linoleum tile floors of the gas station in which he used to paint, the Niagara-based artist is looking to explore that tension, earning kudos from critics at his recent show at the Christopher Cutts gallery for his “riveting works” and “delectable passages of paint that almost shimmer.”
“The act of putting on paint
impasto like I do is kind of a bold statement. What mark do I make now? Do I
touch the canvas with that colour? What if I do this? It’s totally subversive,”
he concludes. “I’m going to do what I want.”
After graduating from Ridley, the
St. Catharines native left to study at the Emily Carr University of Art and
Design, but soon realized he was looking for a different kind of experience.
“As much as art can seem welcoming and nurturing, it can also be a towering
history of knowledge that you may not possess,” he admits. “It’s a steep hill.”
The following year, Sandy headed east to take Sociology at St. Francis Xavier
University—but he didn’t leave art far behind. “I started seeing parallels
between the things we were discussing in class and in art,” he says, looking
back. And, a year into his degree, painting pulled him home.
“The act of putting on paint impasto like I do is kind of a bold statement. What mark do I make now? Do I touch the canvas with that colour? It’s totally subversive. I’m going to do what I want.”
Sandy came back, borrowed $500 from
his dad for supplies, and got to work. He sold pieces and secured commissions.
He travelled home to paint on weekends and school breaks. He immersed himself
in art history. After graduation, Sandy started painting full-time in his
parents’ garage, then rented out space at an old rural gas station before
spending two tough years working in a cold, dim-lit barn out in Jordan
Station—an experience which he says hardened him as an artist.
He now paints in a light-filled
barn not far from campus, the rustic surroundings informing his work in
pleasant, unexpected ways. And a barn is likely the best place for him to
spread out. For Sandy, painting is a sport—and he likes to play large, whether
he’s physically stretching across a wide expanse of canvas or stretching out an
idea twenty feet. He points to influential artists like Jackson Pollock, Mark
Bradford and Joe Bradley, artists whose physicality enters their work.
“The thing I loved most about
basketball was doing layups during warmup, feeling hyped and excited,” he
explains, looking back to his days on the Ridley team. “And with big paintings
I get that same shiver down the back of my neck; I’m anxious to get going.”
You can see that energetic sprawl
across Samosas, the 8-by 24-foot abstract which now hangs at Brock University.
Sandy donated the painting to brothers Taylor ’07 and Clark ’09 Robertson in
memory of their parents and sister, Joe, Anita and Laura ’11, who were tragically
killed in a plane crash the summer of 2018. Their loss was felt across the
Niagara Region; the warm-hearted Robertsons were known widely as philanthropists
and community leaders, and they were generous supporters of both Ridley and
“When I heard the news, I knew pretty quickly what I wanted to do. It was always theirs.”
The family was very familiar with Samosas, having admired its progression at the gas station where Sandy painted, and then rolled out on his barn floor mere days before the accident. “They’d seen it so many times,” Sandy recalls. “When I heard the news, I knew pretty quickly what I wanted to do. It was always theirs.” Taylor and Clark chose to display the painting in Market Hall, now a permanent memorial at the university where Anita volunteered and whose Board of Trustees Joe had served on for nearly a decade.
“I had nearly exhausted the look by the time I got to the right side of that canvas,” Sandy smiles. “It was like finishing a marathon.” If you see it, you’ll see why. Standing in front of that painting is like going on a contemplative journey; its pathways and rivulets thread across the wide expanse, and you can’t help but follow—all the way off the canvas edge. Samosas was unveiled at Brock this past April.
Sandy’s paintings often slip to
matters of time and nostalgia, his large-scale abstractions christened with
playful names like Fresh Fresh (a nod to the woman who makes his
favourite samosas), Horse Play (a sweet response to his late grandmother’s
living room warnings), or Fat Chance (the gamble that is all art,
really—and the piece that kicked off his Toronto show).
“My paintings have their own timeline, their own journey,” he explains. “And I just have to trust that, because chances are what you’re working on right now will have a small and fleeting impact.”
His work incorporates memory, but he’s
also conscious of it as a deliberate reflection of the present, with the
occasional happy accident of an unplanned gesture, the quick scoot of a brush
in an unexpected way. “My paintings have their own timeline, their own
journey,” he explains thoughtfully. “And I just have to trust that, I suppose,
because chances are what you’re working on right now will have a small and
fleeting impact. To get an ego about a particular piece—that’s not going to
But as time goes on, Sandy’s proving to
the art world that his has staying power. “Rasmussen is already some way on his
journey into figuring out those techniques that give his paintings the desired
emotional content,” noted Toronto critics this past spring. “He is definitely
As for the up-and-coming artist? “There’s
no turning back,” he says resolutely. And there may be some delicious irony in
that statement, as Sandy’s paintings often capture a textured and abstract
past, even as his brush keeps going.
This article was printed in the latest issue of Tiger magazine. Learn about our alumni, get community updates and find out where Ridley is heading next! Read more from our winter issue.
This past Thursday, our community embarked on a new adventure through Ridley Remote Learning, or R2L. The initial response from students, teachers and parents was resoundingly positive. Every member of the community was excited to reconnect, share their experiences and emotions, and begin to bring some normalcy back into their lives through the addition of regular learning and new opportunities to connect. We know that Ridley is built on relationships; these will help us get through these challenging times.
But how best to thrive when we are surrounded by change? Please
consider these five inspirational statements about change—along with some
resources to help support you and the Ridley community.
Change is an opportunity to do something
How can you create the space in your home
for your child(ren) to create or do something to support or inspire others?
The Ridley community is moving into uncharted territory, with new Remote Learning for students, and most of us either practicing physical distancing or in isolation—even quarantine—wherever we are in the world. Though this may be a time of uncertainty and change, our well-being doesn’t need to suffer. It may take more conscious, deliberate work than usual but, in keeping with Ridley’s vision to inspire flourishing lives (as defined by PERMA-V: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, achievement, and vitality), each of us can benefit from incorporating the following five behaviours into our days—until we see each other again.
1. Connect with others.
Whether you’re spending time with those you live with, be it to share a meal or complete that jigsaw puzzle, or you’re reaching out via video call to family and friends, or playing a shared game of online Scrabble, connecting is important. We are practicing physical distancing, not social distancing, since we know that relationships are vital to support our well-being.
Got gamers in the house? Common-Sense Media features family-friendly games and other helpful resources.
New in The Guardian, Dr. Lea Waters shares videos to support families who are in isolation.
2. Incorporate Mindfulness Into Your Day.
Mindfulness helps children become more self-aware. Knowing how they are feeling during this unsettling time not only promotes conversation but helps them nurture self-compassion. Mindfulness also helps students learn self-management and develop important decision-making skills. These skills support us in being present and engaged in our new reality—and ready to participate in learning and living activities.
Clear your head with Headspace — a free site which features a variety of meditation practices.
GoZen includes family-friendly videos and activities to support anxiety, resilience and more.
3. Seek beauty to savour and appreciate.
Immersing ourselves in art, music or nature—be it inside, outside or virtually—boosts our positive emotions. By exploring the resources available to us, we learn where our interests lie, which in turn increases our engagement and helps give us a sense of control over our new situation.
Google Arts and Culture is a virtual treasure trove, providing visitors with tours of hot spots, street art, museums, and more.
Listen up! NPR offers this comprehensive list of live concerts to enjoy from the comfort of your own home.
Go on your own ‘home safari’ via webcams from your favourite zoo. Learn more in this handy guide from The New York Times.
4. Get physical.
We all know that exercise helps with our physical health, but it is also one of the best ways to build positive emotions, decrease anxiety and stress, and support healthy sleep. Exercising outside while practicing physical distancing is a great way to get the benefits of being in nature while moving our bodies. But if that isn’t possible, there are many ways to get physical while keeping indoors.
Your kids are sure to love these movement and mindfulness videos from Go Noodle.
Stretch it out with classes from YogaDownload.com — the perfect size for any space.
5. Find your purpose.
Every human benefits from a feeling of achievement—often connected to what we believe is our purpose in life. For students practicing physical distancing, it may at times feel like academic work provides their sole sense of purpose. It is important that they know they make a difference in the lives of others, within their families, communities and beyond. For inspiration, consider some of these resources.
Reach out via one of these great ideas from Random Acts of Kindness — be sure to check out their kindness calendar!
From practicing gratitude to building optimism, Positive Psychology is offering great resources and activities you’ll want to try.
Keep it close to home with Operation Warm — a website highlighting online volunteer opportunities.
We’ll be sharing more resources in the coming weeks. In the meantime, please remember that as part of the Ridley community, you’re only an email away! Feel free to reach out for support and to learn more.
With her new album recently released, singer-songwriter, Jane Lewis shares how she found her voice—and is helping others find their own.
The chapel light travels
warmly along the pews, coming to rest on the rich curves of the piano. A woman
sits at its keys. She’s slight, fair, her face framed by a riot of silver
curls. Her eyes are closed, fingers moving deftly along the instrument as she
sings, softly at first, then with increasing emotion: “Here we are at the end,
here we are, no regrets, just gotta take that one last step off the edge.” Above
her, the stained-glass beckons, a reminder of things beyond the chapel space.
The singer in the video is
Jane Lewis ’90, and the song, Carry You Home, is dedicated to her late father, Paul, a teacher, coach and historian
whose name many Ridleians will recognize. For the daughter of two long-time faculty
members—her mother, Janet was the first housemaster of Dean’s house the year
girls started boarding and eventual Assistant Head of Upper School—it was the
perfect place to be. “I started writing it when he was sick, and we knew his
time was limited,” Jane responds, when asked about the song. “It was really
special to be able to film it in the chapel.”
The girl who once wrote
poetry and was one of Ridley’s first environmental activists is now a musician
based in Guelph, Ontario. Her passionate vocals and piano accompaniment have been
compared to legendary singer Carole King, her songs described as “intelligent,
poetic and cinematic.” (You’ll want to get to know her playful Beatles cover of
Together—it won the Independent
Music Award for Best Cover Song in 2015.)
“It might not be the way you initially imagined, but if you have a passion for something, if it’s authentic to you, you’ll find a way to manifest it.”
Speaking to her, it’s easy to see why. She’s thoughtful, reflective, empathetic—and if you read through the yearbooks, you’ll see that early writer’s voice slowly take shape; listen to her lyrics now and you’ll still find those echoes. It’s unsurprising that she finds inspiration in confessional songwriters like James Taylor and Joni Mitchell, and perhaps even less so when she says she’ll often choose silence, as it gives space for the ideas to come. When she’s not busy writing, singing solo, or teaching vocals in the popular workshops she runs, Jane is half of award-winning folk duo Gathering Sparks. Their compelling new album, All That’s Real was just released this fall.
For Jane, the road to music
was a winding one. A philosophy major in university, she was already working in
publishing when the opportunities to perform started popping up. And, by 2009, Jane
found herself wandering a different, surprisingly natural path—“a decision that
came out of what was already happening,” she eloquently puts it.
As someone who herself was at
first shy to perform, Jane kept hearing from people who wished they could sing.
She soon realized she could fill a need. “If you don’t go to church or aren’t a
musician yourself, if you don’t have a family that sits around the piano, then
where’s your outlet for singing?” she asks.
Jane founded All Together Now, a singing workshop
series in Guelph. There’s no pressure to attend, no public performance; it’s
simply about being in the moment, about embodying music. “It can be a powerful
thing to get in touch with your voice, or the reason you’ve felt blocked,” she
says. “But to share your authentic voice as a human being can be an act of
courage. That really motivated me.” For some, these workshops have become a place
where they learn to use that voice; for others, it’s a place to stop in and just
let it all out. “I’ve had people say this is better than therapy,” she laughs.
Jane is also co-founder of
the Women’s Music Weekend, an annual retreat where women of all musical
abilities can perform in a supportive, inclusive community. There are powerful moments
at these events, moments where a woman gains confidence, where she feels brave
enough to step out front and sing on her own.
“It can be a powerful thing to get in touch with your voice, or the reason you’ve felt blocked. But to share your authentic voice as a human being can be an act of courage.”
The Women’s Music Weekend also
has a bursary
programme, now in its third season, where women can apply for financial aid.
Having herself received assistance for a workshop she’d once found challenging
to attend, the musician quickly saw an opportunity to pay it forward. “That definitely
ties back to my time at Ridley,” she recognizes. “The motto, ‘may I be consumed
in service’—that’s important.”
Ridley feels those ties
pulling right back. Last year, Gathering Sparks performed as part of an
artistic lineup at the Toronto Branch Reception at the AGO. “It was a
celebration of the arts,” remembers Jane, “and felt like a recognition that
this is an important career path a lot of people are taking.”
When asked what advice she
has for Ridley’s budding musicians, she takes a moment to reflect. On where she
came from. On the work she puts in now. On the new album that’s taken years to
come together—and the recognition that’s already trickling in. “It might not be
the way you initially imagined,” she muses, “but if you have a passion for
something, if it’s authentic to you, you’ll find a way to manifest it.”
And, if she’s learned
anything, it’s that you never know what’s next. Looking back at the road which
led her to this point, in some ways not where she thought she’d be, in others
right back here at home, Jane seems content.
“Maybe the road is still
This article was printed in the latest issue of Tiger magazine. Learn about our alumni, get community updates and find out where Ridley is heading next! Read more from our winter issue.