Nova Scotia Music Educators Association

Back to Basics


Registration will open at 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, September 8, 2022
Registration closes at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, October 14, 2022

(No refunds after October 14th)


Music Teachers are amazing! We are passionate, particular, creative and a little crazy! We also know a lot of really cool things, but may have forgotten some of them in an effort to make brain space during the pandemic. Conference 2022: Back to Basics is a return to all the things we know but forgot we knew. Come remember and make some music!


Avon View High School
225 Payzant Drive, Windsor

Click on map to access directions

When: Friday, Oct. 28, 2022
Contact: Donalda Westcott or

Conference Fees

Conference Fee $100.00
Retirees / Substitutes $60.00
Pre-Service Teachers $45.00

As per NSTU Operational Procedure 14 E. IV.: receipts of payment and attendance will not be distributed until the conference has concluded.

Session A - 9:00-10:00

A1 Megan Chandler: "The Down-Low on the Hidden Obstacles to Increased Low String Engagement in Orchestra"

So many arrangements for young orchestras have overly simplified parts for the cello and bass sections. In this session, I'll highlight strategies to increase engagement in the low string sections, which will lead to more productive rehearsals for the whole ensemble. As well, we'll discuss the obstacles that impede double bassists specifically, in order to enhance student learning and success in a mixed ensemble.

Megan Chandler teaches strings for Halifax Regional Arts, in the HRCE. As part of that program, she teaches cello, double bass, and violin, and directs the high school string orchestra at the Dartmouth Music Centre. Megan holds a Masters in Music Performance from the University of Toronto where she studied with double bassist Edward Tait, received her Bachelor of Music degree from Queen’s University as a student of Eric Lee; and received her Bachelor of Education from Acadia University.

An accomplished orchestral player, Megan was a section musician with the Kingston Symphony for four years and places a strong emphasis on ensemble playing in her teaching practice. Megan earned her Grade 10 certificate in piano performance from Conservatory Canada in 2008, and has played cello since 2006. Her love of string instruments has come full circle: Megan began her journey as a grade 4 violin student in the former Dartmouth All-City Music program, where she now teaches under the new Halifax Regional Arts moniker. She is currently an occasional musician in the bass section of Symphony Nova Scotia.

A2 Paul Hutten: Decolonize Your Music Room

Paul will lead a discussion about decolonizing practices in music pedagogy, ensembles, planning and assessment. Specific strategies, materials and lesson plans will be shared!

Paul Hutton teaches instrumental music at Central Kings Rural High School, and the focus of his 24 years in music education has been developing creative and collaborative ways to foster music literacy in middle school band programs. Paul has worked with the Nova Scotia Department of Education on curriculum renewal teams, and has also been a pilot and implementation teacher. He is the founding director of the Acadia Youth Band, and a long-time teacher and conductor with Acadia University Summer Music Institute. Paul has also been a church organist and choir director for 30 years, and has taught piano privately for over thirty years. He and his wife Rose have recently become grandparents, and he won’t stop talking about the baby.

A3 James Jackson: Getting to the Creative

In Bloom’s Taxonomy for teaching, learning and assessment ‘Create’ sits at the top of the pyramid, above evaluate, analyze, apply, understand and remember. In our elementary music classrooms how many opportunities do our students have to get to the creative? In this workshop James will examine a number of simple options for creative work that can be applied to many of the pieces you are working on.

James Jackson is a busy Orff educator. Though retired from elementary music teaching, he continues on as an Elementary Music Mentor with Halifax Regional Arts. He is a Level I and II Teacher Educator for Carl Orff Canada Levels Courses and sits on a number of National committees.  In 2016 James realized a dream and spent the year in Salzburg, Austria at the Orff Institute where he took the Advanced Course in Elemental Music and Dance-Orff Schulwerk.

A4* Kat Reinhert & Sarah Gulish: From Inspiration to Creation: Getting Started with Songwriting

The idea of bringing songwriting into the classroom can bring up excitement and fear for many educators. So, where do you begin? There are some strategies that can help you turn your classroom into a music laboratory filled with creativity, joy, and empowerment. This interactive session will unpack some of these fears, get you started writing songs and share some lesson planning and assessment strategies that can help you to bring songwriting into your classroom.

Kat Reinhert splits her time between songwriting, performing, teaching and writing. As a solo artist, she has released five independent albums, with the most recent, Dead Reckoning, released in February 2021. Reinhert is also a sought-after clinician, speaker, and researcher. She has authored several book chapters and journal articles on contemporary voice and songwriting, most recently, Action Based Approaches in Popular Music Education, with Steve Holley & Zack Moir. Reinhert is also the Immediate Past President of The Association for Popular Music Education. She holds a BM in Jazz/Commercial Voice, an MM in Jazz Pedagogy, and a Ph.D. in Music Education, specializing in Popular Music Performance and Pedagogy. After finishing her PhD, Reinhert was hired as the Director of Contemporary Voice at The Frost School of Music at The University of Miami, where she remained for two years until relocating back to New York City. She is currently a Professor of Songwriting at Berklee School of Music in Boston, MA. Reinhert currently resides in New York City, where she can be found always searching for the things that bring her joy.

Sarah Gulish spends most of her time in the classroom at a public high school outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is an active songwriter and musician, performing original music with her band, New Enemies, and composing and writing for film and musical theater. She is the co-founder and CEO of the music education publishing company, F-flat Books, and is on a mission to empower music educators to create and collaborate to involve all learners in a quality music education. Sarah Gulish holds a BMED from Temple University, and MED from Cabrini College and a Ph.D in music education from Temple University. Since 2007, Sarah has taught at Lower Moreland High School in Pennsylvania and at various universities. She is a presenter, researcher, writer, songwriter, and recording artist. She is the co-founder and CEO of the publishing company, F-flat Books. Sarah Gulish has taught songwriting at the secondary, undergraduate, and graduate levels and co-facilitates workshops with Kat Reinhert. Her personal songwriting credits include releases with New Enemies, including an upcoming EP (2022), and Turning Violet Violet as well as contributions to the Broadway Musical, "Amazing Grace." 

A5 Maggie Helms: Basic Instrument Repairs for the Classroom Teacher

This session will walk teachers through basic repairs and diagnostics to keep instruments up and running. Particular attention will be paid to showing teachers how to decide what can be fixed and what should be sent for repairs. If teachers have instruments they would like to bring to be used as ‘demonstration instruments’, they should feel free to do this. This is a “hands on” session!

Maggie Helms is a Music Educator from Muncie, Indiana. She moved to Nova Scotia, Canada in November of 2001 and has made a home in the Valley. She teaches Music and English at Northeast Kings Education Centre in Canning and directs the NKEC Jr. Concert Band, Sr. Concert Band and Sr. Jazz Bands. Maggie is founding director of the North Mountain Concert Band – a band for beginning and intermediate adult musicians. Maggie also is the owner and operator of Atlantic Band Services, a company that specializes in offering instrument repairs, adjudications, music clinics, private lessons, and conducting clinics. Maggie is a performing member of Bluesmobile, the Valley’s own 15-piece cover band; Annapolis Big Band, a full jazz band from Middleton; 14 Wing Brass and Reed Band; and plays in and around the area as a journeyman musician. Maggie holds an undergraduate degree and a Masters degree from Ball State University in Music Education and Wind Band Conducting. She is retired from the Indiana Army National Guard where she attained the rank of Staff Sergeant as a clarinetist, supply sergeant, and librarian. She also was the Associate Conductor and rehearsal technician for this military unit.

A6: Meg Ferguson: A Tickle Trunk of Activities

Some tried and true learning activities for music students – designed for grade 6 – 12, but adaptable for younger grades. Amazing Race world-wide cultural exploration (research), Music / Band Olympics (skills + expanding tastes), Choice Board (individual exploration), Experience Drum! (East Coast Canada’s history told through music), Chrome Music Lab (composition), Stomp! (soundscapes / team compositions), and more. Bring an electronic device to copy all the activities that interest you and change them up to suit your students.

Born and raised in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Meg Ferguson came to Nova Scotia to attend Acadia University for her undergrad and stayed. She began her career in Lower Sackville at A.J. Smeltzer for 10- years, moved to Auburn Drive High for 15, with a 4-year hiatus as Local President for Halifax County Local NSTU in the middle, she is now back to the fun and ever- interesting middle school level at Georges P Vanier Junior High. This union activist has delighted in facilitating workshops for over 2 decades and continues to seek fun, innovative ways to engage students through music exploration.

Session B - 11:00-12:00

B1 Debbie Lyle: How To Teach Shifting in the Ensemble Set

For beginners through advanced students, learn how to introduce and develop shifting skills for all members of the string orchestra with the system created especially for multi-level differentiation. The use of harmonics, and variations of finger, tonal, and scale patterns will be reviewed. Bring your instrument to play along!

Debbie Lyle is the Executive Director of the Foundation for the Advancement of String Education (FASE, Inc.) and has conducted school orchestras in grades five through twelve and directed regional youth orchestras for over 30 years. She was a violin and pedagogy student of Dr. George Bornoff, the founder of FASE, and over the last thirty-five years, has helped realize Bornoff’s mission and vision. She is the author of The Bornoff Approach – A Primer, and teaches all levels of the Bornoff String Workshops for educators in the United States and abroad.

B2 Gale Lohnes & Laurie Gorman: NSBA Master Teachers’ Roundtable

Gail Lohnes & Laurie Gorman will make brief presentations and answer questions regarding band programs, including retention and recruitment.

Gale Lohnes received her Bachelor of Music Education and Master of Education degrees from Acadia University.  She retired in 2022 with over 34 years of experience teaching at the Elementary School, Middle School and High School levels in Halifax and Lunenburg Counties, teaching instrumental and classroom music as well as Math, Health and Social Studies. Her last 22 years were spent at Bayview Community School in Mahone Bay. Gale has directed many award winning groups and in 2004 was a recipient of the Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence. Throughout her career, she has directed community ensembles such as the Bridgewater Fire Department Band, South Shore Concert Orchestra and St. John’s Lutheran Church Junior Choir.  She is currently a member of Chester Brass Band, the choir at St. John’s Lutheran Church as well as their Mother Daughter Choir and directs the handbell choir. 

Gale is the  proud Mom of Emma and Holly, Grammy to Rhea and lives just outside of Mahone Bay with her husband Derek.


Laurie Gorman is a retired Music Educator who taught instrumental music at Breton Education Centre for thirty- four years. She graduated from Mt. Allison University in 1976 (Bach. Music) and from Eastern Kentucky University in 1981 (M. Music Ed.) During her years at Breton Ed Centre she conducted Junior, Intermediate and Senior Concert Bands as well as Jazz Bands and Choirs. Outside of school she conducted the Glace Bay Community Band for two seasons and the Cape Breton Orchestra for a season.

In her retirement, Laurie is kept busy as principal clarinetist of the Cape Breton Orchestra, sings in the Cape Breton Chorale and plays with the Belkolora Quintet. She also maintains a private studio teaching clarinet and saxophone.

B3* Laszlo Nemes: The Development of Part Singing Skills and Stylistic Knowledge Based on Kodaly’s Singing Exercises

This workshop will present participants with methodological guidance in regards to the sequential development of polyphonic skills of young singers based on Kodály’s two- and three-part singing exercises and his choral works for treble voices.

Dr László Norbert Nemes is currently professor at the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music in Budapest and director of the International Kodály Institute of the Liszt Academy. His main areas of expertise are the theory and the practice of the Kodály Concept, musicianship training according to the Kodály Concept, choral conducting and choral music education. His most recent publications include the chapter on Kodály’s music pedagogical work in The Oxford Handbook of Choral Pedagogy, published in 2017 by Oxford University Press. From 2016 till 2020 László led the joint music pedagogy research program of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music. The activities of the research group “Active music learning with singing and movement” was to develop two new teaching models for the Hungarian primary and secondary schools. Besides teaching László maintains an active career as a choral conductor. Since September 2014 he has been artistic director of the New Liszt Ferenc Chamber Choir, the artist-in-residence choral ensemble of the Liszt Academy. In 2018 he founded the National Youth Choir of Hungary. László Nemes has conducted, taught, held workshops, master classes and seminars all across Europe, in Australia, Brazil, Canada, the People’s Republic of China, Indonesia, Georgia, Israel, Japan, the Korean Republic, Malaysia, The Philippines, Republic of China/Taiwan, Turkey, Singapore and the United States of America several times. He is vice president of the International Kodály Society, guest professor and academic consultant at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, patron of education at National Youth Choir of Scotland and honorary member of the British Kodály Academy. In recognition of his artistic activities László received the Bartók-Pásztory Award in 2005. In March 2017 he was decorated with the Golden Cross of the Hungarian Cross of Merit.

B4* Hussein Janmohamed: Reimagining and Making New Possibilities for Creative Solidarity in the Classroom (virtual)

In today’s socio-political realities encounters, plural ways of knowing are part of everyday life. This hands-on workshop offers collaborative musical tools that anyone can engage with. Hussein will scaffold learning through different voice and rhythm-based co-creation activities. The workshop amplifies creative risk taking, practical learning and composition in a fun and generative process. Participants will be given an opportunity to critically explore and imagine new possibilities for inclusion, creative solidarity, pluralism and enlightened intercultural encounters.

Hussein Janmohamed is a dynamic singer, conductor, composer and educator. He facilitates choral conversations that spark dialogue, engage diversity, and bring people together creatively. As a South Asian Ismaili Muslim in Canada, singing in choirs and creating music helped Hussein transform the divisive impacts of racism into something positive. Hussein has harnessed the unifying power of singing together to create innovative musical pedagogies and compositions that support intercultural dialogue, sacred honouring and friendship.

Hussein is the inaugural recipient of the BC Choral Federation Malcolm McDonald Youth Achievement Award recognizing his inspirational leadership. He is a doctoral candidate in Music Education at the University of Toronto Faculty of Music, where he held the Irene R. Miller and Anoush Khoshkish Fellowship for research in music as a unifying medium for dialogue. Hussein is the Artistic Co-Director of the Awaaz Ensemble dedicated to intercultural vocal arts creation. He founded the Vancouver Ismaili Muslim Youth choir and was the inaugural artistic director of the National Ismaili Youth Choir. Hussein was the inaugural co-conductor of Cor Flammae, Vancouver’s summer chorus of classically trained, queer singers, performing queer content. Hussein has also facilitated global Ismaili music collaborations to commemorate the 80th birthday and Diamond Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan. As a composer Hussein creates choral soundscapes drawing from his diverse traditional and musical heritage. He has been commissioned by choirs across North America and was named by Chorus America as one of two composers for the 2019 Composition Consortium program. Hussein is a TEDx speaker and has been recognized for his impactful community building and visionary thinking bringing people together through music.

B5 Steve Giddings: Authentic Approaches to Learning by Ear

Learning music by ear seems to be a forgotten skill for many trained musicians. This workshop helps you to understand the benefits of learning music by ear. Using a practical and authentic approach, strategies will be presented to help learners understand the By-Ear-Learning process. Attendees will be led through how to facilitate learning by ear as a whole group using a 6-step process. If you are not comfortable learning by ear, this is the perfect workshop!

Steve Giddings is a regular columnist in the Canadian Music Educator Journal where he writes on topics including popular music education and creativity, is author of the award-winning book, Rock Coach: A Practical Guide for Teaching Rock Bands in Schools, and Creative Musicking: Practical, Real-Life Ideas to Get Your Learners Creating Their Own Music. He also just released his third book called, Technology for Unleashing Creativity, through Oxford University Press. He has been a long-time advocate for creative musical practices and a conduit for pushing the envelope in music education throughout Canada and across the world. He is owner and operator for, a comprehensive resource for music educators.

B6 Donalda Westcott: Bodhran Basics: A Jig & a Reel

This 60 minute session will give you some basic Bodhran technique to play the drum that just hangs on the wall or collects dust in your classroom.  We will look at tipper technique and learn to play a basic jig and reel pattern.  Our students love drums, lets give them another one to fall in love with.

Donalda Westcott is a Music Specialist with the Cape Breton Victoria Regional Centre for Education where she has been a P-5 classroom music teacher for the past 25 years. When not teaching her 500 student circuit, Donalda can be found exploring all things new and fun with her two girls, 12 and 4, and her husband at their dream home out on the Mira.

B7 Nova Scotia Music Education Council Meeting

This session will feature the inaugural meeting of the Nova Scotia Music Education Council. The Nova Scotia Music Education Council is committed to advancing the betterment of music education in Nova Scotia. If you would like to find out more about the NSMEC you are welcome to attend this session.

Formed in 2021 as COVID-19 protocols highlighted the many challenges faced in the music education sector of the province, the NSMEC is focused on ensuring all children have access to skilled music education professionals and the opportunity to engage in the richness of the music-making experience. Regional representatives will present issues of concern currently faced by music educators at this meeting.

Session C - 1:30-3:30

C1 Elizabeth Sircom: Strings

We will read through a selection of string ensemble scores, in a variety of styles, graded from beginner to around RCM Grade 4 level. Whether you are actively teaching strings or would like to dust off that viola in your closet for an easy refresher session you are most welcome to join in! If you used to play a string instrument, but just don’t have one at the moment, please let us know, as the presenter may be able to supply some instruments for the session.

Elizabeth Sircom is a member of the Nova Scotia Registered Music Teachers’ Association. She teaches cello and is the Program Director of the Acadia Regional Youth Orchestra, a strings program for youth aged 10-24, based in Wolfville, N.S., which presently offers a choice of three ensembles (introductory and intermediate orchestra, and fiddle group), and group string instruction at the beginner level.

As a child, she pursued studies in both cello and piano through the Royal Conservatory, and actively engaged in choral singing. She was a member of the Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra while a student at Kings/Dalhousie in Halifax. Her studies of Languages and Fine Arts took her to Paris and then to Le Havre, Normandy, where she married and spent 20 years working as a professional artist and art teacher.

She took up music again in 2012 at the Conservatoire Arthur Honegger in Le Havre (cello and chamber music). On returning to Nova Scotia in 2013, she continued to work in the visual arts and also followed a parallel path in music, with studies in cello and cello pedagogy, string methods and chamber music, with Dr. Christoph Both at the Acadia University School of Music. She is a member of the Acadia University String Orchestra, plays in a string quartet and has played in the pit band for local musicals. She has been the Program Director of the Acadia Regional Youth Orchestra since 2019.

In 2021 she was awarded the Janet K. Leffek Professional Development Fellowship by the NSRMTA Trust.

C2 Dina Burtt: Band

Participants will play a series of concert band repertoire for all levels featuring works by underrepresented composers.  Funding for repertoire was provided by an NSTU PDAF grant in 2020. Bring your instrument and join the band.

Dina Burtt received her Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Music Education and Master of Education in Curriculum Studies from Acadia University.  She has completed post graduate work at the University of Calgary and studied composition through graphic notation at “The Colgrass Experience” at the University of Hartford. She has been a part time lecturer for the Acadia School of Music and  faculty of the Acadia Summer Music Camps.  Dina is a trumpet performer and clinician, a past member of Scotia Brass and the Atlantic Wind Orchestra under the direction of Dr. Mark Hopkins, and has presented at the NSMEA conference. She is on the executive of the Nova Scotia Band Association and was the chairperson of the Nova Scotia Junior Wind Ensemble.  As a music teacher for 28 years Dina has served on numerous curriculum development and implementation teams for the Nova Scotia Department of Education as well as Lead Teams for the Halifax Regional School Board.  She has been the music director at Lockview High School in Fall River for the past nine years.

C3 Jennifer Cleveland & Jenny Trites: Orff Reading Session

Explore elementary classroom repertoire and Orff Pedagogy with Jenn Cleveland and Jenny Trites, co-directors of the Fairview Orffestra. This session will model the Orff Process (Imitate, Explore, Create) for students of different ages and abilities. Please bring a barred instrument if you are able.

Jennifer Cleveland is the elementary music specialist at Fairview Heights Elementary School, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. An artistically diverse vocal soloist and accomplished music educator, Jennifer holds a Masters in Music Education from Acadia University, and is Level III certified in the Orff Schulwerk. Along with Jennifer Trites, she directs the Halifax Regional Arts Orffestra (Fairview). Jennifer currently serves as President of Orff Nova Scotia.

Jenny Trites (she/her) is an Orff specialist, composer, choral musician, and pianist based in Kjipuktuk (Halifax). She studied at Memorial (B.Mus, B.Ed) and Acadia (M.Ed)

Jenny currently teaches music at Westmount Elementary, directs the Halifax Girls Honour Choir, and co-directs the Fairview Orffestra. She is a regular collaborator with Xara Choral Theatre and the Villains Theatre, and is the music director at Fort Massey United Church.

C4 Robyn Alcorn-Martin & Sheila Aucoin: “Choir Singing Magic with Rob and She”

Robyn Alcorn-Martin and Sheila Aucoin are coming together to guide teachers through a choral reading session that will focus on a range of materials perfect for choristers ages 4 to 104! They will focus on a variety of levels, from unison singing, all the way through multiple parts. We will be sharing pieces of many genres including folk, contemporary, classical, pop, jazz, and beyond.

Robyn Alcorn-Martin (she/her) is a high school teacher with 10 years of classroom and 22 years of private experience.

Having studied at both McGill University and St.FX University, Robyn holds a Bachelor of Arts with a focus in vocal performance. Her unique experience allowed for extensive training in both classical and jazz techniques and repertoire. She also holds a Bachelor of Music Education from Memorial University of Newfoundland.

As a music teacher, Robyn has been on the faculties of G. R. Saunders Elementary, Tamarac Education Centre, North Nova Education Centre, Dr. W. A. MacLeod Consolidated, and Northumberland Regional High School.

Her background in P-12 music education has spanned general, instrumental, vocal and advanced music among many other courses. Currently, Robyn is extremely happy to be at Northumberland Regional High School working as the Drama, General Music, Advanced Music, Instrumental Music, and Choral Music teacher.

Outside her thriving school music program, Robyn instructs the vocal program with the Nova Scotia Honour Jazz Program and has spent years as a barbershop chorus director. In addition to her choral work, Robyn enjoys writing, rehearsing, recording, and performing with bands “Not Like Yesterday”, “Neon Soul Machine”, “Soul Sisters”, “PC Pops Classics”, “Hot Mess”, “Sweet Serene”, and many pick up jazz groups in Pictou County and Halifax.

Robyn is passionate about sharing her experiences and love for music with the world around her and considers herself a lifelong learner, taking opportunities to develop whenever possible! Her greatest joy as an educator is to see people grow their personal relationships with music while learning to love and appreciate the efforts of others.

The proud mother of two (Malachy Martin- 7 and Keira Alcorn- 15), Robyn thrives on the busy lifestyle of balancing her school music program, many side projects and her cherished home and family life- alongside her patient husband, Declan Martin.

Music educator and choral conductor Sheila Aucoin (she/her) hails from New Glasgow, NS - a town with a rich and vibrant history of youth choral singing. Fueled by her own musical experiences in this community, she developed a provincial-winning middle school choral program at New Glasgow Academy and recently took the reins of the North Nova Education Centre program, leading this program and its students through the challenges of music making and singing during COVID-19.

Prior to pursuing her Bachelor of Music Education at Memorial University, Sheila completed post grad studies in public relations and worked for national brands like TD Canada Trust and Tim Hortons. Her background in strategic communications has proven essential in her ongoing advocacy for music education in Nova Scotia and she believes wholeheartedly in the need for forward-facing advocacy as we look towards the future of music education in Canada, recognizing the recovery and rebuilding of our programs needed following these uniquely challenging school years. With these goals in mind, she is proud to hold the seat of Vice Chair with the Nova Scotia Music Education Council.

Building on her years spent teaching elementary music and choir, Sheila currently teaches Music, Advanced Music, Choir, Drama and Musical Director to the terrific high school students at North Nova Education Centre. At NNEC staff and students alike are hard at work rebuilding our capacity in choir programming and preparing for our first full-length musical production since 2019!

Since the pandemic first began, Sheila married her husband (Carl), welcomed her daughter (Annie) and completed her MEd (focus in Music Education) at Memorial University. The future is bright all around! She can’t wait to sing and share choral music with her peers at this year’s conference.

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