Musical treat at Carbonear Academy
Matthew Byrne and Sherman Downey visit Carbonear school
Grade 8 students at Carbonear Academy recently welcomed a couple of special guests to the school. Newfoundland musicians Sherman Downey and Matthew Byrne took time to play some tunes and answer questions during the visit, which came about thanks to one of the school’s music teachers, Trevor Smith.
It wasn’t your typical learning environment when two young men took over a classroom at Carbonear Academy.
With guitars hanging over their shoulders, Newfoundland performers Matthew Byrne and Sherman Downey took some time to share songs and answer questions for Grade 8 students. They did this on Jan. 28, one day after the pair performed at The Stone Jug as part of their Winter Island Tour, which concluded last week.
“I almost got emotional a couple of times, because I was like, ‘They’re so into this.’” Trevor Smith
“It was really, really cool. The students were so great. They were so engaged with it,” Byrne told The Compass over the phone last week from Corner Brook.
Downey, a singer-songwriter from Western Newfoundland, and traditional folksong interpreter Byrne have toured together a few times over the last couple of years, performing tunes as a duo.
Carbonear Academy music teacher Trevor Smith has a history with Downey. Smith is from Corner Brook and knew several members of the singer’s former backing group,
The Ambiguous Case. He got to know Downey as that group built a solid reputation on the Canadian music scene. The band won the CBC Music Searchlight competition in 2013.
“The grade eights are an amazing group, but I could just see it in their eyes how they were in awe,” Smith said. “I felt that too. I almost got emotional a couple of times, because I was like, ‘They’re so into this.’’’
Byrne and Downey had a day off following their show at The Stone Jug, and decided it would be fun to take up Smith on the offer to visit the school. They stayed for more than an hour.
Impressed with music program
In the case of Byrne, his passion for music is a family thing. His father Joe and uncle Pat form a well- regarded folk duo, and his brother Allan performs and records with The Blue Drop.
Back when he was a schoolboy, music was part of his curriculum, but Byrne is particularly impressed with what Smith is doing at Carbonear Academy. One of two music teachers at the K-8 school, Smith helps out with an after-school rock band program and also has an eclectic percus- sion group and guitar ensemble. Fellow music teacher Nancy Tuttle looks after a full concert band.
“We did music classes where we learned scale and the basics of music theory … and I think in junior high it was finally then that we could pick up an instrument and do some playing together,” recalls Byrne. “But it was very different when I was in those grades, because that was long before the ‘School of Rock’ mentality (came along), which I’m so glad has taken root in a lot of the schools now, where kids are able to learn music through the genres they already like. That seems to be the way now.”
A video of Carbonear Academy’s aspiring rock musicians performing Serena Ryder’s song “Stompa” can be viewed on the school’s website.
“I believe a lot of them walked away inspired too, because there’s some musicians in the group,” said Smith.
Sherman Downey, left, and Matthew Byrne traded tunes back and forth for Grade 8 students at Carbonear Academy during an hour-plus visit to the school Jan. 28.
Sherman Downey and Matthew Byrne pose for a photo with their new fans from Carbonear Academy.