Mu­si­cal treat at Car­bon­ear Academy

Matthew Byrne and Sher­man Downey visit Car­bon­ear school

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON editor@CBN­com­

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.

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