The sounds of North Toronto
Graffiti March Issue 2022
“Alumni and students share the importance of music within the school’s walls.”
Sofiia Savchyn (Section Editor)
You arrive 2 hours ahead of time, hustling and bustling because ‘on time is late,’ and you are wearing the wrong shoes. Your brain is cloudy with excitement and anxiety, but you relish it. You turn into a marathon runner in the hours before every school concert; there is always too much to do and not enough time. Your friend asks if their tie is alright; another frantic student runs around begging for a pair of black socks; nervous buzzing all around — what bliss.
For two years of online classes that “seemed somewhat pointless,” North Toronto musicians fueled themselves with memories of the 2019 Fall Fare, shares Sam Baldachin, a grade 12 band student. He recalls that some were “thinking about dropping music” entirely. With no live performances, the “exhilarating feeling of getting together [and] seeing the audience” was gone, and “[music] was kind of dead,” says Justin Lee, another grade 12 student. Music is meant to be heard, and when your plants, walls, or annoyed siblings become your only audience, it is easy to lose sight of what you loved.
For North Toronto alumnus Andy Maize (‘78), one of the co-founders of the band Skydiggers, “it was hard to feel inspired” at the beginning of lockdown, but “music was like comfort food.” Music can be gratifying and has been proven to improve a person’s motivations and cognitive abilities. A recent study has shown it to assist with maintaining good physical and psychological health (Izbiki, 2020). Sam concurs, saying that “the only reason [he is] somewhat fit is because of drumming. […] It’s a full-body workout.” After a year of at-home workouts, we can finally sign up for the group spin class: to get back to playing music the way that we know it. Together.
Despite the return of regular rehearsals, the sparks that flew in classrooms in 2019 seem to have dimmed. The uncertainty surrounding possible performances and the future of the program takes its toll on motivation and attendance. However, it is essential to remember the importance of NT performances and ensure the continuation of music at our school.
Charlotte Cornfield (‘06), an alumnus and singer, called “Canada’s Best Kept Secret” by Rolling Stone magazine, reminisces about her favorite Maytime Melodies. “We were playing an ABBA medley, and I was in the back playing percussion with my friend Ira, and we were getting really into it. I was playing timpani and just having a great time. And then afterward, someone told me I was too… too into it,” she laughs.
Andy Maize shares a story of his own. Back in 1978, there was no Fall Fare, but instead, “there was a HiJinx fundraiser.” What is that? Well, “it started as a fundraiser for a young man injured playing football. It was a variety show, a talent show. You had to audition.” Andy smirks. “Well, it was me, John Cooper and Jeff Somerville. Good friends of mine. We’re in grade 13, and we did a James Taylor song called ‘Damn This Traffic Jam.’ We were wearing cardboard boxes painted and decorated to look like cars.” Suddenly he breaks out into a song, playing air guitar,
“Damn this traffic jam
How I hate to be late
It hurts my motor to go so slow.
Time I get home, my supper’ll be cold.”
Almost 50 years after graduation, Andy relives his performances with the joy that today’s students live theirs. They are the most formative performances in North Toronto musicians’ life. Andy agrees, saying, “it was nice to be given enough [room] to fail because failure is part of moving forward.” Who gives us that room? Teachers. Teachers of the 1980s, the 2000s, and the 2020s, who have survived five different school schedules in the past two years.
Charlotte Cornfield’s memory of an NT mentor transcends the generational gap, “[after submitting a song for a Literature assignment] Mr. Zohar took me aside and said the song was good but too literal. What’s behind that? He asked, where’s the poetry? I honestly took that to heart in my writing process going forward.” Small moments, forgettable in the present, monumental for the future. They are the extraordinary conversations students have with their teachers that stay engraved in their minds and, hopefully, hearts. These conversations fuel the creative success of Charlotte and Andy, Justin, and other future alumni.
Music at North Toronto goes beyond its department. It is a core part of the student experience. Do you remember the glee of getting back the sacred 10 minutes of morning music? Or the immortal clarinet performance of Mr. Kinoshita and Ms. Monteith? Every generation of students will have their unique moments to treasure. Andy Maize reminds us that “music takes us right back to a specific moment in time. [We remember] who we were with, what we were doing, how we were feeling, how things smelled.”
And just like that, you’re back in the room charged with expectation. It has been two years since the last performance. You are in the audience, or waiting for a curtain call, or behind the scenes. The first note has not yet broken the silence, but you can already hear it. So everybody, brass, woodwinds, percussion, strings, voice, stage crew, music production students, and listeners, get ready and enjoy the music. Make some history.