St. Mary principal awarded for fostering music education

St. Mary principal Mark Phaneuf and music teacher Kayleigh Skomorowski at their year-end concert at the Sacred Heart Cathedral on June 13, 2019. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

École St. Mary High School Principal Mark Phaneuf may not sing or play an instrument himself, but he has played a huge role in building the school’s music programs.

That’s why the Saskatchewan Band Association awarded Phaneuf with their Band Builder Award. It recognizes “a band director who made significant contribution to band in Saskatchewan,” according to their website.

St. Mary music teacher Kayleigh Skomorowski presented the certificate to Phaneuf on behalf of the charity at their year-end concert on Thursday evening.

“When you win an award, it’s more special when you’re actually getting an award to help other people,” he said. “I’m really proud of all these students and I’m really proud of my staff members as well. They’re the ones that are very deserving of the accolades, but I do appreciate being recognized as well.”

From organizing funding and staff to renovating rehearsal spaces, Phaneuf has helped grow the programs to about 90 total students in band and 50 in choir, estimated Skomorowski. There is however lots of crossover.

Phaneuf was a band student himself, but only until 9th grade: “I was terrible, but enjoyed it,” he said.

“My job as principal of the school and really my responsibility is to create an environment that fosters the love that other people have for different things.”

He emphasized the importance of music education.

“Music we know does work a different part of the brain, so it gets you thinking in a different way. Secondly it’s an activity which collects people together, it’s not a solitude activity. You can play an instrument on your own or sing on your own, but it becomes special when you get in a group and when you’re in a group as large as it is tonight, it makes it even more special,” he said.

The Saskatchewan Band Association was developed in 1983 and promotes band music across the province.

Groups that performed at the year-end concert included the junior and senior band and choirs, as well as the men’s and women’s chamber choirs.