Vancouver musician Michelle Cormier's wide-ranging musical interests have given her a broad array of musical experiences - studying classical guitar at Vancouver Community College, performing with the Balinese ensemble Gamelan Gita Asmara, teaching guitar, and directing Canada's first children's mariachi band. Michelle's work explores the links between distant musical cultures - through guitar playing, percussion, singing, performance, and education. She has also studied Afro-cuban rhythms and arrangements with Israel Berriel (of Matanzas, Cuba), Sigfrido Borbon (of Guantanamo, Cuba) and Alfonso Borges (of Santiago de Cuba). As director, instructor and administrator of School of Groove, Michelle takes students on an exploration of the musical traditions of Cuba, Brazil, parts of Africa and around the Caribbean and is currently developing the program in Guanajuato, Mexico. To satisfy her own passion for Spanish and Latin American music, Michelle directs an all-female Mariachi band Las Estrellas de Vancouver and works with other local musicians, including Katheryn Petersen (accordion) and Elmar Spanier (bass) on presenting traditional Argentine tango as Los Porteños del Norte.
Michelle's enthusiasm and adept handling of a novice group was an inspiring and impressive experience. She built students' confidence whilst setting high standards to facilitate a tight groove that gave participants a true and exhilarating insight into the Afro Cuban musical experience. Hazel Fairbairn, PEFA and Music Instructor, Douglas College
I have been a witness to many of Michelle's activities performing Latin music, teaching young students, and organizing associated activities. Besides her high quality of musicianship, it is her overall enthusiasm for and enjoyment of music that is an inspiration both to her students and to longtime musicians. Michael O'Neill, Composer/Performer, Sessional Instructor, School for the Contemporary Arts, Simon Fraser University
Michelle Cormier consistently showed a kind, caring manner with all of the students. She visited the school in advance to fully prepare for her residency and came early each day to set up. Michelle was well prepared with music and dance routines and able to manage the students with little teacher support. Dance steps were introduced to students in an age-appropriate manner. She displayed a good rapport with students, staff and parents. The teachers commented that Michelle "was great with the students" and the students said that "Michelle is so much fun. We like her!" Val Stevenson, Vice Principal, Eagle Harbour Elementary, West Vancouver
This program can be taught in tandem with Afro-Cuban percussionist and educator Israel "Toto" Berriel. It is an introduction to the history and origins of Afro-Cuban folkloric music in which the students will learn the function and particular rhythm for each instrument of a typical Rumba ensemble and the coros (or chorus) that accompanies the percussion. We will also trace the roots of this style to its origins in Africa. This can be a one-time presentation or a workshop-style residency with a minimum of four classes and a performance at the end of the session. This can be included in an integrative social studies program to help the students understand concepts such as community, globalization, colonialism and other large ideas. Grade K-12.
Take a trip through the different regions of Mexico, from the Norteñas of the north, the sounds of Vera Cruz on the east coast and the Mariachi traditions of Jalisco and surrounding areas. We will talk about how the influence of various cultures shaped the styles that we hear in those regions today. This program works well in a school with a strings program and/or Spanish classes but is not necessary. The repertoire covered can include violins, guitars, trumpets and vocal parts. We ensure a part for everyone. Grade 5-12.
This program focuses on all aspects of a performance group and links musical traditions with the social and political environment of a given location. It can cover the music of Cuba, Brazil or South Africa. Younger age groups will learn how the music is a reflection of the community and is an activity meant to teach and promote the group's culture and values. For high school students, I will engage the participants in a historical journey of the development of musical traditions and how they have evolved in relationship to changing political, social and global environments. It can include guest teacher Israel Berriel. Grade K-12.