For more than 100 years the Manitoba Registered Music Teachers’ Association (MRMTA) has been providing top quality music education throughout the Province of Manitoba. This vibrant organization has been offering professional development opportunities and support for Music Teachers, as well as encouraging young artists to grow and flourish as musicians.

Throughout the pandemic music teachers and their students have had to adapt to new challenges in regards to music education. One particular issue that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle is the issue of quality music education in the rural parts of Manitoba. Thankfully, the MRMTA is has a strong presence outside the city of Winnipeg.

Branches of the MRMTA started being formed throughout Manitoba as a way of keeping things local. Wes Hamm is the current President of the MRMTA Southern Branch, which was formed in the mid-1970s. When talking about the founding members of the Southern Manitoba branch, Wes makes the case for a local branch quite easy to understand. “I think what they saw (the founders) was the benefits of having this local. There was a sense of ownership for local MRMTA activities such as masterclasses, concerts, and community events.”

The Southern Manitoba Branch has members in Carmen, Morden, Winkler, Altona, Morris, St. Adolphe and the regions between.

For Dianna Neufeld, President of the Brandon/Westman Region, the history goes further back to the 1930s and 40s. “Between 1936 and 1944 the branch began owning themselves and holding annual recitals and young artist series, and being much more involved in the Canadian Music Week Series.”

Since 2010 the branch has renamed itself to the Brandon and Westman Registered Music Teachers’ Association, because there were members from regions quite a bit west and north, such as Melita, Boissevain, Kilarny, and the Rivers.

Like any professional; the desire to connect, bounce ideas off each other, and network is of utmost importance. For music teachers in the rural parts of the Province this desire was crucial. “Experienced teachers in rural Manitoba have a lot to say in terms of how to set up a studio, and relate to families…it was also  a way to contribute to my community, and an opportunity to have my credentials reviewed and to provide that information for those that were looking for lessons” states Hamm

Collegial support is also a major factor to the creation of various branches. As Dianna Neufeld states “I was looking for a community of supportive music teachers, and a group that I could learn from and share with, and be encouraged from. To have a local support network is actually really important when you are an independent business.”

This support from colleagues proved to be extra valuable because of COVID. COVID was something that music teachers throughout the Province had never seen before, and a supportive network proved to be crucial. 

In some ways the pandemic actually created some new opportunities. As Neufeld states “I have actually found that more parents and families are reaching out to private music instruction because it’s a stable thing, especially if you are offering online lessons…its actually created a huge growing movement for the music teacher because we are learning how to shape our discipline and work with more media, and different ways of reaching people all around.”

With the moderate easing of restrictions, both Wes Hamm and Dianna Neufeld, are thankful that they are seeing students in person again. Issues of internet speed in rural parts of the Province have taken their toll, but also the ability to hear what the student actually sounds like in person is a blessing. Wes Hamm is a violin teacher, and as he states. “I think what was has had an impact on me in terms of fatigue is trying to discern quality tone over the internet. I’m so happy to see people and talk to them in person and listen to the wonderful sounds that they are making, instead of what my speakers give me.”

Both Hamm and Neufeld are optimistic for this upcoming year, and there is hope that in person concerts might be something that can happen again. Regardless of what this upcoming academic year has to offer, the vibrancy and dedication of the various rural branches of the MRMTA will ensure that music education throughout the province will thrive and continue to grow in the future.

To See Chris Wolf’s conversation with Wes Hamm and Dianna Neufeld click here: