Music teacher headed to Junos Awards could bring $10,000 prize back to Brampton

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Published February 14, 2024 at 1:36 pm

Brampton music teacher Zeda Ali has been nominated for the 2024 MusiCounts Teacher of the Year Award. (Photo: Courtesy of MusiCounts)

A Brampton music instructor is headed to the Juno Awards and could come back with a $10,000 prize and the title of Canada’s music teacher of the year.

Zeda Ali has been a teacher at Brampton’s Sunnyview Middle School for over a decade but only started teaching music a few years ago when a new position opened up.

A Brampton native who attended Brampton Centennial, Ali says she discovered her love of music at a young age starting with making a drum kit out of pots and pans and playing piano at local music stores.

But without a lot of disposable income, it would be years before her family got her a piano of her own, an instrument she’s hung onto ever since.

“I still have the same piano, it’s my joy,” she told Insauga.com.

Ali brought that joy of creativity and expression to her students by introducing a new music program drawing on the cultural and musical backgrounds of her multicultural Sunnyview students – a program that will see her head to Halifax for the 2024 Juno Awards and maybe bring a $10,000 grand prize back to Brampton.

The Brampton music instructor is one of five nominated for the MusiCounts Teacher of the Year Award, with the winner set to be announced at the 2024 Juno Award in Halifax next month.

“My program is based on what they want to do – if they want to learn a Punjabi song I write it out for them…I don’t believe in stifling musical creativity,” Ali said of the multicultural music class that makes use of instruments like the steelpan, harmonium, dole and djembe drum.

With a diverse class of students from West African, South Asian and many other backgrounds, Ali says students bring everything from culturally-significant pieces to hip hop tracks and video game soundtracks to class. She then transcribes whatever song they want to work on, with Ali saying she “always make sure I’m learning from the source.”

“It’s learning together,” she said of the program. “I run it like your class is a band – if we don’t play together we don’t make it.”

If named the MusiCounts Teacher of the Year, the win would see Ali receive a $10,000 cash prize, a substantial contribution to Sunnyview’s music program and her very own JUNO Award statuette.

And while the prize money and accolades would be welcomed, Ali said the nomination shows the importance of giving her student’s culture a platform.

“They don’t get that validation as much,” she said. “Honestly, I dedicate it to my students.”

If Ali does win it will be at least the second teacher from Brampton to claim the title after David Suzuki Secondary School teacher Darren Hamilton won the award in 2022.

The winner of the 2024 MusiCounts Teacher of the Year Award will be announced during the Juno Awards broadcast on March 24 from the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax.

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