Grade 12 French Immersion students from Jessica Leung’s class at St. Brother André Catholic High School in Markham, Ont., prepare the music video for their song, “The Chance” which has been chosen as the theme song for this year’s Catholic Education Week. Photos courtesy of Jessica Leung

Students take ‘Chance’ on music contest

  • April 29, 2022

Music composed by students at St. Brother André Catholic High School in Markham, Ont., is the official theme song for this year’s Catholic Education Week festivities across the province.

The Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA) declared “The Chance,” composed, written and performed by Jessica Leung’s Grade 10 and 12 French-immersion religion classes, winner of the annual competition.

A fun activity Leung decided to introduce at the beginning of the school year, students were tasked with brainstorming lyrics for a song based on what this year’s Catholic Education Week theme — Rebuild, Restore, Renew, Together — meant to them personally.

Leung provided her students a rough idea of a melody she composed and Natasha Cardinal, a Grade 12 student, brainstormed enough lyrics for an entire song. She wrote about the challenges posed by two years of pandemic and the hope she felt at the lifting of lockdown restrictions.

“I was inspired by the frustration and helplessness that was felt during the various lockdowns that occurred over the last few years,” said Cardinal. “I felt as though a lot of friendships suffered from the separation while others flourished, and the song is primarily about ‘the chance’ that we now have to make up for the time we lost and cherish the friendships that were strengthened through all the uncertainty. Personally, it symbolizes the appreciation for the people that have supported me through that experience.”

Leung was so inspired by what Cardinal had written, she composed a brand-new piano accompaniment to the lyrics and shared with her classes who loved it. The Grade 10 and 12 students worked together to revise and edit the lyrics and added a prayer. They rehearsed and recorded it and decided to apply for the OCSTA song competition.

“I think it was a really special and memorable experience for them,” said Leung. “We’re honestly just happy this song speaks to a lot of people. It seems to touch a lot of hearts so hopefully we can continue to share this message of hope with our communities over the next year and through Catholic Education Week.”

Leung studied classical flute in the faculty of education at the University of Toronto and also studied French as part of the concurrent teacher education program and regularly infuses art into her French and religion lessons to inspire students.

Not being able to sing in-person at school at the time, the students recorded the singing portions of the music videos individually at home. In addition to piano, the song also features a student violin accompaniment and solo vocalists, which included Grade 12 student Shannon Misquith, and students who led the prayer.

“In light of the recent times and the stresses that we are all experiencing, it was necessary to introduce the feeling of community and togetherness in the writing and recording of the song,” Misquith. “We are called, as Catholic individuals, to help every person we come across, to give others the chance to work past any obstacles and to look to the arriving future. This makes the song truly impactful and allows people from various different backgrounds to come together and understand two universal human qualities that are integral in all parts of life: resilience and hope.” 

In the end, 45 individuals participated in the making and performance of “The Chance.” The songwriting process of creating, Leung says, allowed students the opportunity to work together and collaborate after a year apart during remote learning caused by the pandemic, emphasizing the final lyric of the chorus, “all together, once again.”

Due to the months of isolation, many school friendships suffered, says Leung. Creating the song and accompanying music video brought students together in a fun and creative process she believes helped to restore some of what was lost during quarantine.

“During this whole collaborative process, I found that they really did get closer,” said Leung. “A lot of them bonded with one another. These students are not experienced musicians so at the beginning were definitely hesitant, but throughout the process, they gained a lot of confidence and I would say they found a love for sharing what they learned in religion class and being more confident about sharing that with the community as well.”

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