Camaraderie in the classroom

November 7, 2016

Raymond Baril receives 2016 Distinguished Teaching Award

Four faculty members received one of MacEwan University’s highest honours in 2016 for outstanding teaching and their commitment to education leadership. Raymond Baril, Constanza Pacher, Holly Symonds-Brown and Ross Shaw are the most recent Distinguished Teaching Award recipients.

Your prof could be next! Nominations for 2017 Distinguished Teaching Awards are open until December 15, 2016.

story_image-DTA_Raymond_BarilThe orange campus on the west end of Edmonton has been Raymond Baril’s home away from home for 33 years. As a University of Alberta student, he would journey to what was then called the Jasper Place campus (now Centre for the Arts and Communications) to play in MacEwan’s big band. In 1983, he began teaching as a sessional instructor, and in 1986, took the lead as the big band’s director—a position he has held for more than three decades. Today the assistant professor is also the head of the music department’s Wind/Brass section—and has taught many artists who now work and perform in the music industry.

“I received an email in December of last year, just before the holidays, saying, ‘You've been nominated for a Distinguished Teaching Award,’” recalls Raymond. “To which I thought cool. I never really think about it. I come in and I do my job.”

While winning awards is the last thing on Raymond’s mind, teaching is at the forefront. He enjoys connecting with students, which is evident in the big band practice room.

“We have a really strong student-teacher connection,” says Raymond. Camaraderie develops during their practice sessions, and by the end of the music season, Raymond and his students are trading barbs. “We’re working on this music—it’s hard and there’s tension in trying to create something. But there’s also this wonderful release that comes as a result of the collegial connection I have with them.”

RELATED: The first big band performance of the season is on December 5.

When he first started teaching, student-teacher relationships were different.

“I came through a period of time where band directors were some pretty hardline guys,” he says. “It was definitely more militaristic. Being in a band was tough and there were high expectations. But I think over a 30-year period, it’s changed. While the expectations are the same, the teaching method has evolved. Some people say I’ve softened up over the years, but it’s just that I’ve found there are better ways of getting things out of students.”

While the expectations are the same, the teaching method has evolved.” RAYMOND BARIL 

Raymond says teaching wasn’t on his radar when he entered the work world—he was going to be a performer. In his last years of university, he found himself teaching privately, and later on teaching saxophone, clarinet and flute as part of an adult community program. That led to teaching a course at MacEwan.

“I really started to enjoy the teaching experience,” he says. “And I was still playing all the time.”

Raymond’s office shelves are filled with books on pedagogy and he is very serious about his students, but being a performer and a teacher and sustaining a personal life requires balance.

“I always talk about a career as being a stool—what is your career built on? What are the legs? For me, the legs are family, teaching, conducting and performance.”

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