From school to music, from music to school

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I dropped out of school in the 1960s to pursue rock and roll. Later, music would drop me back into (and, crucially, pay my way through) school. Music formed a part-time interest throughout my career in education and, during this time, I performed in a variety of satisfying musical projects, both professionally and recreationally.

In 1990, I was seconded to Simon Fraser University’s Faculty of Education as a faculty associate. For a secondary teacher of English in Toronto, this was unusual, but my early work in online learning created opportunities to explore, inform, and be informed by areas of shared interest and activity. I had founded Writers in Electronic Residence (WiER), an online creative writing program, formally in 1988 (yes, before the Internet as we know it today). WiER used communications technology to link professional writers with school-based writing programs, following several years of pilot projects. Writers were paid, schools paid fees. SFU’s Faculty of Education supported WiER in its earliest times, thanks largely to the inspired and inspiring work of Dr. Gerri Sinclair, founder of SFU’s EXCITE Centre (and whose husband, poet Lionel Kearns, was the first “writer in electronic residence”).

WiER would go on to become a national, charitable, non-profit foundation, raising funds to support our programs in all parts of Canada. Separate programs evolved for the elementary, middle, and secondary levels. Teacher education programs were also associated with WiER, operating at the pre- and in-service levels, and in graduate teacher education at SFU, York, and OISE. A key component of WiER’s work was to use communications technologies to create and provide new opportunities for convenient, part-time paid work for Canada’s writers, which it did for more than 25 years.

WiER changed my understanding about learning and teaching practice—online and off—and I completed an MA based upon this work, with Dr. Allan MacKinnon serving as my supervisor. I’ve now had the good fortune to work at every level of our education system, comprising K–12, university (undergraduate, graduate, pre-service, in-service/professional teacher education, and research) and, most recently, community college, holding productive and meaningful positions in a wide variety of teaching and non-teaching (administrative, consultative and research) roles. Areas of key interest include literacy, mentorship, technology and the arts, and how the intersections between them are informed, sustained and advanced within and across these areas in online environments.

Since 2013, I have been working to build a re-entry into music, beginning with “newchoir,” a 160-member rock choir in Toronto. I am currently involved in several musical projects as a guitarist and vocalist outside the choir, and I am generally interested in pursuing opportunities in these areas.

In 2015, I had the pleasure of performing at Carnegie Hall in New York as part of Total Vocal, a sold-out all-a Cappella concert comprising newchoir, and several vocal ensembles from Australia and the United States, under the direction of Deke Sharon.

Trevor Owen
MA 1993

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