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Date: May 12, 2010


Canadians sang the national anthem with pride during the Vancouver Olympics. However, a study by the University of Victoria shows more than half of Canadian high school choral students still don’t know the melody to “O Canada,” while fewer than 70 per cent know the lyrics.

The “O Canada Project” - conducted by Dr. Mary Kennedy, associate professor of music education in UVic’s Faculty of Education - represents a cross-Canada sampling of 275 high school choral students representing 12 schools in six provinces. The study found that few students could sing the national anthem perfectly. Only 67 per cent of the students tested were judged proficient in lyrics, making an average of two errors or less. More alarming were the results for melodic proficiency, where only 46 per cent of students made an average of two melodic errors or less. Newfoundland youth displayed the highest overall proficiency while Quebecers displayed the lowest.

“It’s very discouraging,” says Kennedy. “These results are all the more disturbing due to the fact that students in the sample were enrolled in secondary choral classes where they received regular instruction in singing and had more opportunity than others to perform the anthem at various events. What might this say of other students who do not sing in school choirs?”

Kennedy suggests there are many reasons for the poor results. “We must consider the frequency with which students have the opportunity to sing the anthem, where they are singing it and who is teaching it to them,” says Kennedy. ““Many high schools no longer play or teach the anthem. It’s sad when the only exposure Canadian children have to the anthem is at hockey games, where the anthem is usually sung by a soloist. It’s also plausible that the lack of consistent musical training guided by specialist teachers could also be a factor in the students’ inability to sing the anthem with proficiency.”

Kennedy completed the study just prior to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, where Canadians experienced a newfound pride in their national identity. She is now eager to re-test the students to see if their knowledge has improved as a result of hearing the anthem so many times during the Games.

The “O Canada Project” was funded in part by the Canadian Music Educators Association and the University of Victoria Don Wright Endowment for Music Education.

Media contacts:

Backgrounder attached. Photos of Dr. Mary Kennedy are available upon request.

Crystal Bergeron (Education Communications) at 250-721-7878 or cbergero@uvic.ca
Dr. Mary Kennedy (Education) at 250-721-7835 or makenn@uvic.ca

The "O Canada" Project

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