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Marc Garneau oversees concert

TORONTO (CP) - Marc Garneau, Canada's first man in space, admits he can't play an instrument and can't carry a tune although he loves classical music and listened to it during his first shuttle flight.

Growing up in a military family, he never had the time to dedicate to learning an instrument but he was able to develop an all-round appreciation for music through his parents, who would play records every Sunday, and through his schooling in Quebec where music education was an integral part of the curriculum.

It's the kind of music education today's kids should also have, he says, and that's why he'll be at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on Monday to oversee a synchronized outdoor concert involving hundreds of thousands of students across the country singing the same song at the same time.

"To me it is absolutely essential that we build (music) into our educational system," Garneau, former head of the Canadian Space Agency, said in a telephone interview from Montreal ahead of the event, called Music Monday.

"I think that music teaches children appreciation of beauty, of creativity, of complexity ... and I think it prepares them in a positive manner for life and I think we need that kind of thing. It has a wonderful civilizing influence and I don't think we should just be always totally practical in our teaching at school."

Music Monday, now in its second year, will see students and teachers from every province and territory singing one song, A Little Music, outdoors at the exact same time (1 p.m. ET).

More than 500,000 students are expected to participate in the concerts, according to the registrations online at One teacher in Victoria, B.C., has written in the online forum that she plans to co-ordinate 700 students from seven schools in an empty field for the event. The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra is also programming a full day of music education concerts.

Two schools, one in Jonquiere, Que., and one in Edmonton, will be linked up via broadband video connection to the heart of Music Monday, the National Arts Centre, where Garneau will host a noon-hour concert involving hundreds of school kids before the country unites in song.

"No, I will not be singing," Garneau said with a laugh. "That would be cruel and unusual punishment for the audience."

A Little Music, composed by Toronto-based musician Chris Tait, has the chorus, "Doesn't matter if you're young or old, Everybody's heart beats, Around the corner or all around the world, A little music's in you and me."

It was used in last year's Music Monday and is available for download on the website for the Coalition for Music Education. The umbrella group for parents and music educators co-ordinates the event.

"We invite everybody to participate," the coalition's executive director Ingrid Whyte said ahead of the event, which she expected would draw more participants than last year.

Whyte spearheaded the initiative last year as a way "to rally the country in a very positive way around the challenges facing music education in Canadian classrooms," she said.

"It gives everyone a voice, it gives everyone an opportunity to say why music is so important to them, how much they enjoy having it in their schools and that we need to protect and nurture these programs in the future."
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