Duane Bronson has wanted to be a music teacher for almost as long as he can remember. But in his last year of high school he flirted with the idea of becoming a professional musician, so he changed his focus and really worked hard on being a performer. He auditioned at various schools, only to be told that he would make a much better teacher than performer. “They were right,” says Bronson. “And it’s such a hard slog being a musician.” That tough love helped him refocus his efforts back to his original goal, and that choice led him to a fulfilling career.
Brock High School in Cannington was Bronson’s first stop as a music teacher. He taught there for eight years, with his last two years as department head. A job opening became available at O’Neill C.V.I. and Russ Baird, the then head of the Performing Arts Program, contacted him. “I am forever grateful for the things he taught me,” says Bronson. Baird decided to move out west after Bronson had been under his wing for only two years. He recommended Bronson to be his replacement. “For someone who had only been a teacher for 10 years, a program like this at a performing arts school was a little intimidating, but I gladly took it up and I’ve loved every minute of it.”
There’s no other school like it really,” says Bronson.” One of his biggest challenges is staying ahead of the students. “We have some students that are really highly trained and have been taking lessons for many, many years,” he says. “The hardest part is keeping everybody working at a good clip and committing equal amounts.”
Bronson begins his speech to Grade 9 students the same way every year: “Not all students are in this program to go on to become professional artists.” He then tells them about a student who went all the way through the program as an instrumentalist and a vocalist in musical theatre who then became a doctor – not a musician. The program gave him the confidence to pursue a career as a doctor and to be able to get up in front of people. “We’re really proud of making the students comfortable in front of audiences and confident in whatever they do,”
He realizes the importance of empowering his students. While at a music festival in Banff, Alta., O’Neill students addressed 4,000 to 5,000 other music students about empowerment. When students are given the opportunity to take charge in their education, it gives them the confidence to work hard and achieve their goals. And they know that if they put 100 per cent into their music, they will get back so much more. “The students line up at the door each year for their turn to give back to younger students,” says Bronson.
Bronson is passionate about hockey and plays twice a week. In the warmer weather he can be found on the golf course with a fellow teacher. He scratches his itch to be a performer by playing drums in community theatre, where he usually performs in two or three shows a year. And it seems that other members of Bronson’s family don’t fall too far from the performing arts tree. His daughter, Meghann, lives in New York and earns her living as a professional dancer. His son, Nicholas, does production work on commercials and promos for two local radio stations.
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