When music combines with a noble cause, the result is nothing short of extraordinary. The Music for Veterans Project (MVP) unites military service and music, benefiting both veterans and aspiring musicians. Led by Emily Armour, a piano teacher married to a veteran, the initiative honors service members in a unique way.
The genesis of Music for Veterans Project
Emily Armour began this project driven by both personal and cultural motivations. Her husband, Devin Wilkins, is a Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) veteran. He served in Croatia during 1991/92. Because of Wilkin's service, Emily said she has more friends who have served in the military than those who have not.
"I just thought, 'Why don't I start this so the students can write a piece of music inspired by a veteran?'" said Armour.
Coming from a classical music background, Emily wanted to apply the tradition of composing for others to the military community. Emily started MVP to let students write music based on veterans' stories, offering honor to veterans and real-world insight into service life for the students.
Expanding the impact across Canada
Since its humble beginnings as a composition exercise, MVP has grown to touch the lives of veterans and members of the CAF across the entire nation. The key focus remains on commemoration and connection, transcending the mere mechanics of music composition. Armour said, "In many ways, I consider this to be the most important work of my career to date."
Although Emily had little military connection growing up, she noticed her students were also disconnected. MVP changes this by connecting students with diverse veteran stories, enriching their understanding of military life.
How does it work?
Veterans can send Emily a photo and a short description of their time in service. Emily then shares this material with one of her students, who are as young as five and up to grade 12. These students then compose a piece of music based on the veteran's story. Armour confirmed that as long as parental permissions are in place, all her students can participate. The resulting synergy between the student composers and their veteran subjects ensures a heartfelt musical tribute.
Over the past two years, students have composed deeply meaningful music pieces. Each composition is more than just a string of notes; it’s a heartfelt tribute. Pieces like "The Engineer," "So They May Fly," and "Oak & Maple" don’t just acknowledge service; they narrate stories, encapsulate emotions, and venerate the personal journeys of the veterans they honor. This makes each piece not just a work of art but a living tribute, a contemporary act of remembrance.
“What I love about the project is that the music created is often very hopeful and bright," Armour notes. "I love that when you ask a child to create this, it's really neat what they hear," said Armour.
The Royal Oak event
Armour's initiative also transcends the boundaries of her teaching studio. A special commemorative event is planned at the Royal Oak Burial Park, which houses Commonwealth war graves. The event aims to honor Commonwealth Aircrew who lost their lives in non-combat roles. Eleven students will have their compositions played at the event. This fitting tribute aligns well with the larger objective of remembering and honoring those who served. During this event, students lay a sheet of music on the graves of the fallen, creating a poignant moment of remembrance. Armour said she expects the act of laying sheet music on the graves to create a poignant moment that resonates with everyone present.
How to get involved
"When words fail us, it's the music that speaks. It's not about trying to get likes and attention or a deal. I'm playing an active role in remembrance, I've learned about it and now I'm doing a good deed," said Armour.
For those keen on supporting this cause, financial contributions are always welcome. But there are other ways to get involved as well. Spreading the word, especially within military communities, can amplify the project's impact. Eventually, Armour also hopes to expand the project to other countries and invites music professionals to join this noble cause.
Whether you're a music lover or someone who respects and honors military service, this project speaks to the heart. You can follow the journey on Emily Armour's website and social media platforms to stay updated. In Emily's words, "the possibilities are endless with the right type of participation."
Recognition and future endeavors
The project's impact was recently acknowledged by the Royal Conservatory of Music, with President & CEO Dr. Peter Simon extending personalized letters of recognition to each student. Even more heartwarming are the handwritten notes and opportunities for personal meetings between the young composers and the veterans who inspired their compositions.
Looking forward, there are exciting opportunities for these young musicians that all promise to be transformative, not just for the students but for everyone who gets to witness this remarkable blend of music, service, and heritage.
By nurturing this unique and profoundly meaningful way to honor those who have served, MVP is indeed changing the world—one musical note, one veteran, and one heartfelt tribute at a time.