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Selkirk College SOAR students share ‘Stompa’ effort with Serena Ryder

Students in the SOAR Program class that is based at Nelson’s Silver King Campus were thrilled to meet one of their heroes when Canadian musician Serena Ryder joined them on a Zoom call in early-April. — Submitted photo

Students in Selkirk College’s SOAR Program enjoyed a virtual visit with award-winning Canadian musician Serena Ryder where she introduced her house plants and pets, chatted about the healing power of song and graciously answered questions.

The Steps to Opportunities, Academics & Readiness (SOAR) Program includes hands-on, experiential education designed to prepare students for success in a variety of workplace, volunteer and community settings. With classes in Trail, Grand Forks, Castlegar and Nelson, one of the weekly activities students engage in is the SOAR Signing Glee Club. One of the songs the glee club performs is Ryder’s worldwide hit “Stompa,” which they sent to the Ontario-based singer.

“The video was amazing,” Ryder said shortly after joining the Zoom call in early-April. “I loved it so much. I watched it four times!”

Holding signs and brandishing excited grins, the SOAR classes assembled in their four different locations for the virtual call. They spent almost an hour with Ryder who was at her home in Ontario.

Ryder started by telling students about her life growing up in a small town north of Toronto. She began playing music at an early age and by the time she was eight, was singing in Royal Canadian Legion halls and in motor hotels. An advocate for mental health awareness, Ryder also shared her own personal struggles and how music is an important part of healing.

“I’m so grateful that I can share my music with others and bring people together,” the 39-year-old told the class. “Everyone feels the medicine of music, it’s important to me and I love it so much.”

Finding Connection with Musical Hero

Students prepared questions that ranged from favourite sports teams (Toronto Raptors) and favourite movie (Elf) to her cherished vacation spots (cottage in the woods) and what type of music she is currently listening to (soul). Some of the questions probed a little deeper, including what her strategies are for wellness in an industry that is packed with stress.

“That is a welcome question,” Ryder said. “For me it’s the simplest things, the same things we relied upon as babies… sleep, good food, hugs from loved ones, laughing, dancing, being in nature, drinking lots of water.”

When asked about what she does for fun and hobbies, students were treated to a tour of Ryder’s house where she introduced the class to her plants, pets and collection of crystals. She also gave the class a closer look at some of her 15 tattoos, providing the background and meaning to the art.

Immediately after the Zoom call ended, there was a chorus of “that was awesome!” coming from students in all classrooms.

“She is amazing and I love her songs,” said student Steph Salviulo. “It feels weird to see a celebrity for the first time like that, but I really liked it.”

Tyler McKnight is a member of the SOAR Signing Glee Club and was singled out by Ryder for his awesome air guitar solo that was featured in the video.

“I just went with it,” McKnight said about his improvised guitar solo. “I felt excited and exhilarated when she mentioned it. Her voice is so good… it’s like bam! She has that raspiness which I really like.”

This is the second spring in a row that students from the SOAR Program have met with a Canadian music star. After performing his songs with the glee club, the class spent time with Shawn Hook who was equally as engaging with the students. Tangibly connecting learners to their musical heroes has quickly become a highlight of the semester for the SOAR Program.

“Serena Ryder was so nice!” said SOAR Instructor Alison Roy, who helped arrange the Zoom meeting. “It was a warm and friendly conversation with our classes, she put us all at ease immediately.”

Find out more about the Selkirk College SOAR Program at: https://selkirk.ca/program/soar