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A Dream Serenade

A Dream Serenade

Benefit concert grows Beverley School community

Monday, October 27, 2014
Categories: Happenings @ TDSB, School Web Stories

A veritable who’s who of talented musicians gathered on Saturday, October 25 at Toronto’s historic Massey Hall for the first annual Dream Serenade, a benefit concert to support schools, pre-schools, hospitals and parent respite services for children with special needs. The inaugural event, organized by singer-songwriter Hayden Desser and his wife Christie Greyerbiehl, featured intimate performances from Hayden himself, Feist, Matt Berninger and Aaron Dessner of The National, Sarah Harmer, Barenaked Ladies (BNL), Billy Talent, Jason Collett, Grey Lands, and Lou Canon. 

Some of the proceeds from the first year of the event will aid the TDSB’s own Beverley School. Principal Alana Grossman said that money raised will be used to “provide a sensory environment that will allow the students to be creative in their own space.” The focus for Beverley will be on bringing in more leading-edge technology to support teaching and learning at the school, as well as creating an urban green space. 

The sold-out Massey Hall crowd was treated to mesmerizing performance after mesmerizing performance for nearly four hours. Both Hayden and Kevin Hearne of the Barenaked Ladies shared personal experiences about the caring and supportive community at Beverley School. And both played moving numbers that they had written for their daughters who are students at the downtown school.

Hearn and Hayden both have played at Neil Young’s annual Bridge School benefit concert and wanted to do something similar locally.  Hearn, a former TDSB student at Inglenook High School, said at an event at the school the day before the concert that raising a child presents challenges at the best of times, and that can be compounded when the child has special needs. “[Beverley] is an amazing school with a great community spirit and we want to do whatever we can to help places like this be successful. But we also wanted to help parents of children with special needs through a relief fund because they really need the support too.”

Grossman agreed, saying that parents with children with disabilities need their community and school to support them and their families. “We often hear that it takes a village to raise a child,” she told the audience. “To everyone here at Massey Hall tonight: we are all now part of the Beverley Community.” Joining her on stage, Vice-Principal Becca Ansley added a shout-out to “all of the dedicated, hard-working staff who make Beverley such an exemplary learning environment.”

The day before the benefit, Hayden and Hearn played at a special Friday Music circle at the school. Sarah Harmer, Lou Canon, and BNL band members Jim Creeggan and Tyler Stewart also played for the students, staff and caregivers. Grossman said that her students love music and every week they hold a Friday Music circle led by school staff musicians Jonah Epstein, Niki Campbell, Angele Corriveau and Derek Wagler. “Music is a great leveler,’ said Grossman, “no matter who you are or what your abilities are.”

The musicians and other guests in attendance for the special Friday afternoon jam session appeared to enjoy themselves as much as the students, as everyone joined in to sing or dance. There were even a couple of unscheduled bass and drum solos by students while the musicians performed.

Even before the Dream Serenade, Hayden, Hearn and other parents weren’t the only ones noticing the great things happening at the small downtown school. The staff’s work has been recognized well beyond the school community, and even internationally. The highly acclaimed CBS news magazine program 60 Minutes featured the school in October 2011 in an episode entitled “Apps for Autism.”  60 Minutes Australia also featured Beverley in a story that aired in October 2012.  

In past, they have been featured in various Canadian media outlets including CBC's flagship news program, The National. In November 2012, the Toronto Star highlighted the school in its series The Autism Project. That same month, teachers Stacie Carroll and Sabrina Tayebjee Morey were awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence Certificates of Achievement in recognition of their ground-breaking work in supporting students with special needs. 

Beverley School was originally used as a training site for the CNIB and has been a school for students with developmental and physical disabilities since the 1950's. It was renovated in 1985, then redesigned in 2006. It offers a space on one floor that is barrier free to allow for optimal independence and mobility for students. An elementary program is provided for 95 students from JK to grade 8. The school takes a team approach to support the educational needs of its students.

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