It’s not every day high school students get to learn from people other than their teachers.
However, approximately 40 students from Carbonear Collegiate did just that on Thursday, Nov. 1, when they travelled to St. John’s for a special learning session with Romano Di Nillo – a percussionist originally from Newfoundland and Labrador who has worked in a number of places across the country throughout his career.
Recently, Di Nillo served as a bodhran player for the award-winning Newfoundland-based Broadway musical “Come From Away.”
Teacher Anne Whelan won the opportunity to meet Di Nillo through an early bird registration contest for a Newfoundland and Labrador Teacher’s Association conference. The prize offered the teacher, and as many students as she could manage, to travel to St. John’s for the session with Di Nillo.
Whelan said it was an exciting idea not only for herself as a music teacher, but for the students who she knew would likely jump at such a chance.
“We asked how many students we could bring, and we were told it didn’t really matter – we could take as many as we wanted. So, I’m taking as many as the bus can hold.
“That comes out to be around 40 kids, plus me and another teacher,” she said.
Whelan brought students involved in a number of musical projects at the school, including the glee choir and the school’s relatively new rock band. She says she hopes to show those with a particular interest in the arts that their dreams of becoming successful in the field are not all that far-fetched.
“I have some very, very talented students in my choir, band and drama troupe,” she said. “I want them to realize that you can be successful in the arts. Dreams are attainable.”
In the hour-long session students watched and listened to a presentation from Di Nillo, and then asked him questions in a Q-and-A segment.
Whelan said Di Nillo’s Newfoundland roots are a big part of why she saw this as a good opportunity for her students.
“Romano talked about his life and his road to landing a gig in ‘Come From Away’ on Broadway. He emphasized the importance of a work ethic and talked about how success is 10 per cent talent, and 90 per cent hard work,” Whelan said of the experience. “The kids were entranced.”