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Mary Jean Hansen recieves Community Commendation Award

By Melissa Schilz, Postmedia Network

MP Marilyn Gladu presented Mary Jean Hansen, choir director of Synergy 150, with a Community Commendation Award at Camlachie United Church. Melissa Schilz/Postmedia Network

MP Marilyn Gladu presented Mary Jean Hansen, choir director of Synergy 150, with a Community Commendation Award at Camlachie United Church. Melissa Schilz/Postmedia Network

Mary Jean Hansen’s musical roots were planted when she was just a child. She was raised in a musical household and was singing in choirs since age four.

Hansen has now been formally recognized for her decades of dedication to the world of music; MP Marilyn Gladu surprised Synergy 150’s choir director with the Community Commendation Award during a recent meeting.

“This is a woman who is very loved,” Gladu said. “It’s an honour to be able to come and do a presentation and just recognize what she’s contributed to the community.”

The Sarnia-Lambton MP said the award goes to people who have had a major influence in their community, and when Hansen’s colleagues brought her name to the table, Gladu said it was immediately clear the choir director deserved the recognition.

Over the course of 2017, a number of community leaders were awarded with the Sesquicentennial Award, but Gladu said with a limited amount available, there were people like Hansen who were missed.

“The number of people that have been touched by her, that approached the office and said ‘hey, she should have gotten one of the Canada 150 award’,” Gladu said. “She’s certainly well deserving of this award.”

The Point Edward native said she was raised in a home that celebrated music, with parents who loved music and dancing. Hansen said there would be nights when guests would come by their home, when her father would play guitar and a neighbour would play the fiddle.

“I was a little girl sitting on the stairs watching this, so I grew up knowing that music was fun,” she said. “And that’s the first and foremost thing for me – that a choir is having fun.”

Hansen directed her first choir at age 14, and has been a member of several over the years. With older siblings in the choir, she said by the time she was four, she knew all the words of the songs.

“By age 12, I was accompanying the choir,” she said. “What a gift to give a young person … that coloured the way I did things.”

She studied music at the University of Western Ontario, and went to teacher’s college. She lived in Windsor for 38 years, where she taught music in the both the public and Roman Catholic systems.

She said when she would pick up on a student’s musical talent, she would encourage them and have them as involved as possible in music.

With the encouragement she received as a youth, Hansen said she knows what kind of impact it can have.

“I’m always looking to give kids opportunities,” she said. “It’s the things in your youth that make to make you … influence the direction you go. A few significant things directed the course of my life.”

Hansen said music is an important part of learning, noting that for some children, using melodies and song can really get their attention and assist in educating. She said over the years, music in schools has really dwindled, particularly in the public system, something that she calls unfortunate.

“I think it’s crucial … all kids learn better if you have an outlet in music,” she said.

It was early last year that Hansen helped to form the Synergy 150 choir, a group that has grown to 75 who practice at the Camlachie United Church. Members come from all over the county, including Sarnia, Watford, Bright’s Grove and from as far away as Parkhill.

They’ve held concerts, but Hansen said they don’t just sing songs – they connect them with dialogue and picture presentations.

Their next production is set for Oct. 26, ‘Around the World in 80 songs or less’, which will explore the world of music.


mschilz@postmedia.com