This week on “Our Community Stories”, Tanzanite Toronto has the pleasure to introduce Janelle Demello — a talented and hard-working individual impassioned with music and education.
Janelle Demello, daughter of Anthony and Eileen Demello, has always been an integral part of our community. Her proficiency of and passion for music is a story we are delighted to share.
Janelle’s journey with music started when she was only 3 years old. After hearing the song “Peace is Flowing Like a River” at Sunday mass, she returned home to play the song on the piano with a single finger. This moment sparked a profound love for music, and was the catalyst that began a lifelong pursuit of passion.
Over the years, Janelle worked hard and applied her love of music in many experiences. Aside from the piano, Janelle learned to play guitar in grade 7, and today she has learned to play 8 other instruments from Alto Saxophone to Steel Pan Drum. Janelle began volunteering at St. Joseph’s Parish’s choir as a pianist and today serves as the choir director of the Youth Choir, and accompanist of the Children’s Choir and Adult Choir. In high-school she joined band class and fell in love with education through the PATH program, where Janelle practiced as the assistant teacher for a grade 10 vocal class. It was through this experience that Janelle further developed strong leadership skills, thus merging her love of music and education into her goal to become a music teacher.
Initially, the goal of music education presented itself as a challenge due to cultural expectations of pursuing a career in the arts. However, the presentation of a career built upon and enriched by passion proved to be the best decision. Janelle continued to persist. After a challenging audition of 5 musical pieces, including the stunning Arabesque #1 by Debussy, Janelle was accepted to the University of Toronto to embark on a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education. Janelle asserts that despite traditional cultural expectations, it was the continual support from her parents that determined her to pursue a degree in the arts, and led to her success in achieving her degree this year.
We asked Janelle a couple questions to learn more about her journey.
Q: What is your proudest accomplishment?
A: One of my proudest accomplishments had to be during an undergraduate course in Advanced Topics in Music in Childhood through the University of Toronto. This course was really about culturally immersive education, and one of my main projects for the term was to create lesson plans for different types of music in different cultures. One part of my project was with Konkani music, where I had to create a book of lesson plans which I later had to teach to my class. I would say this was a great accomplishment from the amount that I learned through this project in terms of our culture, and from getting to share this culturally immersive experience with the other members in my class.
As a Goan-Tanzanian who’s born in Canada, there’s a lot to say about culture. Culture indicates the ethnicity, values, beliefs, and practices of our people. All of that comes together and creates who we are. On top of that, music is also what really defines culture. Getting to explore Goan music teaches us more about our culture and roots especially when understanding Portugal’s influence on our culture through music.
Q: How would you describe Goan music?
A: Goan music doesn’t sound like your typical Indian music because of the Portuguese influence. It’s actually similar to the Pop music that we hear as it uses similar band equipment.
One of my class projects was to teach the class the song “Ya Ya Maya Ya — Remo Fernandes”. I split the class into groups each with a different role. I explained the culture of the Goan people, and taught them with the help of my Ukulele. They absolutely loved it, and people continually told me that they had the rift stuck in their head throughout the week.
Q: Who’s the one person who has been the most inspirational in your life?
A: I can’t pinpoint one particular person, as there have been so many who have inspired and helped me along the way.
My family has been a huge support and inspiration throughout the years. Even though they don’t necessarily know what’s going on, they’re always willing to learn and I’m ever grateful for that. In addition, Ana Da Costa (youth choir at St. Joseph’s), Ana Maria (piano teacher), Mrs. Morrison (high school music teacher), and Dr. Bina John.
One place which has always had a positive impact on me is my church. If I had any doubts in myself, or my music abilities, playing at church would always uplift me and give me back the confidence I needed.
Q: What’s the most worthwhile investment around $100 or less?
A: The most worthwhile investment has to have been my Ukulele. I play it at least once a week, it’s the most portable instrument I have, and you can learn so many different aspects of music on it. Overall, it’s small but it’s mighty — the mighty Ukulele.
Q: If you could have a gigantic billboard that could reach millions of people, what would it say and why?
A: It would say, “Music is the literature of the heart, it commences where speech ends”. This is something I believe people can really reflect on, and it speaks on the power of music in our lives.
After asking our questions, we had a short conversation with Janelle about her experience with Tanzania and the Tanzanite. Janelle experiences the Tanzanian culture through music at every party, language as heard at home, and food we all continue to enjoy. Throughout the years, Janelle has attended most of the Tanzanite events, where she has witnessed the pride that we as a community have for our culture. She said, “It’s nice to see how strong of an influence Tanzania has for the older generation. You can tell how much people love back home, and it’s really important for us to honour where we come from by trying to implement some aspect of the culture into our lives. Perhaps we can learn how to cook a few dishes, make an effort to attend more Tanzanite events, and simply to listen to the stories that the elders in our community are telling is. The last thing we want is for our culture to get lost.”
Q: Do you have any advice for people in our community?
A: Considering how fast our world is changing, it’s important to be open to new ideas and to understand where people are coming from. Coming up with new ideas and ways to move forward doesn’t mean that we’re forgetting about our roots, rather it shows that we’re making our own story. That being said, It’s important that we stay true to our roots and be respectful of them.
It was a pleasure getting to interview Janelle to hear her story. We had an amazing time getting to speak with her, and we hope you enjoyed reading this article! Janelle Demello just graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education. In September, she will be starting her Master of Teaching degree at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. We look forward to continuing to hear Janelle throughout her journey.
Stay tuned for our next post in “Our Community Stories”, and check out Janelle’s amazing videos below!