Mary Piercey – Reconciliation in Nunavut Through Music

Year: 2021 — Territory: Nunavut
Certificate of Achievement Recipient

Inuksuk High School
Grades 9 to 12 - music
Iqaluit, Nunavut


“The impact that Dr. Mary Piercey has had on students and the education program in Iqaluit is profound and cannot be overstated. The power of music, in the Nunavut context, is the ability to aid in beginning the process of reconciliation for the trauma that continues to exist in indigenous communities due to historical colonialism.”


Teaching Approach

Mary’s teaching philosophy is one where artistry intersects with social activism – music education supporting social justice. Music is used as a portal to Inuit culture, language, and identity. Her approach is based on connection. Through music, students connect with elders, the land, Inuktitut language, Inuit culture, traditional Inuit knowledge, and with each other.

One cannot underestimate the significant obstacles faced by Nunavut students: the historical injustices, social issues such as over-crowded housing, lacking economic opportunities, poor health, substance abuse and staggering suicide rates. For many students, Mary’s music program is a life-line, bringing motivation and purpose, keeping them in school, and helping prevent tragic personal outcomes.

In the Classroom

Music is a basic component in the emotional, cultural, and intellectual development of a student. Mary’s music programs lead students to be critical thinkers. They are taught to empower themselves to question, to assess, to take control over their own actions and to be responsible decision makers. Students develop the ability to process information objectively, with insight, with fair judgment, and without bias. The skills cultivated through the study and practice of music in Mary’s class inform and support the entire school curriculum.

Mary’s Choral Music program helps students to develop competencies and to strive for excellence. They discover, develop, and evaluate their musical talents and abilities. The program also offers students the opportunity to interpret rhythm, melody, harmony, form, and expression as they appear in musical notation. Students also develop the ability to make aesthetic judgments based on critical listening and analysis of music.

Outstanding Achievements

Mary’s reach extends far beyond her classroom in Iqaluit. Her students are in constant demand for performances. Under her leadership and guidance, her students perform at various events. In Iqaluit, the Inuksuk Drum Dancers have performed in concerts with the Gryphon Trio, the Ensemble Made in Canada, and the National Arts Centre Orchestra. At all these concerts, the finale numbers were arranged by Dr. Mary Piercey-Lewis so that southern professional musicals could play Inuit music with northern students. Last February, the group sang at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. They have traveled to share Inuit music and culture in Alaska, Greenland, Ottawa, Toronto, Charlottetown, Grande Prairie, Puvirnituq and more.

She writes choral arrangements of Inuit songs for the Inuksuk Drum Dancers. Dr. Piercey-Lewis’ publication, Inuit Inngiusingit: A Collection of Inuit Choral Music (Inhabit Media 2016), is a songbook for students, teachers, and musicians who are interested in learning Inuit music. There are fifteen songs transcribed from Inuit musicians. Students and teachers will find the musical arrangements and the accompanying compact disc useful in encouraging the singing of Inuktitut songs in the classroom and at home. A second textbook will be released in the new year.

Of note, this year Mary won the Juno Award for MusiCounts teacher of the year.

Get in touch!

Inuksuk High School
P.O. Box 487
Iqaluit, NU  X0A 0H0
Twitter: @InuksukHigh
Facebook: @ inuksukhighschool