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Gerry Rutten receives PEI Music Association Lifetime Achievement Award

by Patricia Roy

Gerry RuttenGerard L. Rutten, (Gerry) received the Prince Edward Island Music Awards Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the awards show finale November 20, at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown. He, along with school superintendent Dr. Kenneth A. Parker and then Charlottetown Mayor Walter J. Cox, was instrumental in setting up the band program in the City of Charlottetown school system in 1966-67.

As a result of that endeavor, several thousand Islanders learned to play an instrument and over 50 of his former students are earning their living as professional musicians, the majority of them are music teachers. Says Gerry, “I used to think that maybe 10 would be able to make a living as professionals musicians, but 50 is really quite something.”

Rutten, who is the eldest of 11 children, all of whom are professional musicians and involved in education except one, came to this country from the Netherlands as a musician with the Royal Canadian Dragoons Band in 1955. He left the Canadian Army Band in 1964.

While attending summer school at Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B., that summer in 1964, he met Sister Mary Winnifred McIver and she strongly encouraged him to come to Prince Edward Island to teach. After teaching at Queen Charlotte high school for a couple of years, he moved to the newly constructed Colonel Gray high school for the 1966-67 school year.

Rutten explained that although there were many community bands in the province, there was no instrumental music programs in any school at that time. “It was new to the schools and just starting up everywhere in the country,” he added.

With a grand sum of $50,000 from the City of Charlottetown, instruments were purchased and from there the band program extended all over the Island.

Following a one-year sabbatical in 1972-73, during which time Rutten studied at UPEI, he became music coordinator for 23 schools in the Unit Three school system. He spend the last 10 years of his teaching career at Englewood School in Crapaud, where he now lives.

The teacher became a student once again following his retirement in 1994. He graduated from the University of Victoria with a Master of Education with a major in conducting in 1997.

Rutten was also director of music for the Prince Edward Island Regimental Band from 1967 to 1978, and from 1996 to 2002 he directed the Island’s oldest band, the Miscouche Community Band. In 1998 he co-founded the Strathgartney Chamber Choir and Chamber Orchestra, which he still directs while also teaching music courses at the Senior College at UPEI for the past four years.

Rutten and his wife Nellie have three grown children and three grand children.

“I wouldn’t have been able to have the busy life in music without Nellie’s support,” he emphasized. “I consider myself blessed to have had a career I really enjoyed, and I still love teaching, and volunteer in music because I love it.”

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