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Remarkable Teacher

Photo of Chantal Kreviazuk, a celebrated musician and singer, with Raine Maida, the lead vocalist of Our Lady Peace. Chantal Kreviaszuk looks at the acoustic guitar that Raine Maida is playing.

Striking a Chord

Chantal Kreviazuk and Raine Maida reflect on the teachers who shaped and encouraged their careers.

BY Richard Ouzounian
Photos: Kharen Hill; provided By Ridley College

"Every student’s journey takes a lifetime, and every student is unique.” Raine Maida, Canadian rock superstar and lead vocalist of Our Lady Peace, knows what he’s talking about. Now 49, he’s been on that journey since he was 12 years old.

His wife, the equally celebrated musician Chantal Kreviazuk, agrees with him completely. “Human beings are always developing,” she says. Her path to a career in music started at the age of five, and that career is still going strong 40 years later.

A wide range of teachers in both Ontario and Manitoba influenced Kreviazuk and Maida. They’re eager to discuss and thank those teachers, but the most current marker in their road is an album and a documentary film, both released this year, which share the title I’m Going to Break Your Heart.

The album and the film capture just how ruthlessly honest the pair are with each other, with their lives and with their work. “It was a holistic project,” allows Maida. “Chantal and I are two different forces, two dynamic individuals who sometimes clash, but who also know they’ve got to find a balance.”

“We had been building up to this for years,” Kreviazuk says, and laughs. “Everything was practise for this moment.”

Kreviazuk grew up in Winnipeg and two institutions simultaneously handled her education: Balmoral Hall School for academics and the Manitoba Conservatory of Music & Arts for piano.

“Three different women shaped me over the years,” remembers Kreviazuk. “In Grade 1, there was Mrs. Kim. She was very firm but good for me. I had been playing by ear, but she taught me the way things were done.

“Then came Mrs. Riske. She wanted to gear me toward excellence. She was like that in every aspect of her life: her playing, her home, her personal style,” says Kreviazuk. “I was scared at every lesson. Not scared of her but scared that I wouldn’t deliver what she required of me.” She adds, “But she set that bar so high because she believed I could make it.”

“Mrs. Machovec was next and she encouraged me to improvise. She loved music so much, she was just radiant. She would smile and glow and never get angry,” says Kreviazuk

Maida’s education took a far less linear path. He describes it as “a series of peaks and valleys.” He first went to All Saints Roman Catholic School in Etobicoke, Ont., in the early 1980s, and says at the time he had the sense that “there was some kind of creativity out there waiting for me to connect with it, but I couldn’t figure out what it was.”

And then he got the answer. He remembers a teacher introducing him to the Beat Poets, including Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Maida recalls, “In a few years I was writing my own free-form, stream-of-consciousness stuff, but I loved music too, and after a while I started putting the two together.”

Photo of former Ridley headmaster H. Jeremy Packard smiling and standing outside a building and a photo of former assistant headmaster Maurice R. Cooke, smiling.
Former Ridley headmaster H. Jeremy Packard and assistant headmaster Maurice R. Cooke.

In high school two teachers together helped guide Maida’s career in a significant way: H. Jeremy Packard and Maurice R. Cooke, who were – respectively – the headmaster and assistant headmaster at Ridley College (an independent university preparatory school in St. Catharines, Ont.) during Maida’s time there.

“You never know how your life is going to work out, or which people are going to have the most significant impact on it,” Maida admits. “When my parents sent me to Ridley, it was challenging, taking me away from my friends and everything I felt comfortable with.” He adds, “But I think in the end, it saved my life. It certainly changed it.”

The young man who looked back on those years in Naveed, the first album from Our Lady Peace, was certainly troubled, dealing with anger over the crumbling of his parents’ marriage, despair over friends’ attempted suicides and frustration with not knowing where he was meant to go.

It all played out at Ridley, under the watchful eyes of Packard and Cooke. “I remember at first just thinking of them as the guys in charge,” says Maida. “They were strong and solid, but I never thought I’d get to know them, or that they’d get to know me. That certainly changed as the years went on.

“My career at Ridley was a bit checkered,” says Maida dryly, “but Mr. Packard and Mr. Cooke knew how to dig below the surface.

“It’s like there were two guys struggling inside of me during my years there, and that’s not surprising because I was still coming to grips with my parents’ divorce and everything else going around inside of me,” he says.

On one hand, Maida started a student band, excelled at many sports and was a natural leader. “Ridley had a strong sense of community and part of me was really drawn to that,” remembers Maida. “I needed something solid in my life right then.”

On the other side of the ledger, he admits, “I was really struggling with the whole regimen there. And I was so heavily into music, it mattered more to me than anything else. Anything.” He adds, “I would sneak into St. Catharines on Saturday nights to play gigs at pizza parlours or punk rock clubs. And in those days, you weren’t even allowed to leave campus on a Saturday night!”

Packard and Cooke knew about Maida’s weekend activities and saw his priorities were shifting. Cooke called him into his office and the three of them had a “frank discussion.” Maida was sure they were going to expel him, but they didn’t. “I was prepared for anger and discipline, but instead I got a level of understanding I’d never known in my life,” says Maida. While they were clear that Maida couldn’t go on breaking the rules and leaving campus to play rock shows, they also recognized the central role music was likely to occupy in his life.

“You’ve done great things here at Ridley,” Packard told him, pointing to the student band and the Amnesty International concert Maida had helmed. He added, “It’s obvious that music is the most important thing to you.”

Both teachers encouraged him to stay true to his calling and pursue his passion. So he did, and within three years, he had co-founded Our Lady Peace.

The support they felt from teachers in their growing years left Maida and Kreviazuk with a strong sense of how young people ought to be treated. “It’s what we always say in our house,” Maida volunteers, thinking about their three sons. “Don’t ever kill a kid’s dream.”

In this profile, notable Canadians honour the teachers who have made a difference in their lives and have embraced the College’s Ethical Standards for the Teaching Profession, which are care, respect, trust and integrity.