Juno winner conquers classroom by day, studio by night

While her nights are spent crafting her next musical masterpiece, Diana Panton’s days are spent moulding young minds at Westdale Secondary School in Hamilton.

The Juno award-winning artist, and Brock University alumna, performs a delicate balancing act between her time in the classroom and in the studio.

The Canadian jazz vocalist is a two-time Juno winner and five-time nominee, most recently taking home the 2017 Children’s Album of the Year award for her latest studio release, I Believe in Little Things. She previously took home the Juno for Vocal Jazz Album in 2015 for Red.

While Panton (BEd ’04) takes great pride in her musical accomplishments, she also has a rewarding career as a French immersion drama and visual arts teacher.

Fuelling the fire for both passions is no easy task, but one that is made manageable by good organizational skills.

“I try to pass these skills along to my students and model for them how to keep themselves organized,” Panton says.

She tries to focus on music when school is out — during March Break, Christmas holidays and throughout the summer.

“It means that I don’t get much down time,” she says, “but it is important for me to incorporate my music into my life.”

Panton realized long ago she would have to learn to travel down both distinct paths simultaneously, with careers in teaching and music, in order to find herself fulfilled.

She used that knowledge as motivation when she became a teacher candidate at Brock’s Hamilton campus.

Panton found herself inspired by the “wonderful community spirit that was fostered at Brock,” which she feels endures years later in her new role as an alumna.

That was recently seen, she says, when her former Brock French instructor Gail Phillips reached out to offer congratulations on the latest Juno win.

It was a touching gesture for Panton, who was inspired by Phillips’ notion in the classroom that by making learning more fun, it is often more successful.

“She showed us how to incorporate games and music into our lessons to make them more engaging,” she says.

Panton credits Brock for helping her to learn “a plethora of valuable techniques and strategies.

“The instructors were very caring and supportive,” she says. “They helped build confidence, which is such an integral part of the learning process.”

Hoping to provide some inspiration of her own, Panton had some staunch advice for Brock students balancing more than one passion.

“Where there is a will there is a way,” she says.

“If you are passionate about something, you will carve out the time and your passion will fuel you to do what you love. Remember that you do not need to follow in someone else’s footsteps — this is your life and you can forge your own path, however unconventional it might be.”

Panton’s music is available on iTunes.


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