Making Music and a Difference in Education: CJ Loane Leads in Song and School
“When I was younger, I didn't know what I wanted to do. I still don't know what I want to do," CJ Loane recalls. What he loves doing is helping guide young minds to explore their strengths and weaknesses to find opportunities that are a fit. He loves to see their excitement as they find new passions to explore.
He gets to do that work as an educational assistant in the Lord Selkirk school division in Manitoba and fronts a rock band called The Blood Shots. He grew up in Selkirk and is now working at the junior high school he once attended. Before working in the school system, Loane worked with individuals with special needs for twenty years after a brief career in journalism.
Going to college for TV and Radio Broadcasting got him working in the field in the North for a year, but he returned home and wasn’t able to find more work. Instead, he took a job working with a young man with intellectual disabilities and found himself getting referred to others, keeping him busy. To get where he is now, Loane took some courses through Red River College to learn about disabilities and inclusion.
Loane went on to do some work with the Selkirk Friendship Centre as a youth mentor and was nominated for an award at the Crystal Gala for empowering Indigenous youth. From there, he got work with the school division, trying out high school and elementary before settling on junior high.
His own passion for music crescendoed in elementary school, after he took a liking to rock and roll on MuchMusic. He taught himself to play guitar on a guitar he bought from the pawn show with his newspaper delivery money. Songwriting was a skill he developed over time. He had been in some bands for fun and decided to put together a group of guys to play some shows, with an overwhelming response. They’ve toured nationally and opened for big names in music like Buckcherry and Slash.
“My one true passion, I would say, is to make and perform music for people.”
What he loves most about making music is seeing people in the crowd enjoying his music, singing it back and hearing them scream for more. Knowing he made people happy brings him joy, thinking about how the music he wrote might have improved a bad day. Loane draws inspiration from the people he inspires through his creativity. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s not without its challenges.
In the music industry, Loane has faced geographical barriers and has felt like it’s tough to get anywhere in the industry. Things that seem like opportunities don’t always lead anywhere or if they do, they take a long time to come to fruition. He’s been trying to find the band a booking agent without success and in the past, he has dealt with disgruntled band members who quit or try to sabotage the band if their ideas aren’t embraced.
In comparison, working as a teachers assistant, he had years of smooth sailing before encountering workplace bullying and lateral violence. Some older colleagues were trying to get him into trouble and sabotage him. It was a draining thing to deal with and mostly petty drama he wanted no part of.
It reminded him of when he was growing up, when Loane dealt with anti-Indigenous racism. He learned to avoid those situations and focus on spending time with people who didn’t treat him that way. As an adult, he had to deal with things differently but he found a lot of support from his boss. He focuses on his goal: helping kids, and tries not to worry about people and their vendettas because he knows his manager is happy with his performance.
In the process of that uncomfortable situation, Loane learned about reaching out for help and not to suffer in silence. “There's always somebody willing to listen, or help you get through whatever the situation is, you’ve just got to go for it. It’s not being a burden,” he affirms.
His advice for students thinking of leaving their home community for work or school is to go for it. “You only get one shot at this. While you're young, while you have the world in front of you, just dive in, you know, it's, it's scary. It's nerve wracking, stressful, but you're going to get to a point in your life where those opportunities are going to be gone,” he suggests.
Loane wants to remind youth that family and everyone will still be there waiting and you can always come home, even from across the globe. “Do it for yourself. Do yourself a favour. Otherwise, I strongly feel like you'll regret it. There's more out there than what's outside your window and I feel like more people need to go see that,” he continues.
If he could give a message to his younger self it would be to focus harder in school and that it’s okay if you don’t know what you want to do. “In the end, you find what you're going to end up doing, what you're looking for. Sometimes when you're not even looking for it finds you,” he counsels. Loane feels like he could have worried less and studied more.
Something he thinks is really important for young people to learn is life skills, how to do their taxes, create a budget, make minor repairs and garden. The gardening program at his school is a big hit and he thinks that these life skills are a lot more important than pre-calculus exam grades or essays about Lord of the Flies.
In learning to manage his mental health, Loane learned he struggles with being idle. While rest is important, he tends to overthink all the things he should be doing. During the pandemic, he recorded music with his band, did some livestream concerts and spent time gardening.
In conclusion, Loane has words of encouragement for youth. “If there's any young people out there that feel lost, like they're going nowhere, uncertain about the future: just keep going. It gets better, all things change with time and you'd be surprised what you're capable of when the time calls for it,” he advises.
When he was younger, he didn't know what he wanted to do and in some ways, he still doesn’t. CJ Loane loves making music and helping guide young minds to explore their strengths. Seeing the excitement on their face gives him a rush like the joy of a crowd dancing to his music and in pursuing both paths, he’s able to march to the beat of his own drum. After all, he has his own band.
Future Pathways Fireside Chats are a project of TakingITGlobal's Connected North Program.
Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.