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School Presentation

" Jim's integration of first-class musicianship, extensively researched historical data, stories and superb photos and artwork provide a uniquely effective learning experience.  "THE LAST BEST WEST" presentation is a valuable resource.  What an enjoyable way for students to grasp this important segment of our history."

Ted Thorne, Principal (retired) of Millarville and Longview Schools, Alberta  -  awarded one of Canada's outstanding Principals, 2007 

"Our school division had Jim Reader for three consecutive school days in two different elementary schools. Jim's music and message were very well received by students and staff alike.  I highly recommend Jim for a presentation in your school or community."

Selway L. Mulkey, Principal (retired), Nye County School District, Nevada, USA

"This is a masterful collaboration of insightful songwriting, poetry and visual effects to commemorate our Western Heritage."

Trent Worthington, Past Acting Artistic Director, PROCORO Canada, Canada's Professional Chamber Choir, Edmonton, AB

THE SHOW:   (see detailed list below of what topics are addressed throughout)

Through dialogue, stories, songs and visual enhancements, Jim illustrates that cattle and the North American Cowboy played a key role in the development of our Western Canadian society.   The Last Best West format is a refreshing, enlightening and effective method of communicating this integral and often forgotten part of our history.  You could say this presentation is "edu-tainment".


All the material Jim performs is written by him.  The story-lines are 'mostly' historically correct, but ya can't blame a cowpoke for enhancin' the truth a tad!  Jim's descriptions of land, people, animals, and their interrelationships are so vivid that audiences of any age will feel the wind, smell the sage and taste the traildust in this ride through the old west.

THE VISUAL COMPONENT:  Photos and Artwork

The graphic history that Jim has compiled is extensive.  The visual augmentation is the real uniqueness to Jim's show. There are over 300 extensively researched historical slides and graphics that helps the audience "stay-in-tune" with the song's lyrics and theme.  This is accomplished via lap top to LCD projector to a big screen.  Jim provides the equipment if the venue cannot. 

A FINAL TWIST:  An Open Discussion of  Key Values, Behaviours and Manners of 'Code of the West"

This is powerful interactive discussion with the students which indirectly, but definitely addresses bullying.

  • Jim goes through a half dozen real life examples of behaving or adhering to "Code" and vice versa

Note from Jim:   Students never fail to pipe up to give their own real-life examples!   I am always truly amazed

at the level of participation and how anxious the students are to be recognized for their own adherence to the

values and principles of the "code".

The following areas are covered chronologically throughout "The Last Best West"

  • the hayday and doomsday of the buffalo

  • acquiring Rupert’s Land from Hudson’s Bay Co

  • “The Last Best West" marketing strategy to promote immigration and settlement

  • the need for, and the formation of the NWMP

  • famous NWMP Guide:  Jerry Potts

  • famous Cowboy:  First Black Cowboy in Alberta:  John Ware

  • the transition from the Open Range to the building of fences to settlements

  • the first cowboys, traditions, who they were, what they did, what they wore, tools of the trade

  • the first cattle and first huge sprawling ranches

  • all about the big Cattle Drives:   how, why, who, where and when 

  • all about the big Roundups: how, why, who, where and when

  • famous Indigenous Chiefs during the time of Northwest Rebellion

  • the influx of settlers/homesteaders and the proportionate downsizing of the large ranches

  • the end of the old cowboy ways, formation of Calgary Stampede signifies the end of an era

  • the future and maintenance of a long-standing and traditional way of life

2.  Creative Songwriting Workshop

      One classroom/workshop:   +/- 30 students is best

Jim's songwriting workshop is truly a powerful method of skills development and effective learning.  It is a fun and rewarding way to promote a wider range of knowledge, understanding and skill.  Student growth and enhancement can occur in the areas of spiritual, moral, social, cultural, self-esteem and emotional wellbeing.  It's so much easier to learn and for those attributes to 'sink-in' organically throughout this entire process.   See the 10 Touch Points below . . .

10 Key "Touch Points" that reach the students throughout the Songwriting Experience:

1.      Literacy:  Songwriting draws on vocabulary and rhyming, while forming thoughts, responses and feelings

2.      Math and Numeracy:  Rhythm, repetition, form and structure.  There are relations here with music and math

3.      Music:  An overall insight into how music is made, and a great chance to sing and perform their own creations

4.      Drama and Dance:  We can easily add actions to their finished words and music... all student driven

5.      Project Management, Problem Solving, Focus:   Patience and appreciation for 'real-life' process

         -  We go back and modify, re-modify, adjust, while remaining focussed and not expecting immediate results

6.      Personal Skills:  Turn taking -- listening, respect -- no shame in rejection of ideas -- resourcefulness -- teamwork

7.      Social Skills:   Democracy! -- students vote on phrases and melodies, gain appreciation how community works

8.       Assessment:  choosing with classmates to agree or disagree  ...  voting and deciding ... acceptance that majority rules

9.       Subject Matter:   Jim suggests song themes on topics the class is currently studying -- bolsters learning of that topic

10.     Senses of Achievement:  Students are bowled over with what they accomplish ... promotes self-confidence and esteem


Jim's Typical Songwriting Process (time permitting)

  • Jim utilizes guitar and/or piano (if available) for accompaniment throughout

  • Jim takes the role of facilitator, guide, coach -- not a decision maker, but does start things off with selection of two existing songs to rewrite lyrics to

  • The students are given specially prepared sheets on which to write lyrics ... laid out to be easily followed based on rhythm, syllables and rhyming 

  • Jim will discuss with teacher(s) what current topics/issues are being studied

  • The students will then vote on three topics/issues to write lyrics around.

  • For example, Jim might pick "She'll be Comin' Round the Mountain" for the first song on which to rewrite lyrics, then for the second song, a little something more sophisticated like "Can't Stop the Feelin'" from "Trolls" movie.

  • The third and final song will be their own choosing from the topic to different beats, rhythm, chord progressionss, verses, chorus -- examples given by Jim

  • All three compositions can be performed to other classes, to parents, etc.

  • The students' performance of the songs can be recorded simply and uploaded to the web where students, friends and family can listen at their leisure.