Retired Island math teacher launches new career, picks up German hip-hop award

Lorraine Baron is an award-winning math teacher turned German music award-winning hip-hop artist. The 57-year-old Qualicum Beach resident talked to us about her career in education, getting back into music and her new album, Elle Chante/She Sings (info at lorrainebaron.com).

Q: What was the closest you ever came to making or performing music before writing and recording this album?

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A: A long time ago, in Grade 11, when I lived in Ottawa, I had a band for a couple of months. We were doing these little gigs. Before that, I was on television starting when I was 10 years old. Every Christmas my mom would work at this local cable channel and I’d have to sing 10 songs in French and 10 songs in English. I got used to being onstage. But then life takes over.

Q: When did you discover your love of math?

A: I started school a year early. My mom kept drilling me with multiplication tables and I was ahead of my class. It’s not so much that I like math but I like teaching it to other people. Even in early grades, I was tutoring kids and I just loved helping them understand and see the light go on in their eyes.

Q: Your new album is about your French-Canadian ancestry. Is this a recent interest?

A: About 20 years ago I started looking into my ancestry. There wasn’t much online at the time, but I connected with a few people who had the same fourth or fifth great-grandparents and we were able to combine information. I didn’t know my father very well so I wanted to know a bit more about my family. After I retired, I increased my family tree numbers to about 2,000.

Q: And then you decided to write some songs?

A: Every time I write a song I think, “Can I sing this in French as well?” It’s kind of a two-for-one idea. It’s tricky because if you translate French, you end up with 25 per cent more words. But it sounds just as beautiful. Then it dawned on me that I could combine this interest in my French-Canadian past with writing songs in French and English, and put out a truly Canadian album.

Q: Unlike your collaboration with Gunnar Nanuk, who is from Ludenscheid, Germany, on his track Get Out.

A: That’s interesting too. I just met him on SoundCloud. He liked some of my stuff and he asked if I wanted to collaborate. He’s also retired, had to work and wasn’t much of a musician before. We Google-translated to understand each other and connected on social justice issues and did this collaboration. He’s a really good hip-hop artist. It’s German hip-hop, so it’s a bit more pop. We ended up winning a GEMA, which is from the German Music Foundation, and it’s for the production of the English version of this song.

Q: How does winning that award compare with winning the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence in 2006?

A: That matters so much to me because my students made it possible. I think we think we’re going to go into teaching and the kids are going to love us and it’s going to be like in a movie. But it’s a lot of hard work. A lot of teachers work really hard and many don’t get recognition. I just happen to be one of the ones who did. So I’m super thankful for that.

Q: So it doesn’t compare?

A: They’re so different. I think I’d just say, “Hey, I’m super grateful for winning a teaching award, and winning this music award is really cool, too.”

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