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Sweet sounds of success

The Queen’s Conservatory of Music is working with the Joe Chithalen Memorial Instrument Lending Library (Joe’s MILL) and First Avenue Public School to launch Sistema Kingston. The after-school music program for at-risk children focuses on positive social change through the pursuit of musical excellence.

Sistema Kingston will work to bring the joy of music to local youth.

Sistema Kington emphasizes inclusivity and teamwork through its free, group-centred music instruction.  The program, designed to foster creativity and personal responsibility, is based on the Venezuelan El Sistema model, a publicly financed volunteer music education program.

“The traditional model of conservatory training is unfortunately viewed by some as elitist, and it can sometimes be a lonely way to do music,” says Karma Tomm, Director, Queen’s Conservatory of Music. “We want to get as many kids as possible making music together, and having fun doing it. Group music learning also helps children to develop social and personal skills that are applicable in all aspects of life.”

Sistema Kingston embraces the five principles of El Sistema:

  • Social Change – Social transformation through the pursuit of musical excellence. One happens through the other and neither is prioritized at the expense of the other.
  • Ensembles – The focus is on the group experience and working towards a common goal.
  • Frequency – Ensembles meet multiple times every week for multiple hours at a time over extended periods.
  • Accessibility – El Sistema program are free and inclusive to all.
  • Connectivity – The program fosters connectivity between students, teachers and families to build strong communities.

In its first year, Sistema Kingston will be housed at First Avenue Public School and will be open to 20 students from Grades 2 to 4. Qualified instructors from the Kingston community will lead the program with mentors, assistants and volunteers drawn from Queen’s, high school communities and youth support workers. Joe’s MILL will provide instruments for the program.

“The program also speaks to the university academic plan by giving students a chance to serve the community in a manner that complements their academic goals and pursuits,” says Ms. Tomm. “It’s a chance for Queen’s students to experience being mentors, actively participate in a unique teaching/learning environment, and contribute to the community.”

For more information on the program contact Ms. Tomm at 613-533-2934 or email tommk@queensu.ca.