April 13, 2015 4:15 pm
Updated: April 14, 2015 6:11 pm

Regent Park School of Music uses a piano to unite students


WATCH: Pianimators is a one of a kind program initiated by the Regent Park School of Music, where students from Westview Centennial gather around a donated piano to learn about music and form friendships.

TORONTO –Regent Park School of Music has donated a piano to Westview Centennial Secondary School as a part of a pilot project called Pianimators, which offers music lessons without financial obstacles.

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“So Pianimators is one of our kind of alternative programs…that we’ve launched here in the Jane and Finch location at Westview. It’s simply a piano as a meeting place for kids to come and engage with our talented faculty and professional music educators,” said Richard Marsella, executive director at Regent Park School of Music.

The program supports music-making that’s not only engaging, but also flexible to the students’ schedules, while introducing diverse musical instruments. The piano is located at the front lobby of Westview, and students can stop and play the piano or sing along with other students whenever they pass by.

“Well, in my opinion I feel since we are in a high priority neighbourhood and you know we’re not really known for good things, it’s sort of like the community…is finally reaching out to us more and it’s really giving us all opportunities to get more in touch with music and just learn more about the arts,” said Lillian Grant, a grade 12 student at Westview Centennial.

There are after school jam sessions that are currently held three times a week where anybody can drop by, learn a new song, and explore a variety of musical styles.

Marsella said that music is a critical part of Toronto’s culture. “It’s vital to a healthy, thriving society and culture…our competition is not the other music schools…it’s gangs and any…kind of dark side or options that kids can go down.”

Westview Centennial is the “highest needs mainstream school in the province,” said Darryl Hobbs, Vice-Principal at Westview. “80 per cent of our students live below the poverty line,” he said. “If you’re living in social housing, you probably do not have access to a piano. And so this is an enormous opportunity for students not only to engage with a piano, but to receive support from enthusiastic volunteers as well.”

For Grant, this piano is providing her the opportunity to work with talented musicians and learn about music, both things she may have never had access to before. “I would never have any of these opportunities myself, and this has really given me a convenient way to learn about music.”

© 2015 Shaw Media

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