Villa Maria students past and present were joined by teachers from the school for a march through the borough streets of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce Saturday.
The group of more than 100 protesters were marching to vent their frustration with the the high school’s decision to end its private music program.
Demonstrators chanted in harmony from the Villa Maria high school campus down to Girouard Park, where they listened to speeches and songs.
Last January, Villa Maria high school parents were informed of the closing of the beloved music program by email, which surprised parent and SOS Villa Maria Collective member Maureen Marovitch.
“We had no word of this — just a couple months earlier, people were getting tours of the music school, so it was quite a shock to us,” Marovitch said.
The school claimed that not enough newly enrolled students were attending the program, but Alfred Lagrenade, who has been a music teacher at Villa Maria for the past 15 years, disagrees.
“We have more and more students each year,” Legrenade said. “I do not know where they got that information.”
The high school will continue to run a music program with large group classes, but will end its individualized music program.
Villa Maria alumni Eva Stone-Barney credits the private program for helping her learn more about the arts — and about herself.
“The private option allowed me to take voice lessons, something that isn’t offered in other music curriculum,” Stone-Barney said. “I also took part in the school musicals, but it really just built up my confidence.”
Cello player and secondary three student Anika Finch says the mood in the school has changed since the announcement.
“I think that everyone is less happy, at least the girls in the music school — and the teachers too, they don’t seem to into it anymore.”
In a press release Villa Maria high school says, “the decision to put an end to the Private Music School activities was a very difficult one which was not made lightly.”
The decision is one that strays from the school’s 164 years of history with providing music education, Marovitch said.
“These are changes that don’t reflect the history of the school — we understand the need for progress, but music is still part of our future.”
Students and organizers hope the demonstration will help change the decision.
The private music program is scheduled to end this June.