It’s a milestone for young Edmonton maestros.
After learning music basics and proper instrument care with plastic and cardboard versions, 20 students graduated to the real thing on Tuesday.
The Youth Orchestra of Northern Alberta (YONA)-Sistema program offered by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra gives kids in Grade 2 and up three-hour music lessons, five days a week during the school year. The program, based on a Venezuelan music project, will follow participants until they graduate high school.
Now in its sixth year, YONA-Sistema has grown from 20 to 85 youths with the aim to foster community in Edmonton’s forgotten crannies.
“It uses music as a vehicle for social change,” said Amanda Banister, associate director of musical creativity at the Winspear Centre.
“Music is so important because it allows children to develop a sense of teamwork,” she explained. “It gives them a skill for them to hone that’s completely their own. They can take that skill back to their family, they can take it into their community and it builds a lot of pride, collaboration and teamwork.”
Private donations keep the free program pulsing and gives kids access to orchestral instruments — viola, violin, cello, double bass — that aren’t taught in the public school system.
“That’s a unique experience for them that they wouldn’t typically get in their regular school day,” Banister said.
YONA-Sistema collaborates with St. Alphonsus School, St. Teresa of Calcutta and Victoria School of the Arts to bring the dynamic program to life.