An after-school music program in Toronto geared towards low-income families is at risk of closing its doors by the end of the year as the organization faces financial pressures as a result of the pandemic.
As Matt Campbell’s fingers glide across the keyboard, a sweet melody fills the Cabbagetown Community Arts Centre (CCAC).
“I just started pressing keys down and I just realized maybe I should try piano,” he said.
Campbell and his 9-year-old sister, Parami, have been enrolled in the centre’s after-school music programs for more than four years.
“It’s fun. Sometimes when I do it, I learn new stuff and when I go to music class at school I know the answers,” Parami said.
Through the charity, more than 100 kids like Matt and Parami from low-income households have been able to learn how to play everything from the piano to the drums. But after more than 40 years of offering these programs, the non-profit is now on the brink of closure.
“As all non-profits, we are facing funding crunches,” said executive director Glen Loucks.
Loucks says a rent increase, combined with recently losing a number of donors and struggling to pay off pandemic loans, has put the organization in a tough spot financially. In an effort to stay afloat, the CCAC has since launched an online fundraiser, with a goal of raising $25,000.
The charity is one of the only after-school music programs catered to low-income families in the Cabbagetown area.
“Kids that are from low-income families don’t have (the) same opportunities to experience (music). And what I’ve found is they are very enthusiastic when offered the opportunity,” Loucks said.
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Since 1979, Loucks says the CCAC has been been providing kids with a sense of purpose both inside and outside the studio.
“It engages the kids and keeps them away from activities that might be kind of harmful. It keeps them away from gangs and all the other stuff that unfortunately goes on in this neighbourhood.”
The program has even inspired kids like Matt to pursue music as a career.
“It helped me make music and made me go into a really incredible program at Toronto Metropolitan University.”
Loucks says the province has not been investing enough into accessible arts and youth programs, which has lead to a number of cuts across the city.
Parents like May Khing are concerned children will miss out on essential opportunities.
“If this place closes down, then where (are) these kids going to go?” she said.