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Making orchestral music in the inner city

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Sistema Winnipeg is a free after-school musical program for children run by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra in partnership with Seven Oaks School Division and Winnipeg School Division.

Guest speaker Judith Flynn spoke about Sistema Winnipeg at the Jon Sigurdsson Chapter Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire monthly meeting at Betelstadur  Housing Co-Op on Sargent Avenue.

According to the Sistema Winnipeg pamphlet, the program is based on "the revolutionary El Sistema program in Venezuela. The goal of Sistema Winnipeg is to inspire children and youth, and to have a positive impact on their lives and society as a whole."

It is definitely a worthwhile cause.

The children in the program learn to play an instrument and have the experience of being a part of an orchestra. The choices so far for instruments are violin, viola, cello, double bass, flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, French horn and tuba.

The instruments are free and are kept at school for the children to use every day. However, this is not just a music class as the children also develop other skills while they participate, such as increased literacy, learning how to work as a team and helping others.

They also develop increased self-confidence and self-esteem, and gain a greater feeling of belonging.

This program keeps children off the streets that otherwise might get into trouble while their parents are working. It enhances many skills, including music.

The great thing  about it is that to enter the program children do not require to have any previous music training — however, they and their parents must be willing to make a commitment. Parents must support their children and students must promise to attend every day (five days a week) and to do their best.

Parents interested in Sistema Winnipeg can attend an information session that will be provided by the schools participating in the program.

To date, these have been inner city schools. Registration forms will be handed out and parents can fill them out and hand then to the school office.

Everyone is welcome but space is limited.

Judith Flynn spoke to the IODE as part of campaign aimed at reaching more sponsors for the program. To be able to expand and offer it to more children each year, more funds are required.

If you are interested in supporting Sistema Winnipeg, or to find out more about it you can visit sistemawinnipeg.ca or phone Tanya Derksen at the WSO at 204-949-3964.

Arny Hjaltadottir is a community correspondent for the West End.

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