Music & Teamwork with Sistema!

Great Art is for everyone!
 

Emmanuel Ortega and Director David Halpine with a class of young musicians in the Sistema Music Program at Mah Sos School at Tobique First Nation

Emmanuel Ortega and Director David Halpine with a class of young musicians in the Sistema Music Program at Mah Sos School at Tobique First Nation
Img 2: Beginning the class with some rhythm

Sistema is a free daily program that is bringing transformative social change to communities through music and orchestra.
The program was begun in the barrios of Venezuela about 38 years ago to work with very poor and at risk children. 5 years ago, Sistema was begun in New Brunswick and has achieved such impressive results in that time that the NB program has become a leader in the program.
 

Sistema was begun at Mah Sos School in September of 2013. Violinist David Halpine is the director of the program. He was introduced to Sistema 2 years ago and was blown away by what the children in the program had achieved…..he attended a concert in which a full 130 piece orchestra of low income kids played their hearts out and he soon became involved in the program.
He was a physical education teacher living and working in Inuvik in the Northwest territories. He ended up packing up his family and moving across the country to become the director of the Sistema program at Tobique First Nation.
 

David and his wife Kim have settled with their 4 sons on a farm they bought in Tilley. When I asked David if they planned to have a garden or animals he paused, then told me that when they moved they brought their farm with them.
Four Nigerian Dwarf goats, two cats, two dogs and a rabbit all piled into the minivan and trailer as the Halpine family relocated to New Brunswick!
 

Beginning the class with some rhythm

Beginning the class with some rhythm

Sistema has proven to be a truly exceptional program that builds teamwork among low income and socially marginalized children.
New Brunswick, I learned to my dismay, is home to 8 of the 10 poorest postal codes in Canada. And, more disturbing information, we have the second lowest literacy and numeracy scores among the 10 provinces of our country.
These two statistics go hand in hand because if you’re unable to read and do simple math, you will likely stay poor.
 

The families whose children have taken part in the Sistema program in Moncton say that their lives have improved in every way, and that have become closer as families, simply because their children are now achieving social and musical goals they never could have dreamed of before Sistema entered their lives.
Music opens up a whole new world to these kids, stimulating their imaginations and brains in ways they never imagined existed!
 

Many people say that true happiness can be found in doing a job you love, and David says he absolutely loves bringing Sistema to the kids.
When I stopped in at a class to meet David I was struck by the array of colourful hand-made paper violins and cellos that were on display. David explained that as students begin in Sistema, their first project is to make their own paper and cardboard instrument.
 

Every class begins with students crafting their own paper instrument

Every class begins with students crafting their own paper instrument

The kids may paint them any way they like…these will become tools which they will learn how to hold and practice bow techniques on. David and Emmanuel both pointed out that you didn’t want to just turn a young child loose with a thousand dollar instrument before they’d learned how to handle it without dropping it!
 

Good point. The kids in the class I visited were in Kindergarten and Grade One, with one pre-schooler and a couple of grade two kids thrown in. A number of kids from Andover Elementary are also enrolled in the program.
The class opened with some rhythm exercises, hand clapping, foot stomping and singing and both teachers and students looked they were having a blast.
 

It was certainly a far cry from the regimented and critical music class I attended in the second grade!

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