New after-school program aimed at teaching children music and community

Former Prince Albert Concert Band director Kathleen Clarke leads her musicians through rehearsals. The band’s next performance is at the John M. Cuelenaere Public Library auditorium on Saturday night. (File photo)

Firebird North Sistema Music Project will be a new after-school program for children in under-serviced communities to learn an instrument, form bonds, and build community.

Firebird North is modeled after the program, El Sistema, that began in Venezuela in 1975. Jose Abreu, an amateur musician, began offering violin lessons to local children who had nothing to do and were getting into trouble. Soon after, he had an orchestra and the program became a powerful vehicle for social change in his community. News of the program has spread from Venezuela to all over the world.

After learning about El Sistema in March, Kathleen Clarke knew she had to bring the program to her community.

“I could just see how that could be such a positive movement and, I mean, anywhere that you see kids living in poverty, you know that their access to programs isn’t as available to them.” she said. “That’s why we hoped to build something like that”.

For three hours after every school day, children will practice orchestra, yoga, have a snack, and practice choir.

Kids will have the chance to perform for the community every four to six weeks and will also host special guests who wish to share their special talents with the Firebird North children.

The program is free of charge and will be launching this fall at King George Community School. Clarke says her dream is to provide this program to all children within Prince Albert.

“For the first year, because you have to start somewhere, we’re starting at King George. Of course, the dream is to spread and continue to grow and move into other neighbourhoods. If we could continue to model ourselves after Venezuela, we would be able to eventually build programs in all the neighbourhoods of Prince Albert”.

Firebird North is currently seeking donations for instruments for the program. Clarke says they are specifically searching for ¼ sized and ½ sized violins, violas, and cellos.

Anyone interested in donating can visit www.firebirdnorth.com or contact Kathleen on their Facebook page, Firebird North Sistema Music Project.