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Saint James Music Academy – Changing lives through music

Posted by SVP Vancouver

The Saint James Music Academy (www.sjma.ca) began as a response to the needs of Vancouver’s inner-city children who have limited access to quality music education due to socio-economic issues and cuts to public school funding for the arts.  The initial vision for the Academy, conceived in 2006, came from a mother of school-aged children living in the Downtown Eastsid.

Kathryn Walker, executive director, recognized the limited opportunities for children and approached community partners and St. James Church to secure a location and seed funding to begin a high quality Music Academy to serve the musical aspirations of children and youth from low-income families but also to use music as a gateway for social change. The orchestra program is inspired by the renowned Venezuelan El Sistema program.

The Academy, now in its fifth year, currently runs four days per week with over 275 children participating across three elementary schools and two secondary schools in Vancouver’s eastside.  The goals of the program are to:

  • To bring classical music education into local disadvantaged school communities
  • To ensure that all children, regardless of the financial limitations of their school or family, can benefit from a music education
  • To raise awareness within the community of our intensive after school program
  • To build a foundation of music literacy and appreciation prior to entering our after-school program

SVP is assisting in the development of a 5-year strategic plan and to implement a fundraising plan to ensure the long-term sustainability of the organization.