When Saint James Music Academy enrolled its first students in 2007, twelve-year old Rachel was among them, a young person with no previous musical education but, like every child, filled with potential. Living with her single mother in a Downtown Eastside social housing unit, the resources for an “elective” such as music were simply not available. Rachel attended SJMA regularly, and little by little the results became evident. She grew in every way: artistically, intellectually, and socially. And when she shifted her music interest from violin to piano, she found her true passion. As Rachel matured she was also invited to enroll in the SJMA Mentorship Program, where she proved to be an outstanding role model to younger students. Rachel attended SJMA for six years – two of these with the support of SVP Vancouver – to eventually become the first student to ever graduate from SJMA’s Senior Program.
And what a graduate! Honoured at her high school as an International Baccalaureate, graduating in the top five percent in sciences, Rachel also took her Grade 8 Royal Conservatory piano examinations, obtaining first class honours. Rachel then applied to UBC, faculty of science, where she studies today.
Of her journey through SJMA and her recent change Rachel says, “The transition to university hasn’t been smooth sailing, but it hasn’t been a hurricane either. I learned how to prioritize and manage my time in high school when I was focusing on piano and coming to St James Music Academy. They supported me in my musical and personal growth. I feel that the constant presence of music in my life has helped me stay grounded and in tune with my family, community, and self. Music opens doors. And the doors of Saint James were always open.”
At last year’s Summer Concert the audience was delighted to hear Rachel play, and later, to see the surprise on her face when she received a bursary gift to help her with her university studies. With the support of SVP Vancouver and others, SJMA was able to bring Rachel the gift of music, which in turn is a gift that brings so much more. Empowerment. Community-mindedness. Self-determination. Success. Open doors. The mandate of SJMA is shown in the life of Rachel: social change. For the better.
“When it all comes down to it,” says Rachel, “I would not be where I am today without the Saint James Music Academy experience.”