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Sistema: Music classes to inspire social change

June 18, 2024
min read

Sistema Winnipeg is eliminating financial barriers to give all children the opportunity to learn, play, and perform music!

A music instructor and a child playing an instrument

What role does music play in your life?

For some, music is a creative passion and a form of self-expression; for others, it’s tied to their most cherished memories.

For low-income families, music classes for children can be out of reach due to financial barriers.

Sistema Winnipeg is eliminating those barriers to give all children the opportunity to learn, play, and perform music!

The Sistema program is a unique partnership between the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Seven Oaks School Division, and the Winnipeg School Division. The program encourages youth in at-risk communities to reach their full potential and inspire greater social change in the community through accessible music education!

Katie Yablecki, Manager of Individual Giving and Stewardship at the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, and Jeffrey Acosta, Manager of Sistema.

For over 15 years, Cambrian has supported the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra through our annual donations. We were recently given the opportunity to visit Elwick Community School and learn about the impact of this program on the students.

On our visit, we saw firsthand how confident children were when playing music, the strong connections they had with teachers and other students in the program, and the supportive, safe environment Sistema fosters.

It goes to show how important it is to support programs like Sistema, that take away financial barriers to safe spaces, nourishment, and education for children.

What is Sistema?

Sistema is an international program providing free after-school music education to children. Founded in 2011, Sistema Winnipeg is part of the Seven Oaks School Division curriculum, and acts as an extension of the school day.

The program runs from 3:30-6:00 PM every weekday. That gives children 12 additional hours per week of quality time with teachers and mentors.

Sistema eases the burden of childcare for working parents, who may not be available to watch their kids right after school.

“Any costs the kids might face in the program are completely covered,” says Jeffrey Acosta, Manager of Sistema. “That includes instruments, food, and transportation and shirts for performances.”

Every weekday, students are provided:

  • An instrument.
  • Instruction from a professional music teacher.
  • A nutritious snack.
  • A safe space to learn, grow, and flourish where they make friends and memories to last a lifetime.

Thanks to the financial support provided by the WSO, Sistema is able to offer all of this at no cost to the families. “Sistema truly makes such a difference for the kids,” says Jeffrey.

Currently, Sistema Winnipeg serves up to 150 children from grades 1-12 at two main school communities: Elwick Community School and King Edward Community School.

“It takes a village to run this program,” says Jeffrey (who went to elementary school at Elwick!)

On top of music education, Sistema provides children with nutritious snacks every day, from bannock pizza to fresh fruits and vegetables.

By providing healthy foods as part of the program, kids have the energy to focus on their lessons (and get the nutrients they need). It also motivates children to attend their lessons.

Sistema hosts performances throughout the year, so students have the opportunity to perform in front of friends, family, and the community!

All instruments are provided by Sistema – options include:

  • Violin
  • Viola
  • Cello
  • Bass
  • Flute
  • Clarinet
  • French horn
  • Trumpet

Community impact

How is Sistema making a difference in the community? It’s more than just music classes – it also helps with students’ socio-emotional development.

A study about the long-term benefits of the Sistema program found:

  • Significant growth in musical ability. Some children demonstrated musical skills comparable to a first-year university-level music study!
  • Teachers and parents consistently report that Sistema students perform well academically in school.
  • Attendance & arrival times improved, while school suspensions decreased for all children in the program.
  • Students scored highly on self-reports for confidence, sense of belonging, and respect for cultural differences. Sistema helps kids build social skills along with their musical talent!
  • High school students act as mentors for younger kids in the program. This volunteer experience helps them build their resumes!

Supporting our community

Even though Sistema partners with school divisions, it does not receive any government funding. The program relies on donor funding to operate, from buying nutritious snacks for students to paying music teachers.

Cambrian is proud to support a program making such an impact in the community.

“Sistema Winnipeg is such a special and life-changing program for many students (and staff), all coming from different walks of life,” says Jeffrey.

“We are very grateful for the support that Cambrian Credit Union provides for the program!”

Cambrian is proud to support programs like Sistema, which leave a lasting impact in the community! To learn more about the organizations we support, visit our Sponsorships & Donations page.

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