Program hits the right note

A lack of music programs in local schools isn’t stopping Alexis Lawrence from learning the piano.

The young Guildwood resident is one of many children in grades one to six taking advantage of a new program offered by Scarborough Bluffs Music, an area committee determined to fill the gap.

“I bring her here because she showed an interest in music and she participates in what I believe is called rhythm and the piano program,” said Alexis’ father, Aldrick Lawrence.

Lawrence brings his daughter to the Scarborough Bluffs United Church Tuesday and Wednesday evenings so she can have the chance to learn and participate in an affordable music program.

They’re exactly what the program is looking for.

Jansen Xavier practices playing the piano at Scarborough Bluffs United Church Wednesday evenings.
Jansen Xavier practices playing the piano at Scarborough Bluffs United Church Wednesday evenings.

“We really want to do it as a service to the community, they’ve taken music out of the schools and some of the schools don’t do any music programs at all,” said Celia McGuiness, a member of the Scarborough Bluffs Music Committee.

Brother and sister Jansen and Janusha Xavier also come to the program accompanied by their mother Doren because of the affordable piano lessons and the activities offered by the program.

“They like piano and music and they’re very interested, that is why they enjoy coming,” Doren said.

It’s not just about affordable pricing, says McGuiness, the children get to interact with different cultures through music and learn about cooperation while still having fun.

“We’ve got Chinese, Caribbean, Indian, North American and Canadian backgrounds and they’re all mixed up together,” she said. “It’s a very ethnic area and we’ve just got a mixture from everywhere and they just come in and they join in together, no problem.”

Scarborough Bluffs Music program charges parents $2 a week for a rhythm class, where kids get to participate in a group and play the drums. It is $7 for three-quarters of an hour of guitar or piano classes.

McGuiness says qualified music teachers usually charge around $60 per hour. With just $2 or $7, children get to use the instruments and trained music teachers lead the classes.

Programs are primarily offered to children in grades one to six, however McGuiness said they are willing to make exceptions for those slightly under or over the age range.

“Every now and again someone comes in and says ‘My child is in senior kindergarten’ you know and they’ve got a sister or brother coming in and they want to come in together so we say ‘Okay,’ ” McGuiness said.

The program, started last September, was met with positive reaction from the community.

“We started … with just one class and we had about 20 kids enrolled in just the drumming but we didn’t have the instruments,” said McGuiness, who added that the program has received positive feedback in the community and schools now send the program’s flyers home with their students.

“We’ve talked to the principals and they’ve agreed that it’s a good program and so they’ve put [the flyers] through and we get quite a few children that way, ” she said.

Apart from the positive commentary from the local schools the community has also reached out to the program.

The Scarborough Bluffs United Church, located on Scarborough Golf Club Road and Eglinton Avenue East, provides space to the program for free.

Also last year United Way donated $7,000 to the program so that they could acquire more instruments.

McGuiness says she hopes the community will continue to reach out to the program because music is an important aspect in young children’s lives.
For more information, call 416-266-8352.