OverviewOrKidstra is a social development program for kids

OrKidstra is a social development program that empowers kids from under-served communities by teaching life skills – such as teamwork, commitment, respect and pride in achievement – through the universal language of music. With the passionate belief in the transformative power of music, OrKidstra started with 27 children in 2007 and now includes more than 700 children, ages 5 to 18, from 42 linguistic and cultural backgrounds.

OrKidstra is a registered charitable organization (# 83246 7153 RR0001). 


Our mission is to empower kids and build community through the universal language of music.

We do this by providing children from low-income families with free instruments and music lessons, which gives them the chance to learn important life skills through playing and singing together.


Our vision is a future where all children and youth have the opportunity to discover their voice and build their potential through music.


Our mandate is to give children from under-served communities the opportunity to learn and make music together, and the chance to benefit from the individual skills and community values inherent in music making.

Philosophy & InspirationCitizenship through musicianship

Our Philosophy

OrKidstra brings the joys and challenges of making music together to children who might otherwise be left out.

With over 700 children from over 42 cultural and linguistic backgrounds, OrKidstra is far more than a music program – it is first and foremost a social development program, giving children a sense of belonging and achievement and fostering life skills.

Our Sistema-inspired Philosophy:

  • Create extensive and intensive community connections.
  • Kid-powered performance; passion over precision.
  • Playing together teaches kids how to build a harmonious community.
  • Encourage peer-to-peer structure, which breaks down barriers and fosters friendship.
  • Create a sense of belonging with joy and fun.

The skills I learned at OrKidstra were more than just playing instruments: music helped me develop teamwork skills, increase self-confidence and build life-long friendships.

Ngoc Kim

OrKidstra graduate, fourth-year university commerce student

Our Inspiration

OrKidstra was inspired by the renowned El Sistema program, which has, over the last 43 years, proven to the world that music can be an agent of social change.

Tina Fedeski, Margaret Tobolowska and Gary McMillen founded OrKidstra in 2007. Originally known as The Leading Note Foundation as well as OrKidstra, the Ottawa-based organization was the first El Sistema inspired program outside of South America. At the heart of OrKidstra is the beautiful combination of musicianship and citizenship, which encourages kids from under-served communities to find their voice through music.

SistemaAn important & beautiful social movement

Since its founding in 1975 by the late Maestro José Antonio Abreu, Venezuela’s El Sistema has used music education as a means of social change.

The principles of El Sistema are simple: children from low-income and under-served areas are given an instrument as soon as they can hold it. Tuition, instruments and music are all provided free of charge. In return, each child commits to playing in an ensemble. The program emphasizes community building, cooperation, friendship, discipline, trust, commitment, compassion, respect and self-esteem.

The philosophy of El Sistema has inspired hundreds of similar programs, which serve an estimated over one million children in at least sixty countries around the world. Please visit the Sistema Global website for more information or watch the documentary Teaching the Life of Music which follows El Sistema’s impact.

Board of Directors

ChairClaire Marshall

Former Vice President of the Institute on Governance. Practitioner in policy development, citizen engagement and decision making in Canada and internationally. Broad experience in professional development. A lifelong chorister.

Vice ChairJane Anido

With a full career in public broadcasting and journalism, Jane was formerly national director of news programs for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and managing director of CBC Ottawa. As well, having experienced a rich musical background growing up, she holds a life-long delight in the transformative power of music.

TreasurerMarie-Josée Lambert

Ms. Lambert holds an MSc in Administration (Finance) and is a Chartered Financial Analyst with strong skills in strategic planning and financial analysis. She is a Director in the Financial Sector Policy Branch of Finance Canada.

«Offrir l’apprentissage de la musique aux enfants, c’est insuffler l’espoir et le sentiment que tout est possible. Je suis honorée de siéger au conseil d’administration d’OrKidstra, et de contribuer de toutes les manières possibles au succès de cette organisation dynamique et en pleine croissance qui fait une réelle différence dans la vie des enfants qu’elle touche. »

SecretaryDavid Van Dine

Retired University Secretary, Carleton University. Former President, Rideau Curling Club. Served on the Board of the Ottawa Chamber Orchestra. Amateur cellist, Ottawa Chamber Orchestra, Ottawa Summer String Ensemble. Former Canadian Mixed Curling Champion.

Board MemberSalim Charabati

Lebanon-born architect with expertise in strategic planning, operations and project management. Member of the U of O Executive MBA team, which advised OrKidstra on market development opportunities in 2015. Came to Canada in 2014 with his wife to raise a family. OrKidstra volunteer since 2015.

Board MemberLynda Heyden-Carroll

Had a diverse career working in fields ranging from construction to public relations and administration. Is an active volunteer in the community and served on the Boards of the Variety Club of Ontario and The Rideau Squash and Tennis Club. Amateur ukulele player.

Board MemberJeff Heynen

Graduate of Johns Hopkins University and Senior Public Servant and with expertise in US/Canada trade issues and in transport policy. Has worked in Ottawa and Iqaluit, and with the UN Mission to Kosovo. Resident of Centretown and OrKidstra volunteer since 2015. Enjoys playing jazz and classical piano.

Board MemberLeslie Ram

Retired Financial Officer at EKOS research and WEConnect Canada, as well as other small businesses and initiatives. Extensive past experience supporting OrKidstra, Chamber Music Festival, and Museum of Canadian History, chorister and overall music education enthusiast.

Board MemberPaul Wells

Senior Writer at McLean’s; award-winning author and frequent commentator on CBC’s Power & Politics and The National’s At Issue panel; music lover and trumpet player.

“OrKidstra has rapidly become an important part of Ottawa community life, and I’m so excited by its ambitious plans for growth. By bringing music to the lives of so many children who, in many cases, may not have been exposed to it, OrKidstra helps make Ottawa a happier place to live. I’m so grateful for this chance to help them with their important work.” – Paul Wells

Board MemberSharon Rusu

Long-standing career in international and national humanitarian and development work with extensive experience in regional disaster risk reduction, refugee determination, information and resource management and mobilization for humanitarian relief with UNHCR and UNISDR and other organizations.

“I am proud to be a new member of the OrKidstra family. OrKidstra embraces the principles of teamwork and self-discovery through music for kids from under-served communities. To invest in a child’s future through music is a purpose of the highest order.” – Sharon Rusu

Board MemberSean McGee

Sean is a Partner at Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP, specializing in labour and employment law. Fluently bilingual, Sean is a Past President of l’Association des juristes d’expression française de l’Ontario. His major outside interest is music: playing frequent gigs in two bands and with the Nellotones.

“Music, and the skills, the joy and the relationships that come with it, are benefits that can be enjoyed in youth and for a lifetime. I am happy to be able to help OrKidstra continue its outstanding work, bringing all of these benefits to youth in the Ottawa area.” – Sean McGee


General ManagerCarrie Olivo

Carrie joined the OrKidstra team as our Manager in summer 2014. She has worked in the not-for-profit sector as an administrator for 15 years, including the United Way and YMCA-YWCA. Carrie is an alumna of the Wexford School for Performing Arts in Toronto, where she performed and recorded with various stage, jazz and concert bands on the alto and baritone saxophones. She holds a Music Degree in Classical Vocal Performance from York University. When she’s not in the studio, Carrie enjoys the great outdoors and volunteering to support local children’s charities with The League of Super Heroes and the 501st Legion.

“Living in Ottawa, I see firsthand the difference the OrKidstra program makes. It’s amazing what can happen when you give kids the chance to shine, the opportunity to communicate and express themselves in a positive way together. They find their voice, and it is beautiful.” – Carrie Olivo

Development & Communications OfficerRebecca Russell

Rebecca is an experienced communications and development professional and a Dora Award-winning multidisciplinary performing artist. Rebecca holds a BA Combined Honours in Music and Theatre from Dalhousie University, a post-graduate certificate from Centennial College in Corporate Communications and Public Relations (Honours) and the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Certification in the Fundamentals of Fundraising.

Rebecca has performed professionally as a singer and performing artist with companies such as Against the Grain Theatre, Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia, Neptune Theatre, Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland, Essential Opera, 9th Hour Theatre Company and many more. Rebecca has worked in communications and development with organizations such as the Classical Theatre Project, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and, most recently, Rebecca spent three years with The AFC – the lifeline for Canada’s entertainment industry managing all aspects of fundraising, event planning, communications, marketing and development. Rebecca joined the OrKidstra team in September 2016.

Program CoordinatorAndrew Gesing

Andrew is a 2017 graduate of the Bachelor of Education program at the University of Ottawa, specializing in teaching music and English, and a 2015 graduate of the Bachelor of Music program at the University of Toronto, specializing in music education and classical saxophone performance. Andrew became involved with OrKidstra as a student teacher for his University of Ottawa Teacher Education program in April 2017, and officially became part of the team in May 2017.

Outside of OrKidstra, Andrew is an avid sailor and is an active part of the Ottawa music scene as a member of the funk band Cloud City.

Program and Events CoordinatorKatherine Neale

As an experienced arts administrator, brass educator, and performer, Katie has been sharing her love of music with young musicians since 2009. She has worked as Associate Director of the UBC Summer Music Institute, Program Coordinator of the Vancouver Youth Symphony Orchestra, Shop Manager for Wedge Mouthpieces, and as the UBC Bands Teaching Assistant, while maintaining a freelance performance career and private teaching studio. Katie holds a Bachelor of Music and a Masters of Music in Tuba Performance from the University of Lethbridge and the University of British Columbia, respectively. She has performed with the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra, the Vancouver New Music Society, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra “Tiny Tots” series, the Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra, and many brass chamber ensembles, including the Touch of Brass Quintet and Pacific Spirit Brass. Katie joined the OrKidstra team in October 2017.

Executive & Artistic Director, Teaching Artist & Co-Founder OrKidstraTina Fedeski, M.S.M.

After a life-transforming experience in UK’s Bedfordshire Youth Orchestra, Tina went on to study at the world-renowned Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, England, and then played principal flute in the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra for four seasons. After spending a six-month sabbatical on full scholarship at the Banff Centre for the Arts, she moved to Ottawa, where she played with all the established orchestras and festivals in Ottawa including the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival.

In 1999, in partnership with her husband Gary McMillen, she opened The Leading Note, now recognized as one of Canada`s leading classical print music stores – and a hub of the classical music scene in Ottawa.

In 2007, motivated by her belief in the transformative power of youth music, Tina visited Venezuela to research El Sistema. Soon afterward, she and co-founders Gary McMillen and Margaret Tobolowska founded OrKidstra (previously known as The Leading Note Foundation.)

As Executive Director, Tina proudly accepted a Peace Award from the Mayor of Ottawa in 2011 in recognition of OrKidstra’s impact on the community of Ottawa. In spring 2012, Yasir Naqvi, MPP Ottawa Centre, presented Tina with the Leading Women/Leading Girls, Building Communities Award. She is also recognized as a Kickass Canadian, and late in 2012, she received, with immense gratitude, the Canadian Institute for Child Health Leadership Award. In 2017, the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, awarded Tina Fedeski the Meritorious Service Medal for creating the OrKidstra program.

Celebrating OrKidstra’s AmbassadorsLeading by example

OrKidstra’s Ambassadors, Angela Hewitt, C.C., O.B.E. and Alexander Shelley, are inspiring leaders in the world of music. They perform in the greatest concert halls internationally and command critical acclaim. Their finely tuned talent and passion for their craft stand as a shining example to all musicians, but their commitment to OrKidstra is truly a gift.

Through master classes, special rehearsals and performances, OrKidstra’s students have the opportunity to play with and learn from, the very best. For OrKidstra’s young musicians, this is the benefit and joy of following the steps of OrKidstra’s exceptional Ambassadors.

Angela Hewitt, C.C., O.B.E.

Internationally acclaimed pianist Angela Hewitt became OrKidstra’s first Ambassador in 2014. In accepting this position, Ms. Hewitt said, “OrKidstra has shown how music can change the prospects of children who would not otherwise have the opportunity to learn an instrument. I am delighted to lend my name to their efforts.”

Ms. Hewitt plays to audiences all over the world and yet holds deep affection for her hometown Ottawa. In the fall of 2017, Ms. Hewitt generously performed at a hugely successful fundraising concert in celebration of OrKidstra’s 10th Anniversary.

Learn More

Alexander Shelley

In 2015, Alexander Shelley became the celebrated Music Director of Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra. He is also Principal Associate Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. In 2016, Maestro Shelley joined Angela Hewitt in becoming an OrKidstra Ambassador.

He says “It’s an absolute badge of honour for me to be involved in this remarkable organization. I’ve only known OrKidstra for a few years, but even in that short time I have seen and heard tremendous growth. These children from Ottawa’s under-served areas are a shining example of how music can uplift the mind and spirit.”

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ReportingA well-governed, well-managed and responsible organization

A message from the Chair, 2017-18

This year saw the conclusion of our Tenth Anniversary. What a year it was: kicking off with an OrKidstra ensemble on The Hill on Canada Day; graced by Angela Hewitt’s stellar benefit performance; and by Alexander Shelley’s rousing Open Rehearsal. The kids performed to their utmost.

But this is the glitz and glamour of OrKidstra. The day to day programming, teaching, administration, coordination and leadership happens behind the scenes: that’s the important side of the program. That’s what leads to results such as all our graduates going on to post-secondary education. Credit and thanks for this success goes to the kids themselves, their parents, teachers, staff, volunteers and especially to Tina Fedeski who inspires us all.

Fueled by donors, public and private, and supported by partnerships and sponsors, OrKidstra continues to grow and delight. The following pages provide insights, but more is on the way. By the time you read this, we will have published our strategic plan, Crescendo: Strategy 2032, which maps out forthcoming opportunities and challenges. We hope you will invest in OrKidstra’s future, helping our children turn their passion, potential and possibility to reality, and making good on the belief that empowering kids, builds community.

Claire Marshall, Chair, Board of Directors 2017-18


The essence of gratitude is found within the choices we make every day…

OrKidstra student Rinila shares why she feels grateful for the opportunities in her life. Video credit: Kanata Productions/Vectors Group

We love our music, we love our instruments and we love each other…

OrKidstra student Mateo shares why he feels so much love for the program: “Now that I’ve joined OrKidstra, my life is full of harmony and joy!” Video credit: Kanata Productions/Vectors Group

OrKidstra is the best part of my day and the place that I can really be myself…

When Shan was two, she escaped on foot from Eritrea to Sudan with her mom. It was a big transition coming to Ottawa, but now OrKidstra is the best part of her day!

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OrKidstra is the best part of my day and the place that I can really be myself…

“I was born in Eritrea [a country on the horn of Africa]. When I was two, we escaped to Sudan on foot because there was a lot of violence and fighting in Eritrea and it wasn’t safe anymore. My mom wanted a better future for me. My Dad’s Uncle (I call him Grandpa) helped my mom, my dad, my little brother and me come to Canada in October 2011 when I was six. We speak the language Bilen at home and before I came to Canada, I didn’t speak any English except for knowing a few words like ‘crayon’ or ‘paper.’ It was a big transition coming here, but I really like being in Ottawa now.”

Shan’s father Melake says “I didn’t really know what OrKidstra was at first, but when I came to the Bronson Centre [Centretown Hub] I saw the kids performing music and I was very inspired by that. Shan really likes it at OrKidstra. She doesn’t want to spend any time away from the program! She’s a little bit shy sometimes, but she loves the music and that helps her make friends here. OrKidstra is really good for my family and for the community.”

Shan feels very at home at OrKidstra. She says “I can really be myself at OrKidstra. Here, I can have fun and be with my friends, but at the same time, I am learning. OrKidstra makes learning music fun! I learn many life skills at OrKidstra: I’ve learned to be enthusiastic, to be caring and to work well as part of a team. I learn both music and life lessons from my teachers like Mr. Gareth. I love playing the cello and music really helps me express my feelings. Whenever I get angry or frustrated I pull out my cello and I play all my emotions! OrKidstra is my home away from home.”

Shan and her family are very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of OrKidstra… “I want to say thank you everyone who helps support OrKidstra,” says Shan. “You have really made a difference in my life. By supporting OrKidstra, you are helping me. When I grow up, I would like to be a biochemist; I also want to continue being a musician for the rest of my life. OrKidstra is the best part of my day and the place that I can really be myself. Thank you!” Shan’s father Melake says, “The program will help my children go further in their lives. Thank you very much for this opportunity.” – Shan, OrKidstra student, age 12 – KidStringers (cello) and KidSingers

OrKidstra made me the person I am today…

OrKidstra graduate Gareth was born in a Karen refugee camp on the border of Burma and Thailand. “A few months after arriving in Canada, I joined OrKidstra: it turned out to be the utmost life changing experience for me,” says Gareth.

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OrKidstra made me the person I am today…

Gareth was born in a Karen refugee camp on the border of Burma and Thailand. “A few months after arriving in Canada, I joined OrKidstra: it turned out to be the utmost life changing experience for me,” says Gareth.

Gareth was born in a Karen refugee camp on the border of Burma and Thailand. In his own words…

“I was fortunate enough to be born in a refugee camp (on the border of Burma and Thailand) where my family had relocated because our village was always under attack. My family lived in the refugee camp for about 10-14 years before we moved to Ottawa. A couple months after arriving in Canada, when I was still just learning English, I joined the OrKidstra program: it turned out to be the utmost life changing experience for me.

I love everything about the OrKidstra program: it’s a loving place to be and a place you want to call home. Being a part of OrKidstra has taught me numerous meaningful things about both music and life. OrKidstra has taught me to be a better person, to accomplish what I set out to do, to practice with care, and lastly, to do what I do with love. Every time I pick up the cello, it seems like I can accomplish anything. OrKidstra made me the person I am today.

Today, I am a proud OrKidstra graduate and pursuing my passion for travel by taking Travel Management and Tourism in college. My time at OrKidstra has made this little boy, born in a refugee camp, feel nothing in life is impossible. Thank you so much to the donors and sponsors for making a difference in my life, for giving me this opportunity to fly.”

– Gareth, OrKidstra Graduate (2007 – 2016)

OrKidstra is a very beneficial place for my kids to be after school…

“I think OrKidstra is helping my kids to be better at school – to concentrate more and to understand that when you have goals, you have to work hard to achieve them,” says Vanier Hub parent Marie.

Read the Story

OrKidstra is a very beneficial place for my kids to be after school…

Marie and her three kids joined the OrKidstra family in the fall of 2016 and attend the Vanier Hub. Marie is originally from Haiti and the family of four speak French, English and Creole together at home – now they also share the joy of the universal language of music!

“I registered my daughter Micheala [8] and my son Jaden [9] – I thought OrKidstra would only work for them – but when I came to OrKidstra’s Vanier Hub, I talked to Madame Tina and she invited my son Alexandre-Medgi [13] to join the singing group! Alex has cerebral palsy so his physicality is very difficult for him, but he has a very bright mind. Alex was enjoying the singing and was very happy so he said yes! I also sing with KidSingers now to help support Alex and so OrKidstra is now a wonderful activity for the whole family.”

“I really like that all my kids can be involved in music – to play and to sing – and to have instruction from teachers who are at a high level,” says Marie. “Micheala, Jaden and Alex are all in KidSingers and Micheala and Jaden are both learning trumpet in the band. My goal as a mom is to give them a chance – to play, to learn, to understand and to create something beautiful. Alex is a really good singer – he loves to sing! He always told me he wanted to sing, to be maybe a recording artist someday; KidSingers with Ms. Roxanne is a wonderful opportunity for him to learn how to sing properly – who knows where it will take him in the future! I know that he won’t let his physical challenges stop him.”

Marie says “OrKidstra is a very beneficial place for my kids to be after school – otherwise they just might be watching TV or something, you know? I think OrKidstra is helping my kids to be better at school – to concentrate more and to understand that when you have goals, you have to work hard to achieve them. When you have something that you really enjoy – like music – it helps you to focus and to work hard.”

The thing that Micheala (8) and Alex (13) like best about OrKidstra is the music and Jaden (9) likes making friends. Siblings don’t always agree on everything, but Jaden and Micheala both agree that they like playing their trumpets because they get to have fun working as group (playing with KidPlayers in the Vanier Hub Junior Band) and that playing an instrument is helping them focus. Eight-year-old Micheala says, “I want to be lots of stuff when I grow up – a doctor, a role model, a musician… I think OrKidstra helps me learn to study better.”

Marie is grateful that the OrKidstra Vanier Hub exists. “If OrKidstra didn’t exist, it would affect my family a lot,” she says. “For now, I can’t really afford music classes for all three of my children. It would be really sad and difficult if OrKidstra closed: it’s something they enjoy, but they are also learning music and important life skills here.”

“We’re looking forward to being a part of OrKidstra next year and each year after! I really want my kids to do the whole OrKidstra program and stay with it until they are 18 so they have the opportunity to learn more. I’d like to say thank you to Madame Tina, the teachers and all the donors for giving all my kids a chance – especially Alex. We always feel welcome at OrKidstra – no judgement – just the opportunity for the kids to participate and to learn, to feel great about themselves and to build self-esteem.”

Jaden, Michaela and Alex say “Merci pour le support!” to everyone who helps to support OrKidstra.

Marie, Vanier Hub parent (2016 – 2018)

OrKidstra has created endless possibilities for me…

OrKidstra student Peter shares how learning the clarinet is helping him understand the value of hard work in all aspects of his life. Video credit: Kanata Productions/Vectors Group

Playing music at OrKidstra really brings us together…

Twelve-year-old OrKidstra student Ariana talks about why she feels OrKidstra is her second family! Video credit: Kanata Productions/Vectors Group

OrKidstra has taught me to make the most of my opportunities…

OrKidstra student Randina talks about why he feels OrKidstra is helping him grow as a musician and as a person. Video credit: Kanata Productions/Vectors Group

Anyone can learn how to sing if they try…

Watch the trailer for the CBC documentary “OrKidstra: The Power of Music.” This 45-minute documentary captures OrKidstra’s story – how the power of music truly empowers kids and builds community! Video credit: CBC Ottawa

OrKidstra builds important life skills like teamwork and leadership…

OrKidstra graduate and Teaching Artist Declan shares how OrKidstra as given his life meaning.

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OrKidstra builds important life skills like teamwork and leadership…

OrKidstra graduate Declan joined the OrKidstra family at age 11 in 2008. Ten years later, he is in his 3rd year of University and is an OrKidstra Teaching Artist.

“What I like most about OrKidstra is that kids in our community have something really constructive to do after school. Playing and singing with OrKidstra builds important life skills like teamwork and leadership, skills that are applicable to all areas of life. And the kids have a really fun time which a bonus.

I find teaching at OrKidstra really rewarding because I love seeing the kids accomplish their goals. I’m really invested myself and reaching my goals with them. I would totally teach for free if I didn’t have to eat!

I don’t even think I would be playing music if it wasn’t for OrKidstra and definitely not studying it! OrKidstra has really given my life meaning: I feel like I’m really giving back in a positive way.

Your donation goes directly to helping the kids and providing them with necessary equipment like instruments, strings, music and music stands. “When you donate to OrKidstra, you are helping to improve the quality of life for kids from under-served areas of our community AND you are sharing the precious gift of music with them. That’s an amazing gift.”

– Declan, OrKidstra graduate (2008 – 2015) & Teaching Artist

Strategic PlanCrescendo: Strategy 2032

View Crescendo: Strategy 2032

Our goal is and has always been social development: using music as the instrument of change to achieve many outcomes that help today’s child, the adults they will become and the community in which they live.

OrKidstra has succeeded due to its leadership and philosophy, but also because it speaks to our times. In step with the country, Ottawa’s new Canadian population is growing quickly. Nurturing an environment of inclusivity and harmony is key to our approach. Our students learn how to build a community that transcends social, linguistic and cultural differences, and celebrates the mosaic that is Canada.

Partly due to OrKidstra’s location—within sight of the Parliament buildings—the program has become widely recognized locally, nationally and internationally as a beacon of social inclusion, leading to high-profile performances. OrKidstra’s vision for the future offers children and youth an opportunity to find their voice and build their potential through music. This vision guides all aspects of our strategic plan.

Crescendo: Strategy 2032 aims to explain our plans for the future and share our goals publicly. As such, the document provides only broad-brush strokes of what needs to be accomplished to reach our goals. We invite you to join in the journey as OrKidstra and its students create an exciting future.