OrKidstra’s 15th Anniversary Message from Ms. Tina
It is hard to believe that 15 years have passed since our first class on October 22nd, 2007! I remember the day vividly when our first amazing 27 students launched OrKidstra’s journey; we began with violin, cello, flute, and trumpet classes. My heart swells whenever I share that many kids from the very first class, like Gareth, are still involved with OrKidstra.
“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.” – Gareth, 2016 OrKidstra Graduate
So why and how did OrKidstra begin? When I was just 14 years old and playing flute in a youth orchestra, I was intensely aware of the social barriers and inequity of opportunity. Why couldn’t everyone have the chance to be part of this incredible sound and life-changing experience? This awareness affected key life choices that I made and led to the moment when Mr. Gary (McMillen – my wonderful husband) and I first saw Tocar y Luchar on January 12th, 2007 – the first international documentary about El Sistema in Venezuela. A week or so later after sharing the documentary and idea with the extraordinary Ms. Margaret (Maria Tobolowska) we decided that together, inspired by El Sistema, we would create a program. With the passionate belief in the transformative power of music, OrKidstra began as a beautiful and ambitious dream to remove systemic financial, cultural, social, and linguistic barriers and to empower kids and build community through the universal language of music.
Synchronicity became our guiding light as the stars magically lined up. World-renowned conductor Maestro Gustavo Dudamel conducted in Ottawa just weeks after this idea was born, and soon after that, I went to visit my sister who had recently moved to Venezuela – and of course, I connected, visited, and engaged with El Sistema!
Margaret, Gary, and I spent most of 2007 researching and planning. We had no money, no instruments, no space, and no program guide. We had nothing but a powerful idea and determination to “build it, and they would come,” and today, I think we can proudly say that kids came and stayed – and for so many, OrKidstra became a second family; their families and communities embraced the program, and the support we have received has been breathtakingly heartwarming.
“It’s been 15 years since OrKidstra was conceived and it’s my extended family. Working with these kids is where my passion and purpose collide in a huge energy release of conducting and teaching and brainstorming and love. Love is everywhere here – love in action. I am so blessed to have been a part of the creation of OrKidstra and the continued vision as part of the team. My heart is so full watching this incredible organization teach children to ‘Play Every Note with Love’ and ‘Together We Build Respect’ simultaneously!!” – Margaret Maria Tobolowska, OrKidstra Co-Founder, Teaching Artist & Past Board Member
Over the years, our family, including our beautiful kids and phenomenal staff, teaching artists, ambassadors, board and volunteers, has grown, developed, and matured; with boundless creativity, perseverance, questions, mistakes, hard work, laughter, tears, pride, and love, we have learned and grown so much together. Our family includes over 62 different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, but we all speak the universal language: music. We have lived our values of Love, Courage, Excellence, and Belonging. All I can say is that I feel incredibly lucky. It has been an honour and a privilege.
Here is to the next 15 years when OrKidstra continues to expand its light and love to reach more and more children and youth and communities. Thank you OrKidstra, thank you Ottawa!
Tina Fedeski, MSM,
Co-Founder, Executive & Artistic Director
“Of the many things that I could say about OrKidstra, probably the most rewarding has been watching how the kids from our first few years have grown up with us. From tiny little tots, some who had never seen a musical instrument, they have blossomed into caring, educated, and musical young adults. The fact that so many of them are still involved with us in one way or another says it all!” – Gary McMillen, OrKidstra Co-Founder & Past Chair, Treasurer & Board Member