On February 12 and 13, Ottawa’s Leading Note Foundation, in collaboration with the Culture Programme of the European Union, Canada Council for the Arts, National Arts Centre, Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, University of Ottawa, and Carleton University, hosted a two-day symposium on the role of music education in child and community development. The Symposium on Instrumental Change brought together 90 participants from across Canada, US, Italy, and UK, most of whom are directly involved in Sistema-inspired projects.
Symposium organizers and participants share the conviction that we must raise public awareness of the benefits of participatory music education, and that music education deserves to be a priority on the national agenda. Canada Council for the Arts President and CEO Simon Brault highlighted these themes in his opening keynote address, emphasizing the importance of leveraging the power of the arts to address local, national, and international concerns, including:
- Capitalizing on the arts’ inclusive nature to support safe, respectful integration of diverse linguistic, ethnic, religious, and aboriginal communities through expressions of identity and a sense of belonging;
- Building communities and habits of participation through shared experiences, emotions, and observations – fostering engaged citizens and critical thinkers;
- Supporting an emerging national identity across Canada’s demographic diversity;
- Using cultural diplomacy to foster open dialogue, building Canada’s international connections through artistic initiatives.
With these goals in mind, the Symposium offered a wide range of presentations, panel discussions, and interactive workshops geared toward program organizers and educators. On Day 1, three plenary sessions explored strategies to raise the profile of music education, attract public and private sector support for music education in and out of school, build stable, successful organizations, and include research and evaluation in program design:
- ‘Start Up,’ with The Leading Note Foundation’s Tina Fedeski and Sistema Toronto’s David Visentin;
- ‘The Fundraising Challenge,’ with Ken MacLeod of Sistema New Brunswick and Clark Bryan of El Sistema Aeolian;
- ‘Staying On Course and Evaluation,’ with Richard Hallam of Sistema England and Dr. Lisa Lorenzino from McGill University.
Fifty local high school music teachers joined Day 2 of the Symposium for their Professional Development Day. The keynote address and panel discussion reinforced the critical role that music teachers play in shaping students’ lives. 18 workshops focused primarily on teaching philosophies, techniques, and tools, led by Teaching Artists from the OrKidstra program, researchers, and Sistema program directors from Canada and England. Participants learned about fostering improvisation and creativity, string technique, developing peer leadership, emotional and behavioural concerns, and engaging young children with music-making, and more. The two-day event ended with an upbeat OrKidstra concert, celebrating the 40th anniversary of El Sistema by performing Alma Llanera – recognized as Venezuela’s second anthem – before the Ambassador of Venezuela.