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Quarter Notes Vision To kindle long-term positive change in Edmonton’s marginalized populations and communities by engaging the region’s under-served youth in music education.

Values • • • • •

Inclusivity Community Ensemble Peer mentorship Intensive instruction

YONA Students on their first day of class

Welcome to the YONA-Sistema Quarterly Newsletter! The Youth Orchestra of Northern Alberta (YONA-Sistema) is a new initiative by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, in partnership with the Edmonton Catholic School District and Inner City Children’s Program. In the five months since we began the program with 20 students at Mother Teresa Elementary School, we’ve already witnessed, first-hand, the incredible effects of this program. We are excited to share our stories with you on a quarterly basis through this newsletter. Here you’ll find stories of YONA children and families, features about specific aspects of the YONA-Sistema program, and news about upcoming events. We are continuously receiving fantastic feedback from our students, their parents, and their teachers, and we look forward to sharing their insights on the program and its impact with you. In this edition of Quarter Notes, you’ll learn about El Sistema, the program Edmonton Symphony Orchestra

which inspired ours. You’ll meet Lily, one of our superstar students, and you’ll hear from a volunteer about the unique contribution she makes to the program.

“YONA-Sistema has brought us closer together.” - YONA Parent

If you’d like to check in on our YONA community on a more frequent basis, visit our website at where you’ll find blog posts written by a variety of individuals involved with the program, student profiles, and lots of photos and videos! Now that we’re halfway through our first year, our YONA family is looking to the future. With plans to expand to 40 students at Mother Teresa School next year, and to reach more schools and students beyond that, we’re excited to see what is around the corner. We’re happy to have you along for the ride! Thanks for reading, and all the best! - Mr. Lucas, Ms. Alyssa, and the YONA Team

Nayomi and her Mom at our very first Paper Violin Graduation Ceremony, November 2013

Quarter Notes ● Issue 1 ● March 2014 ●

All about YONA-Sistema YONA-Sistema began in September 2014. Twenty children at Mother Teresa School receive free, group-based, communityfocused music education for three hours every day after school. With this program, we aim to kindle long-term positive change in Edmonton’s under-served youth through offering them holistic support and education.

Melody pauses for a break during recreation time in the school’s gymnasium. Melody is an older student who entered the program with some knowledge of violin. Peer mentorship is an integral aspect of the Sistema philosophy.

Such support is provided through offering not only musical instruction, but other program components as well. Every day, students check in and receive a nutritious snack. They then gather together to participate in “community-building”– a time in which the students get to know each other better and build a sense of belonging in the group. The students then participate in group violin and musicianship instruction, which includes singing, movement, and the use of a variety of percussive instruments in addition to their violins. Each day includes a 20-minute play break, during which the students

participate in active games, either in the gym or outside in the fresh air. Each day ends with 30 minutes of “academic time,” when students do homework or read with support from YONA-Sistema staff and volunteers. We often welcome various local experts into the classroom, including ESO musicians, to introduce the students to new instruments and ideas. Each aspect of the program plays an important role in building our students’ confidence, joy, and love for music and for each other. We’ve already begun to witness the impact this program can make. Our students’ parents and teachers have reported that the children have gained confidence, social skills, and pride in themselves and in what they can achieve. We are excited to continue growing, with plans to increase to 40 students next year, and to expand our “orchestra” of violins to include violin, viola, cello, and bass.

What is Sistema? The Sistema portion of YONA-Sistema stems from Venezuela’s El Sistema program, established almost 40 years ago to impact the lives of youth through free music education. This program began with 11 students in a parking garage, and has since grown into a nation-wide program serving over 500,000 children annually. The philosophy and principles of this program have inspired similar programs in over 25 countries around the world. Over 40 núcleos (program locations) exist in the United States, and approximately 13 are currently running in Canada. YONA-Sistema is part of this unofficial network of El Sistema-inspired programs, and we communicate regularly with those at other núcleos to learn and to share. One feature of the El Sistema model is that each núcleo, though based upon the basic philosophy of the original program, differs according to the needs of the community in which it is based. This flexibility allows for El Sistemabased programs to be truly responsive to the unique communities they serve. For more information, check out the book Changing Lives by Tricia Tunstall or the documentary Tochar y Luchar. Edmonton Symphony Orchestra

Yun and Zoe share a proud moment after playing a duet together. The students performed their first solo recital at the beginning of February 2014. Quarter Notes ● Issue 1 ● March 2014 ●

Student Focus: Meet Lily! On her latest birthday, Lily received a gift from her aunt that the seven year-old carries with her often: a teal-coloured pointand-shoot camera, housed in a rainbow case that Lily proudly shares she “decorated herself”. Lily finds joy in taking photos of her classmates in the YONA program, and had her camera in hand during the kids’ first solo recital at the beginning of February. “We are stunned with how much Lily has learned, how thrilled she is with the program, and how eager she is to practice. It’s lovely to have her making music at home.” – Lily’s grandmother

She had some wonderful things to share when we sat down to talk about her interest in photography, and her favourite things about the YONA program. A full video of the interview can be viewed on the blog at

What do you like to take pictures of the most? Violins and my family. Do you have a favourite picture that you’ve taken? My favourite picture is a picture of my brother posing. He looked funny when he was doing that! Then, he took a picture of me, too…and tried to guess what face I was making. What do you like about YONA? That I get to play an instrument I never knew before. Do you have a favourite YONA memory? When I first got my real violin, I thought I was going to get a black case. But, I got a red case!

Learning through Expressive Arts Each week, our YONA students get a unique experience when Sandi Campbell volunteers with the program. Along with her regular volunteer duties (preparing snacks, assisting students who need extra help, etc.), she leads the students through arts-based activities designed to allow for imagination and free expression in a variety of mediums. “I love to see the kids drawing with both hands, with their eyes closed, blending the pastels with their fingers –getting their whole bodies involved!” shares Ms. Sandi. “My hope is that, through this work, the children will have an increased freedom to imagine and create”. The students are currently working on a largescale collaborative project, using oil pastels to respond to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. They have learned to play Ode to Joy on their violins, and this project allows them to explore the rest of the symphony in a creative way. The project will culminate with the symphony’s finale, when the students will respond to the music through movement and further interact by creating a large-scale group visual art project. These interpretations will be based around the theme of “Joy”. Edmonton Symphony Orchestra

The entire YONA family is always excited to see what activities Ms. Sandi will suggest next! Be sure to check the blog at to keep up with the students’ progress. Quarter Notes ● Issue 1 ● March 2014 ●

YONA’s Winspear Centre Debut! On March 20, our YONA students made their debut onstage at the Winspear Centre! As part of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra’s OPUS fundraising event, all 20 of our students performed some of their favourite songs for over 170 people. This was a big deal, as it was the first time our students got to play for a large group of strangers. As part of their performance, the YONA students also had the special treat of performing with Eileen Ivers, an internationally-renowed fiddler. They played “Boil ‘em Cabbage”, a fiddle tune, and ended their performance with “Ode to Joy”. They received a standing ovation, and exited the stage rightfully beaming with pride. The event was very successful, raising over $32,000 for the YONA-Sistema program. Thank you to all of you who have supported the program thus far. You have made a huge difference in the lives of our students and of their families!


Miss Lauren shares a hug with Silver and Rakibe

Upcoming Events

Lucas Waldin YONA Artistic Director

Year-End Concert

Alyssa Paterson YONA Manager

The YONA-Sistema yearend concert will take place in June!

Amanda Alstad YONA Site Coordinator Deborah Chang Lauren Dykstra Alison Stewart YONA Teaching Artists

We hope you can join us! Watch for your invitation soon.

Photos by Carmyn Joy Effa

Thank you to our supporters! You are truly instruments for change in our children’s lives. Partners Rotary Edmonton Catholic School District Inner City Children’s Program Edmonton Public School Board

Seed Funders Corporate Supporters J.W. McConnell Family Foundation Avison Young REACH Edmonton Eastman Strings Sejutee’s imaginative interpretation of “Violin Land,” created Edmonton Community Foundation Bella Music during one of Ms. Sandi’s expressive art sessions. glasswaters foundation Long and McQuade R.J. Nelson Family Foundation

If you would like to learn more about how you can support this transformational social action program, please visit

Edmonton Symphony Orchestra

Quarter Notes ● Issue 1 ● March 2014 ●

YONA-Sistema Quarter Notes: March 2014  
YONA-Sistema Quarter Notes: March 2014  

The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra's YONA-Sistema program newsletter. Quarter Notes: Issue 1, March 2014