Posted by Vi Hughes on Nov 19, 2019

YONA Sistema

This past Tuesday we welcomed Jacquie McNulty, the YONA (Youth Orchestra of Northern Alberta) site manager who spoke to us about their program which gives youth in our community an opportunity to learn to play an instrument and hopefully inspires them to think beyond any limitations they may currently face in life. The program is sponsored by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and provides instruction five days a week for three hours each day.
This after school program is currently based at St. Alphonsus School, with about eighty-five students in grades one to nine, with a smaller (about thirty), younger (grades one to three), group at St. Teresa of Calcutta School in Edmonton. The program provides daily activities that include singing, musicianship, music instruction on orchestral instruments (string, percussion, horn, trombone and reed), nutritional snacks, academic time and free play time. It also includes arts time, movement classes and visits from ESO members. These students receive instruments and instrumental group lessons, led by qualified teachers, at no cost to their families. They also offer special Saturday workshops for the Junior High students. The students also get to demonstrate their skills to their families and the wider Edmonton community through two major concerts, at the Winspear Centre each year. This coming year, these will take place on January 24, at 7 pm, and June 9, at 7 pm.
Jacquie told us that music helps to create a sense of community, gives confidence and pride in addition to providing a sense of humanity that everyone can relate to. It helps to empower students by giving a sense of belonging. It also gives their parents an opportunity to get to know their community better. The program has been operating since 2013 in Edmonton and has recently expanded to a new twice a week program at the Kipohtakaw Education Center on the Alexander Reserve, an hour north of Edmonton, with thirty students where two YONA teaching instructors offer one hour of violin instruction twice a week during school hours.
Jacquie said that their biggest challenge is finding enough classroom space for their expanding program. They currently occupy three classrooms, a kitchen and a hallway at St. Alphonsus. They currently have to combine children of differing ages and abilities due to space constraints. Their program is largely funded by private donations and they also have an instrument donation program.  We would like to thank Jacquie for her update on the program and hope to be able to support them in the future.