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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 17, No. 4 December 2011


by Wah Keung Chan / December 1, 2011

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In mid-November, the El Sistema social arts education movement touched down in Quebec with an all-day conference at McGill University organized by the Quebec Music Educators Association. It was the culmination of three years of behind-the-scenes work by Venezuelan-Canadian Avelino Rubilar, founder of El Sistema Quebec.

Dr. Jonathan Govias (who penned a 10-part series on the subject for LSM last year) showed how the three-hours-a-day, six-days-a-week Venezuelan after-school program raised musical culture, improved group practicing, and most importantly kept kids off the street. In 37 years, it has grown from one group to 300,000 kids, and has branches around the world. University of Western Ontario’s Dr. Ruth Wright explored how the socialist program could be successfully adapted in Canada, voicing some words of caution.

It was motivating to see how music and the arts can make a fundamental change in a society. What struck me was the principle: shared experiences change lives. That very idea is in fact the motivation behind our Bring a Teen program, which helps youth discover culture.

Why teens? First, the teenage years (12 to 18) are the most impressionable. Secondly, when we started the program, I found it strange that although there were lots of elementary school programs exposing children to the arts, arts groups were struggling to attract young adults. Teens were left out. Ten years later, that is still true.

Our big idea is to expose teens to music and culture, and to turn adults, who constitute 95% of concert-going audiences, into mentors by sharing their passion. Parents, grandparents, siblings and teachers all have a role to play.

In re-launching Bring a Teen at its 10th anniversary, we plan a push-pull approach. Thanks to the FAMEQ (Fédération des associations de musiciens éducateurs du Québec) and posters printed by Payette & Simms, the program will be introduced to 72,000 Quebec music students through their music teachers. Our media partners include The Senior Times, The Montrealer, Radio Ville-Marie and Mountain Lake PBS. Furthermore, we will tap into the power of social media through our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ado-teen

In La Scena Musicale, each BAT concert will be highlighted in a regular ad, plus spotlighted with the BAT logo in the regional calendar. All concerts are also listed in the BAT webpage http://teen-ado.scena.org, where we also plan to include links to program notes. Beginning in February, LSM will introduce a new parents’ column with advice on how to prepare teens for concerts.

So far, over 30 arts groups have signed on to offer over a thousand free tickets. To participate, call the BAT phone number for each event. An adult purchases the first ticket to get the second ticket free for the teen. Join the movement: share your passion, like the Facebook page, and blog your experience. Bring a Teen!

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