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'We have some wonderful success stories': Music program offers opportunity for Prince Albert children

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Participants in the Firebird North Sistema Music Project say they are looking forward to displaying their new skills in a Christmas concert.

“I’m excited to have a concert,” said Firebird North participant Phoebe Mullis.

The concert, on Dec. 9 at King George School, is open to the public.

Program instructors anticipate that many of the student's family members and interested community members will be in attendance.

Mullis is a Grade 3 student. She joined the program at the start of the school year. She says she enjoys the program and comes to it every weekday after school for two hours of instruction.

“I heard we get to play violin or cello and I wanted to learn how to play violin and also it just sounds really cool,” she said.

Firebird North Sistema Music Project originated in Venezuela in 1975. The purpose of the program is to create positive social change in Prince Albert by building a community of youth engaged in music and movement, says one of the program’s coordinators Abe Lancaster.

“We have an application process that typically focuses on some of our more vulnerable community members and community families that may not have access to lessons of this sort,” said Lancaster.

There are currently 35 elementary school students registered in the program. Participants learn multiple skills in the string orchestra, classical dance, yoga and choir.

“It’s a fairly intensive program and these kids have to really buckle down to learn this stuff. It’s really quite amazing,” he said.

Parents often report a noticeable change in self-esteem and attitude after their child starts the program, says Firebird North music instructor Dean Bernier.

“We have some wonderful success stories. We’ve had not only the parents but teachers that have seen the growth of some of the students in the program. They’ve seen the change and growth of the students in the classroom,” said Bernier.

He says it’s very rewarding to watch the children improve their musical skills.

“When students study music, every subject that they take in school is being utilized in their music training, even phys ed because musicians are mini-muscle athletes,” Bernier said.

Mullis says she’s excited to continue in the program and plans to take it for years to come.

The program is currently offered to elementary school students enrolled in the Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division.

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