Saint James Music Academy

 Saint James Music Academy is a free afterschool program that teaches classical music to children and youth who live in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (DTES), most of whom live in low-income families. The DTES is a vibrant community and yet also struggles with significant social problems, including high unemployment, poor living conditions, crime, and substance abuse. Children who are exposed to these conditions are vulnerable to these social realities. We believe it is crucial that the needs of these children and youth be met with creative and new possibilities. Our program harnesses the power and joy of music to help children discover the wealth of their own potential, and equip them with crucial life skills. At SJMA, children receive: a nutritious meal every day; classical music instruction, often out of reach to the disadvantaged child; choir and music theory; and one-on- one music therapy for children with special learning or behavioural challenges, or victims of trauma. Our program is entirely free to all students. 

Purpose: Music is a proven tool for positive social transformation. Music uplifts and inspires, and yet much more: it builds self-esteem, improves intellectual and fine motor skills, enriches culturally, binds people together in a shared objective, and builds community. These are precisely the tools a young person needs to form a responsible, compassionate & productive adult life. Through their pursuit of musical excellence, our children are inspired to continue on a path full of promise. 

Participants: The Academy serves children in grade one through grade twelve, who primarily come from low-income families, some of whom are challenged with health and nutrition needs. Our enrolments in our core after-school program have grown from 37 in our founding year (2007) to 200 in 2014-15. We also serve another 250 children in four public schools, with free music instruction through our Outreach Program.  Outcomes: We have specific, though not always specifically measurable outcomes. Through the program, children and youth will: gain self-confidence, and discover the wealth of their own potential; learn crucial social skills, such as teamwork and collaboration, gratitude and sharing, respect of the other, and mutual praise; improve in their cognitive, academic, fine motor, and other learning skills; become musicians and artists who contribute their talent to the benefit of the community; and become role models to their peers and families through their pursuit of excellence in music and social engagement.

Framework/Philosophy: SJMA is heart and soul community-based program with a vision for social change, and music is our means. Young people in the Downtown Eastside and beyond are inspired to collaborate through our orchestras and choirs to pursue their creative potential, gain self-confidence, improve their academic success and become role models within their family and community. We believe in the value of equal opportunity for every child, irrespective of their ability, gender, ethnicity, religious belief, or socio-economic placement. We believe that the children and youth of the DTES have vast potential for creative good and positive contribution to our city and world.

Time: 2007 - Ongoing
Location: Vancouver
Art Modalities: Music Therapy, Music, Singing,

Saint James Music Academy
Kathryn Walker
Email: | Web: | Phone: 778-709-7731


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