New collaboration brings more music to Kingston elementary school students

Sistema Kingston class at Molly Brant Elementary School. Submitted photo.

The Kingston A-Strings, along with The Kingston Youth Strings and The Kingston Youth Orchestra, has announced a new collaboration with Sistema Kingston. This school year, the Kingston A-Strings, conducted by Kingston Symphony violinist Danielle Lennon, will be running its program at Molly Brant School alongside Sistema Kingston.

“We are excited to collaborate with the Kingston Youth Orchestra programs to create a pathway for Sistema Kingston students to pursue their interests in string ensemble and orchestra as they grow on their musical journey,” said Karma Tomm, Director of Sistema Kingston.

Sistema Kingston, an outreach program of Queen’s Faculty of Education directed by Tomm, is an intensive after-school music program for elementary students that focuses on positive social development through the pursuit of musical excellence. According to a joint media release from the Kingston A-Strings and Sistema Kingston, through free, group-centred music learning, Sistema Kingston emphasizes inclusivity and teamwork, builds personal persistence, and fosters creativity and personal responsibility in all its activities. Using the Venezuelan El Sistema as its model, Sistema Kingston inspires children to reach their full potential as students, musicians, and citizens.

“Our goal is to reach underserved and low-income elementary students who don’t have access to other extra-curricular activities,” Tomm stated in an email with Kingstonist. “Sistema Kingston students commit to the full four days/week program, and participate in all activities which include string ensemble, vocal ensemble, drumming, mindfulness and nutritious snack.”

Each school year culminates in a joyous musical celebration at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts.

The Kingston Youth Orchestra consists of the Youth Orchestra, Youth Strings, and A-Strings, and offers teens professional leadership and performing opportunities throughout the season. Danielle Lennon conducts both Youth Strings and A-Strings, and shared that the two organizations have been wanting to connect for some time.

The Kingston A-Strings performs. Submitted photo.

“Our purpose in doing so is to mutually benefit both groups,” Lennon said in response to inquiries from Kingstonist. “Sistema has a large group of students who need somewhere to go once they graduate from Molly Brant, and we are always looking to expand our numbers and grow our ensembles.”

“For many of our Sistema Kingston families, access to transportation is a common barrier to participation in programs in other parts of the city,” Tomm chimed in. “Having A-Strings at Molly Brant gives them access to this wonderful program of the Kingston Youth Orchestra in their home community.”

The Kingston Youth Orchestra is made up of high-school-aged musicians who seek a challenge, who are developing their ensemble skills, and possibly considering a career in music. The Kingston Youth Strings is a feeder ensemble for the string section of the Kingston Youth Orchestra and consists of musicians who are keen to develop their performing skills. The Kingston A-Strings is an introductory ensemble for young string musicians.

“It made sense to connect and do what we can to keep these young musicians playing beyond the Sistema program,” Lennon continued. “The reasoning for doing this at Molly Brant is for the convenience of the Sistema kids who are already there and ready to join A-Strings, but also to create a connection between our programs. Seeing me (A-Strings and Youth Strings conductor) at Sistema each week will give the students familiarity and hopefully the confidence to go outside of Sistema and join The Youth Strings and eventually the Youth Orchestra. So, The Kingston A-Strings will now consist of those who have joined from various schools and parts of the city as before, as well as Sistema students who are ready for a bit more of a challenge.”

The Sistema Kingston program is available to students who attend the host schools, according to Tomm. For more information about the program, email [email protected]

“At this time, our program at Molly Brant school is full, but families are welcome to join a waitlist,” Tomm shared. “We will be opening a second school in Algonquin Lakeshore Catholic District School Board in early 2023. Details will be forthcoming shortly.”

Learn more about Sistema Kingston on their website.

For more information on the A-Strings, Youth Strings and Youth Orchestra, contact their General Manager, Susan Johnston at [email protected].

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