Concert Raises Money for Music Education

Young musicians took to the stage on April 27 to help fundraise for music education during the Sistema Toronto Spring Symphony at Bonar-Parkdale Presbyterian Church (BPC) in Toronto. The concert raised over $10,000 for the music program at Parkdale Junior and Senior School.


Sistema Toronto was inspired by El Sistema, a social development program created by Dr. Jose Antonio Abreu over 35 years ago in the slums of Caracas, Venezuela. The founding principle is that poverty “imposes a spiritual deficit – a loneliness, a void, a lack of achievement and recognition” on children and that “they come into this world with enormous potential, and no matter how degraded their circumstances they deserve to experience beauty.”

El Sistema “emphasizes intensive ensemble participation from the earliest stages, group learning, and peer teaching.” They focus on helping children build team-working skills and mutual respect, highlight passion over precision and commit to “finding joy and fun in learning to make music.” Sistema inspired programs can now be found all over the world, with over 20 curricula in Europe, over 50 in the U.S. and courses in India, Japan, New Zealand and Haiti.

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Sistema Toronto “inspires children at risk to realize their full potential as students, musicians, and citizens” by instilling “a strong sense of community, self-respect, and mutual support in our children through the pursuit of musical excellence in order to prepare them for a better tomorrow.” Peer support is a basis of the program, and as children master skills they are assigned as mentors to younger kids.

Playing To Potential is their intensive after-school program that “enhances social development of the child through the power of music.” The free program, delivered to the neighborhoods of Parkdale and Jane/Finch, gives at-risk children ten hours of orchestral and choral instruction a week throughout the 38 week school year. Each child in the program gets their own instrument as well as a nutritious snack during every practice.

Neil Macdonald, Director of Communications for Sistema Toronto, says that there were several highlights to the night. “The children’s orchestra played beautifully in their first public concert,” he explains. “The parents did a marvelous job in organizing the event, and put on successful silent auctions with some great prizes. The audience thoroughly enjoyed the gala and the children’s concert.”

Macdonald’s advice to other concert planners is to “be organized, get help from volunteers, stay flexible and be ready to respond to changes at the last minute.”

What keys have you discovered to organizing successful concerts?