Mu­sic pro­gram turns it up

Char­ity pro­vides free lessons for young­sters

The Delhi News-Record - - OPINION - JA­COB ROBIN­SON jro­bion­son@post­media.com

SIM­COE - If gods of mu­sic do ex­ist, they have given Elaine Thomas and Ryan Van­denBuss­che a spir­i­tual seal of ap­proval.

The duo met with a re­porter re­cently at Erie Mu­sic to pro­mote the mu­si­cal side of their char­ity ‘Stix’N’Pix’. De­vel­oped by Van­denBuss­che – a Delhi na­tive and for­mer NHLer – Stix’N’Pix’s aim is to get kids in need in­volved in hockey and mu­sic.

Dur­ing the meeting, Jerry Doucette’s 1977 clas­sic ‘Mama Let Him Play’ came blast­ing over the store’s speak­ers.

“Give that boy some free­dom, let him move around,” Doucette sings. “Don’t get in his way, you’ll only bring him down, Mama won’t you let him, let him play some rock and roll.”

“We have kids who are artsy and kids who are ath­letic and those are two op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­press their cre­ativ­ity and their phys­i­cal tal­ent,” said Thomas. “When you look at a com­mu­nity, those are two ar­eas that, un­less you have fi­nan­cial abil­ity, of­ten there’s a closed door.”

Hav­ing worked in the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, Thomas saw first hand the im­por­tance mu­sic can have on a young child and yet, On­tario’s school sys­tem has cut its pro­grams to the bare bones.

“(In­stru­men­tal mu­sic) no longer ex­ists in ele­men­tary (and) be­cause of the change of the credit sys­tem in sec­ondary, I watched our in­stru­men­tal mu­sic pro­grams di­min­ish in size,” she said. “The op­por­tu­nity for kids to have ac­cess to learn­ing an in­stru­ment, which would give them a life­long pleasure and pas­sion, is re­ally closed up.”

That’s where Stix’N’Pix is look­ing to fill the gap. Thanks to money raised at a re­cent gala event fea­tur­ing for­mer Toronto Maple Leafs cap­tain Wen­del Clark and Hockey Night in Canada host Ron MacLean, all stu­dents ap­proved will re­ceive one-on-one mu­sic lessons at Erie Mu­sic for 30 weeks free of charge.

Last year was the pro­gram’s trial run, it at­tracted 27 stu­dents, many of whom con­tin­ued with lessons af­ter­wards. Stix’N’Pix and Erie Mu­sic were able to work out a deal that sees the char­ity charged a re­duced rate for ses­sions.

“That’s 27 kids that never had the chance to get into the mu­si­cal game and have an in­stru­ment in their hands,” Van­denBuss­che pointed out. “To have an op­por­tu­nity to grow that num­ber is ex­cit­ing.”

Stix’N’Pix vol­un­teers are also look­ing at ways to bring mu­sic lessons to fam­i­lies who may not be able to get to Sim­coe on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. Just like the First Shift pro­gram that helps out­fit kids head to toe in hockey equip­ment and pro­vides six on-ice ses­sions for $199, there is no pres­sure for the child to con­tinue with their lessons.

“It’s just like hockey, you don’t know if you want to play hockey un­til you try it and it’s not a big time com­mit­ment,” said Van­denBuss­che. “At least they get to try some­thing and if they don’t like it they don’t have to come back.”

Chil­dren can bring any type of in­stru­ment they wish to the lessons, even drums, which weren’t able to be ac­com­mo­dated last year. “We weren’t able to take drum stu­dents last year be­cause we had such a long wait­ing list for the stu­dent base that we had,” said Erie Mu­sic’s les­son co­or­di­na­tor He­len Thompson. “Now we’ve hired an­other drum in­struc­tor so we’re able to ac­com­mo­date a few drum stu­dents.”

While a prin­ci­pal at the for­mer Port Dover Com­pos­ite School, Thomas watched as chil­dren within the build­ing’s ele­men­tary sec­tion gained valu­able play­ing ex­pe­ri­ence be­fore cross­ing the fa­cil­ity into high school. That’s not al­ways the case for ele­men­tary grad­u­ates within Nor­folk County these days.

“The (cur­rent) Grade 9 pro­gram is an open level (class), so kids are com­ing in know­ing noth­ing,” she ex­plained. “That’s a bar­rier to their con­tin­ued par­tic­i­pa­tion be­cause they’re go­ing to be in the same class as kids who’ve taken pi­ano for 10 years. I look at the op­por­tu­nity to re­ally dis­cover an in­stru­ment, learn an in­stru­ment as hav­ing that skill for life.”

Any­one look­ing to fill out an ap­pli­ca­tion can visit Erie Mu­sic (12 Nor­folk St. South, Sim­coe) or log onto stixn­pix.com.

JA­COB ROBIN­SON/ DELHI NEWS-RECORD

Lo­cal char­ity Stix'N'Pix is now ac­cept­ing ap­pli­ca­tions for lo­cal stu­dents to get in­volved in a mu­sic pro­gram fea­tur­ing one-on-one in­struc­tion from pro­fes­sion­als at Erie Mu­sic. Stix'N'Pix mem­bers in­clude Elaine Thomas and Ryan Van­denBuss­che.

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