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Funding supports music program for at-risk youth

At-risk and disadvantaged youth in the Notre Dame de Grace (N.D.G.) neighborhood of Montreal will soon have access to ongoing music programs in a rehearsal space stocked with instruments and equipment with weekly instruction by a leading improviser. The Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice research project, with its partners La Société des Arts Libres et Actuels (SALA) and Head and Hands, received $18,500 from the City of Montreal – Programme de partenariat culture et communité and the Quebec Ministry of Culture, Communication and the Status of Women.

The rehearsal space is donated by another partner in the funding application, the Black Community Association of N.D.G., and is housed in the same building as Head and Hands’ youth drop-in centre.

This is phase two of the Saying Who We Are/Playing Who We Are program introduced in 2008. The program will culminate in a performance at the 2010 Suoni Per Il Popolo festival.

“Suoni is excited to work with its community partners on this second, expanded iteration of Saying Who We Are/Playing Who We Are. We really hope this program will empower and inspire NDG youth!” said Peter Burton of SALA.

Groups of six to eight youths at a time will use drums, percussion and other small instruments, keyboards, bass, guitar, horns, and associated amps, mics and sound recording and reinforcement equipment under the guidance of a music facilitator.

“Through Saying Who We Are/Playing Who We Are, N.D.G. youths will have the opportunity to express their personal and community narratives via improvised musical performances, in a safe, structured, nurturing, and professional environment that they all too infrequently have access to,” says Prof. Eric Lewis, who is the ICASP site coordinator at McGill University. “By working creatively with each other, under the leadership of an established performer/teacher, these youth will gain not only musical skills, but also the experience to experiment with new forms of social interaction.”

“The Saying Who You Are/Playing Who You Are program demonstrates that real progress can be made in addressing social problems of signal concern to our communities when government, arts and community groups, along with academics, work in partnership,” adds Lewis. “We look forward to the success of this pilot program, and hope it can become a permanent part of the rich cultural landscape of Montreal in general, and N.D.G in particular.”

If people talked the way they drummed in improvisation, then I think the world would be a lot nicer…

– Youth participant, ICASP improvisation workshop