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Music program aims for social change through song

By Josh Tng
The B.C. Catholic


ABBOTSFORD, B.C. (CCN) — A music program that has saved thousands of children from a life of crime in Venezuela is now giving equal learning opportunities to Abbotsford youngsters.

At the Bakerview Music Academy, professional music teachers offer free after-school lessons to children. In addition to musical proficiency, the children pick up skills in self-expression, achievement, leadership and teamwork.

The academy is inspired by the Venezuelan El Sistema program, which José Antonio Abreu launched in 1975, says program director Alex McCune. The Venezuelan program had saved “hundreds of thousands of children from a life of crime,” he said.

While Abbotsford didn’t face the issues Venezuela did, several locals were sufficiently influenced by the “power of music to bring positive social change” to give birth to Bakerview Music Academy.

“We are in our fourth year of operations with nearly 80 students who come to this program two days a week,” McCune said. “Classes run for just over two hours, training each student in choir, musicianship and in their instrument.”

The goal of the program is to give children of all backgrounds musical and personal skills. “Teaching and directing at the academy puts me into contact every day with children of the community,” said McCune. “They have different needs and challenges in their lives, but at our music school they are all welcome and valued.”

McCune, a parishioner at Sts. Joachim and Ann Parish, Aldergrove, teaches the choir with a strong focus on classical sacred music. “While the school is not specifically a Christian outreach program, we sing Bach, Mozart and other greats, and all the children have learned to sing in Latin, German, Italian and other languages.”

McCune’s approach to teaching draws heavily from the “Sparrows system,” an Ontario program designed by Maestro Uwe Lieflander, said McCune, who worked alongside Liefland.

The Sparrows program trains Catholic children in music theory, singing technique and the rich tradition of liturgical music. “We get great results because we have very high standards, always encouraging the students to strive for excellence and to take pride in their professionalism and focus,” said McCune.

Teachers emphasize social change through music. “Our teachers are with us because they believe in this model,” said Holda Fast Redekopp, chair of the academy. “They love the kids and know that they are not only teaching music skills, but also behavioural skills. We have many volunteers who are loving the kids and encouraging and supporting them beyond what we ask.”

Redekopp noted many parents and teachers have noticed improvement to learning skills and behaviour by children in the program. “Our kids stay with the program all the way through Grade 12,” she said. “The ultimate goal is to form a youth orchestra and choir to serve the community by bringing service and joy.”

The academy is free of charge, but runs on volunteers and donations. More information is available at

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