Faculty of Education

Faculty of Education
Faculty of Education

Sistema Kingston Brings music, energy, and team-building to Kids at Molly Brant

By: Karma Tomm.  June, 20, 2019

Mackenzie Harman loves the violin. A straight-talking and wise fifth grader, she has been learning music four days a week after school with Sistema Kingston for four years. Like all Sistema Kingston students, she started her musical adventure on a papier-mâché instrument that she made – and decorated – herself. The students start with papier-mâché violins, violas and cellos as they learn proper instrument care, positioning, and bowing techniques.  Over the course of time, they graduate to real wooden instruments at the Paper to Wood ceremony. After receiving her wooden violin, Mackenzie keeps her handmade violin on the shelf at home, a show of pride for her musical accomplishments. 

Now in its fourth year at Molly Brant Elementary School, Sistema Kingston brings music and life skills to 39 students in grades 2-6. For 10 hours every week, students like Mackenzie sing in choir, play musical games, learn string instruments and take part in mindfulness/yoga training. Beyond music, Sistema Kingston focuses on positive social growth and aims to help kids reach their full potential as individuals, musicians, and citizens. 

Sistema Kingston doesn’t just bring music education to students that might otherwise not have the opportunity to learn an instrument; it’s a holistic approach to teaching music that helps students develop life skills such as perseverance, confidence, and coping skills and fosters their sense of belonging. As Mackenzie describes, body breaks, exercises and yoga help the kids to get their “sillies out”. These activities help separate school time from time with Sistema Kingston. 

Mackenzie and her fellow students share their music at the Year End Concert each spring at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, a modern, professional space on the shore of Lake Ontario.  This performance allows students to demonstrate the skills developed through the year: empathy, healthy coping skills, perseverance, sense of belonging, and musical competency all in one event.

Concert settings can bring on nervousness, shyness, and anxiety. Sistema Kingston students are asked to work through this experience, bringing each child a sense of accomplishment. The children understand that their contribution is critical to the success of the whole. It is remarkable to witness the students’ sense of achievement at the end of the concert, and even more remarkable to witness their family’s joy. Mackenzie has participated in 4 concerts at the Isabel and now feels very much at home on the big stage, something she never dreamed of doing before she joined Sistema Kingston.

After grade 6 students graduate from the program they can return as mentors, helping younger students to develop their skills. Mackenzie’s knowledge of the violin is excellent, and she has already begun coaching her mother on how to hold the bow and play scales on her violin at home. This experience will serve her well should she choose to become a mentor when she reaches grade 7.