The concept for the ‘Music Port’ Program was initiated by Westshore Arts Council and put in motion by Laura Davis, current President of the Council. As a choral singer, Laura appreciates and has experienced the value of music in her life. When she discovered that there were no music programs for ‘Youth at Risk’ in the West Shore, she reached out with her team to find a solution. In 2014, they received some start up funding from the British Columbia Arts Council and the blessings of the province to move forward. It took a while to craft out all of the fine points [for delivery]. But, once they partnered with the Westshore Music Academy, they came up with some pretty fabulous insights on what the Music Port program would look like and how it could work.
Fundraising, such as this year’s ‘Arise’ event, and on-going support by the B.C. Arts Council and Westshore Arts Council, City of Langford and Colwood and private sponsors, keep the program operating throughout the year. The Westshore Music Academy supports the program in kind by not charging for certain services like administration fees or access to practice space, instruments, sound system and a stage—or healthy snacks! Funding is reserved for instructors. An important aspect of the Music Port program is the value of the instructors themselves. They have a background in psychology and music therapy, understandings that are incredibly supportive of the program’s goals.
Sabine and Andreas David are the Westshore Music Academy delivery partner for the Music Port program. I asked Sabine what the program means to her and to the children who are participating.
A: When we were first approached by the Westshore Arts Council with the idea of having a ‘Youth at Risk’ band program, we were of course very interested. Not for business, but just because music is our passion and children are our joy. We have a lot of adult students too, but it’s really great to see how young children develop in a music program. It can mean so much for them. So many are not in a position to afford individual lessons. We did everything we could to make it public. We went to all the high schools and talked to principals and counselors, foster services and gave them brochures about the music program. Everywhere we went, we got a good response!
Q: So, this program is off and running now?
A: Well, believe it or not, we are always looking for more students because we have funding available for more bands. You would think it would be very easy to fill up a program like this. It isn’t. Children could be thinking they can’t afford it or maybe they are anxious that they won’t be good enough or won’t be wanted for the program. So often, [eligible] children are not even taking the first step and approaching us to see what the program is all about. Instead, we go out into the community to try and get the word out. Maybe with this article you are writing, more people will read about it and approach us.
Q: How long has the Music Port program been operating in the West Shore?
A: The bands started in March, 2016. Most of the kids that have been with us since the start have stayed with program. We like to provide a safe space for them to come where they are always welcomed and a place to share their problems. It doesn’t have to be only about music. This is more like a community for them or a second family and a place to make friends and bring their friends too. Like the guitar and singer that you met last night. She brought a friend over to check out the program and now her friend is playing the bass guitar in the band.
Q: How many students in the Music Port program currently?
A: Right now, we only have one band with five members, but we would like to have more members and a second band. We had more members last year but then they outgrew the program when they turned 18. They wanted to stay but, unfortunately, it’s a youth program. We can manage up to fifteen students in the year. Then, we can have six to seven members in each band. For bands, it’s very flexible with instruments; the kids can try out different instruments till they find what works best for them.
Q: Still, joining something like a band must be very challenging for this age group: meeting new people, going to an unfamiliar place, learning something new?
A: [Sabine David] Yes, but once they’re here, they usually will grow with the challenges and it’s very good for them; very good for their self-esteem. They get out of their comfort zone a little bit, not only to learn an instrument and to master it, but also to perform on stage, if they wish. Most rise to the occasion! Very rewarding. Every day, we see these kids become more confident and grow together. I think it helps them in every aspect of their lives, in school, socially – everything! Some kids come here with a lot of anxiety, depression, even suicidal tendencies. We’ve had it all here. And then, over the years, you see them losing their fears and getting stronger.
A: [Laura Davis] The band members become a family when they’re together. It’s not just a group coming in here to play instruments. It becomes a place where everyone has a safe refuge and an outlet for whatever is bothering them. They can create positive memories through music in a space beyond their struggles. So, our philosophy is to get these bands to channel [their energies] into something really positive and fun. In the end, all of society is going to be better off. That’s why we are doing this.
The Music Port Band Program is free of charge for eligible youth 12 to 17 years, living in the West Shore Communities Langford, Colwood, Metchosin and View Royal, who fulfill any of the following criteria:
• Living in financial need (as defined by Government guidelines), or
• Living in a foster family, or
• Having difficulties at school, at home or in their community
To apply, contact the Westshore Music Academy: #134-1039 Langford Parkway Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-532-0228