Encore! Sistema Quebec has proven that music education can effect social change for children in distinct and often underserved or marginalized communities in the greater Montreal area. The program has welcomed students with learning and behavioural difficulties and sought to engage these students through a positive group learning experience and peer-to-peer instruction. Encore! Sistema Quebec was established on a solid pedagogical foundation and this gave teachers and tutors the tools to lead a diverse group of students towards musical excellence and personal achievement.
Since its implementation as a pilot project in 2012, our program has also successfully built partnerships with local communities, organizations and institutions, and has received financial support from foundations and local merchants.
The program has generated many successful outcomes:
- Nearly 300% increase in the number of students over three years;
- Strong support for the program from school administrators, parents and community members;
- High level of community involvement (volunteers, teachers and tutors);
- Improvements in student achievement both inside and outside the program;
- A number of high-profile performance opportunities, including regional and international collaborations;
- Extensive media coverage by French, English and Mohawk newspapers and television.
“I think the Viva!Sistema program is great for children. It shows them new things and gives them a good sense of being responsible and focused. You can see the happiness and sense of accomplishment on their faces after they play. Thank you for having our daughter in this program. I know she really enjoyed it, as did we.”
In May 2015, Dr. Lisa Lorenzino of McGill University conducted a comprehensive research study in order to identify the efficacy of our pilot project. The data collected included quantitative surveys completed by parents, administrators, classroom teachers, and Sistema mentors. For purposes of triangulation, qualitative data was also collected by means of informal, semi-structured interviews with administrators and classroom teachers. Ken MacLeod, Director of Sistema New Brunswick, graciously assisted in the development of the survey forms, which were adapted and revised in consultation with Theodora Stathopoulos.
Satisfaction or Overall Efficacy of the Program
All interviewed subjects unanimously agreed that our program is a “wonderful”, “awesome”, and “fantastic” initiative. Specifically, they stated that the program is an important part of the culture in both schools and that it is positively affecting not only the behavioural but also the academic, musical, and social development of its participants.
Student behaviour was reported to improve in many facets as a result of involvement with our program. In the classroom, teachers noted that several Sistema students now persevered more in their academics. Many also reported that Viva!Sistema students had increased concentration skills as a result of learning to play an instrument. In other notable cases, students who had previously displayed aggressive behaviours such as tantrums, throwing articles, and hitting, either severely reduced or completely discontinued such actions. Others described a reduction in bullying in some specific instances. Still others noted an increase in students sharing with one another along with overall improvement in manners.
The most frequently reported behavioural change was an increase in student confidence. Administrators, teachers and parents outlined several cases where once shy or reticent students were now freely expressing themselves in a confident manner. This included such behaviours as showing off their musical skills informally for their peers or speaking up in class.
Overwhelmingly, interviewed subjects all agreed that our program is a well-organized program that has been effectively implemented in the two locations while taking into account the unique setting of each. For example, in Kahnawake, teachers expressed how the program is a chance for Aboriginal students to learn about a new culture and style of music via the orchestra.
Positive benefits have been seen at both the school and community level in both locations. Moving beyond the school and into the community, parents and family members are also overwhelmingly supportive and appreciative of the program. Once comfortable with the time commitment, which initially was seen as major, parents now express their appreciation by attending concerts and special activities, and praising their children for their involvement. Some interviewees noted that three generations of families often attend the concerts, from great-grandparents to aunts, uncles, and cousins. In both locations, having performances in the community was seen as one of the most important aspects to build support. Interviewees commented on how concerts brought the community together and made them feel proud of their children’s achievements.
“We work really, really hard with her. She used to be very disrespectful with her peers. She was bullied and picked on a lot because she has a very short fuse. She is still being picked on quite a bit but she handles it better. She doesn’t take people’s shoes and put them in the garbage any more. She doesn’t say nasty things any more. Part of it is maturity, sure, but part of it is also Sistema. She is the kid that goes home and practices her violin.”