The Calgary Multicultural Orchestra

The Cause

The idea we are pitching is the growth of a music program called Calgary Multicultural Orchestra (CMO). CMO is a free music program, where children who participate learn how to read music, play in an orchestra, and build self-esteem and confidence. CMO’s goal is to provide equitable access to music education for economically disadvantaged and culturally diverse children and youth so that they can optimize their use of free time, build leadership capacity, experience a sense of mastery, develop their sense of belonging and increase positive social ties. This program not only builds a community of musicians, it creates a foundation of support across ethno cultural communities, builds leadership and learning capacities, and creative potential.
Unique to Calgary, CMO is modeled after a proven social-change program called el sistema, which offers free after school music lessons, orchestra rehearsals and recitals to children. This internationally acclaimed program uses music as an agent of social development. It originated in 1975 in Venezuela, and has helped thousands of underprivileged children transform their lives and give them options beyond living on the streets. The program has been adopted internationally, and currently operates in over 40 countries, including Canada, the United States, Great Britain, and Portugal. CMO creates a safe space in which to build trust, develop confidence and make friends. The program priorities are supporting the creation of positive social change and appreciation for the arts.

Who Will it Benefit?

The people who benefit from this program are youth, ages 7-17, as well as their families, teachers, friends, and community members. The CMO is intentionally set in the geographical area where it is most needed: in East Calgary communities, with high ethno cultural diversity, new immigrant population, and socio-economic need.
Research shows children who grow up in lower-income and less stable homes are less likely to complete high school, or go on to post-secondary education, and are more likely to be involved in criminal activities. Research also shows that music education can improve school attendance, decrease drop-out rates, and improve communication skills; however children from low-income families face financial and social barriers to participation.
Many parents in East Calgary struggle to provide basic necessities for their children; without the option of the CMO delivered as a free program, most of the children would not be able to participate in this program. It is necessary for the CMO to provide at-risk children and youth in the area with a safe, secure environment in which to learn, grow and be nurtured. The CMO reduces children and youth’s exposure to negative influences and high-risk behaviours, which is instrumental in crime prevention and community building.
Calgary’s CMO program started in 2009, with just 20 students. It has since grown to 60, with a near 20 percent growth from 2013-14. With more funding, our administration team could facilitate further growth of the program, and continue to positively impact the youth and community members of Calgary’s east side.
We do not set a maximum number of youth CMO can support. As we grow our partnerships and community support base, our capacity to serve more students increases accordingly. In 2015/ 2016 CMO project student participation at 70-75. This year (2014-15) we have 60.