Sistema Toronto

We, are writing this letter of strong endorsement for Sistema Toronto for this year's Lerner Charitable Giveaway. Sistema Toronto provides musical and intellectual opportunities to children in vulnerable communities in the effort to build stronger communities by enabling children to grow and thrive as engaged citizens and future leaders. Sistema uses ensemble-based music education, and provides approximately 10 hours of weekly instruction on strings, percussion, choir and Music & Movement. In the process children work on skills such as problem solving, empathy, and self-advocacy. Each child also receives instruments and nutritious snacks at no cost.

Sistema has had a major influence in the life of our daughter, now 8 years old, and our family as a whole. The pieces of this story are as follows: Enter one very precocious girl with a million ideas, BIG emotions, who is a little impulsive - aka an amazing little redheaded human. We as a family are stretched in the extreme with very demanding jobs, working far more than 40 hours/week each as many parents are forced to do to support families in the city. We are always racing to and from work with our daughter parked in aftercare every day. Aftercare is fine, but definitely didn't provide much structure or stimulation - nor did it really tap the creative powerhouse that is our girl. Along comes Sistema and the opportunity for something quite different and quite a lot more. In Sistema our daughter has truly thrived - from her first year of working with other children on strengthening her grasp of the basics of music and movement through to her rapidly developing skills as a violinist. The instructors have uniformly been engaged and are compassionate teachers - bringing together diverse children into a creative community.

Sistema is so much more than music lessons. Young people are challenged as a group, learn to work within the structure of the program to grow socially, grow the complex skills required to play string instruments at an early age, grapple with and overcome anxiety in performance - in a program that cultivates mutual respect and understanding. And amazingly - our daughter never complains about long days or the demands of this program. It is a lot and she loves it. She does not stress about performing - she strives to do better. This is a learning culture with a positive valence - one so different from the stress that imbues so much of life in terms of excellence.

As a family, we have become a part of the Sistema community as well. We have been strongly and positively engaged by Sistema instructors in terms of our daughter’s needs and how we can support them as a family. We engage in Sistema fundraising efforts - securing items for silent auction, donating, and - sadly - having to advocate recently due to an 11th hour, short sighted and heartless cut of a grant that had been secured for the program from the provincial government that gave the money and then broke the contract to take it back. The upshot of that sad event was the rallying of the community behind Sistema - adversity as it can do, shone a light on the importance of Sistema in so many young people's lives and their families.

Sistema has become a key part of our daughter's growth as a compassionate and talented person. It brings this to many young people - many of whom would otherwise never have access to such an opportunity. The downstream impacts of this work are enormous. And now, just last week, we applied to enroll our son- hoping to bring another child who is finding his path in the world to this program that gives so much to us as a family and our community.

This is work that deserves the highest recognition. This is work that so well represents what you are trying to recognize with the exceptional award process that you are leading. We could not provide a stronger, unqualified recommendation.

- Michelle

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