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New Brunswick committing $8M for after-school music program

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The New Brunswick government has announced it will provide a grant of up to $8.2 million over the next four years to expand a program that offers free after-school music lessons.

The funds will go to Sistema New Brunswick and its 10,000 Children Campaign.

Sistema New Brunswick offers free music programming for school-aged children who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The youth take part in learning and performing orchestral music three hours a day, five days a week.

Issei Guerrera-Perez, a 14-year-old student who immigrated to Canada from Venezuela when she was three, called Sistema New Brunswick “a family.”

“No matter what age, experience or city the students live in, we all find ways — even if it is the first time we met — to bond and connect with one another,” she told the crowd during Tuesday’s announcement.

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“And our passion for the music we play blends us all together.”

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Sistema began in Venezuela with a handful of kids as a social change movement. The goal was to raise children out of poverty through music lessons.

The New Brunswick Youth Orchestra partnered with Sistema in 2009, and since then, the New Brunswick branch has taken off, offering music lessons in nine centres around the province.

The program’s latest campaign aims to reduce intergenerational poverty by sharing the joy of music with 10,000 children across the province each day.

Ken MacLeod, president and CEO of Sistema New Brunswick, said the program has made positive social change, and that parents and teachers have reported improved academic performance and greater self-esteem.

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“This is not an expense, this is an investment in the lives of our children and in the future of our province so we’re very, very grateful for this,” said MacLeod.

The province didn’t have details on where the 10,000 Children Campaign will expand, but Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Bill Hogan said the partnership will further the government’s commitment to improving the education system.