For many families in East End Toronto, the idea is music to the ears.
Starting in February, the non-profit East End Music Project will offer a suite of children’s music lessons every Tuesday at a church near Danforth and Woodbine Avenues. Four musicians, including drummer Jason Kenemy and opera singer Jessica Riley, will hold a mix of one-on-one and group lessons in guitar, piano, drums, ukulele and choir.
And, unusual for music teachers, the lessons will run on a sliding scale – $2 to $25 per session, depending on what people sign up for and what they can afford.
“We want to accept and be there for everyone,” says guitar teacher Mathew Peters, noting that no one will be turned away for lack of money.
A professional guitarist with a teaching studio at Yonge and Eglinton for 13 years, Peters said he was looking for a change after he and his family moved to East Danforth two years ago.
“I wanted something that would allow me to give back a little.”
By chance, when Peters pitched the idea to his friend and former bandmate Miranda Snyder, she had just finished doing a World Vision survey of community programs in east Toronto.
Looking at the neighbourhoods between Donlands and Barrington, Cosburn and Gerrard, Snyder found a real mix of incomes. Many people, including families new to Canada, live below the poverty line, she said. But others are moving east to buy their first family home.
“That just fed into our philosophy,” Snyder said. “It’s a community school.”
Snyder also found that music lessons at local community centres are often over-booked or hard to find, while elementary schools are struggling to teach music given tight budgets and large classes.
“Every year music is getting stripped, cut back,” said Peters, whose wife teaches Grade 1. “It’s always the first to go.
“A lot of the students that I have right now don’t have that background or even basic music-listening ability.”
Besides lessons, Peters said he wants to give students chance to actually play together in public, whether at farmer’s markets this spring or at the school concert in June.
“Everything is going to be geared toward that final performance,” he said.
To set the tone and raise money for instruments, the East End Music Project is hosting a night of live music and dancing on Nov. 30 at Circus Academy, on Gerrard Street East just east of Greenwood Avenue.
Tickets are $25 at Lazy Daisy’s and $30 at the door to hear the Carver Twins, The Uplifters, Trainwreck, Dirty Dishes and the EEMP House Band. Donated instruments will also be accepted. Visit eemp.ca for more information.