The Power of Music

“Are we learning a new tune today?” “My fiddle sounds really bad!” Can we play ‘Liza Jane’ really fast today?” These are the some of the questions Kim de Laforest gets when she comes to her weekly “fiddle day” lessons at W.P. Bate and St. Michael’s schools. The students gather around her, fiddles and bows in hand, excited to get through their major scales, ear games and note reading to finally learn a new fiddle tune. These are the Blazing Fiddle Kids – some of whom had never seen or held a fiddle, now play solos with great enthusiasm in front of their peers, teachers, elders and parents.

The Blazing Fiddle Kids community school program, an outreach music program teaching inner-city students to play the violin, was started by the Saskatoon Fiddle Orchestra in partnership with the Saskatoon Public School Division and the Greater Catholic School Division as a pilot program. Thanks to a Saskatoon Health Region Community Grant, Kim de Laforest, an accomplished musician, performer and teacher, was hired to offer weekly group lessons to 30 students – 15 at W.P. Bate and 15 at St. Michael’s schools. The pilot was so successful that both school divisions agreed to continue offering the program. In fact, there was so much interest that the program was expanded to include students from grades 5 to 8.

“Our students have gained so much as a result of this opportunity,” says Mrs. Connie Tenaski, principal, St. Michael’s school. “They developed an appreciation of music by being exposed to a variety of folk and traditional music from around the world. The experience has also increased their self-confidence – they were unsure of their ability at the beginning but soon grew to realize their potential. Their smiles and sense of pride radiate when they play their fiddles.”

“The Blazing Fiddle Kids program has had a huge impact on our students,” adds Tenaski. “It has positively affected the health and well-being of our students.”

“There are so many reasons why a program like the Blazing Fiddle Kids is important,” says Kim de Laforest. “We know about the far reaching benefits of musical training, but even more important are the less apparent benefits. I have seen students find the confidence needed to perform solos in front of peers or even become leaders in the fiddle class.”

“We are absolutely thrilled that the students have embraced the program to the degree they have,” says Marielle Gauthier, co-founder of the Saskatoon Fiddle Orchestra and lead for the Blazing Fiddle Kids Program. “The music foundation they are receiving and the self-confidence they are building today will benefit them for the rest of their lives. This is the power of music education.”

There will be a fundraiser for the Blazing Fiddle Kids program Saturday, March 6 at 7:30 p.m. with guest artists JJ Guy, Karrnnel Sawitsky, and Kim de Laforest. Donations of gently used violins are also being accepted. Call Peggy at 244-7571 or Marielle at 955-0105 for more information on the program or fundraiser.

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