From Paper to Wood Instruments:  Sistema Kingston Hits the Right Note!


The cellos, violins and violas were laid out on a table before the “graduation” ceremony began, each labelled with a child’s name. A family member approached the table, stopped and took a photograph of a cello with the name Savannah on it. Her face lit up as she remarked, “I am so very proud and thankful that our school has Sistema Kingston. What an opportunity for Savannah!”

This remark signifies what Sistema and Sistema-inspired programs across Canada and the world are about – positive social change through the pursuit of musical excellence.


In the words of Akela Peoples, President and CEO of The Learning Partnership – “Social change through classical music is an incredible opportunity for our students, educators and communities.  In addition to all the arts based learning benefits, classical music is mathematically based, so it sets the stage for future learning.  The opportunity for these students to participate in a group activity builds a sense of responsibility and creates a sense of belonging.  They gain confidence, pride in accomplishment, and an understanding of the rewards of effort and hard work. They practice poise, focus and learn to concentrate…and they have fun at the same time!  There could not be a better recipe for success. The benefits are numerous, and the skill and attitude development are all transferable into other areas of learning, school and life.”

At 4:00 p.m. on November 5, students with their music teachers filed in, poised, confident and eyes sparkling with excitement. After 3 weeks in the Sistema Kingston program, the children will graduate from their papier mâché instruments to real instruments. The papier mâché instruments, made by each child and personalised with his or her artwork, is the beginning of a process of learning how to care and relate to a music instrument as well as developing a love for music and the instrument the child has chosen to learn to play.


The beautiful singing voices of the children, the manner in which they held their bows and instruments and the pride and joy of each child clearly validate the founding sponsorship provided by The Learning Partnership to scale this powerful model for social change. The success of this innovation is evident in numerous cases, including Sistema New Brunswick, started by Ken McLeod, who is honoured by The Learning Partnership as a Champion of Public Education.

The Learning Partnership is committed to leading and driving collaboration that advances publicly funded education. Sistema Kingston is another stellar example of active collaboration among organizations – Queen’s Community of Music, The Limestone District School Board and Joe Chitalean’s Music Instruments Lending Library, led by a team of dedicated musicians, educators and leaders in Kingston!

Gen-Ling Chang is a former Associate Director of Education for Toronto DSB. After many years as an educator and advocate of public education, she is currently Director, Equity Projects working with the Knowledge & Mobilization team at The Learning Partnership. Get in touch with Gen-Ling on Twitter @gen_ling

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