Robin Careless –
The Regent Park School of Music provides diverse and high-quality music education to at-risk youth. In the last year, over 1300 students ages 3 to 18 from “high-priority” neighbourhoods in Regent Park, Jane and Finch, and Parkdale have learned music from the program.
Executive director Richard Marsella, is enthusiastic about the school. “What a special place! Every day looks different, in a way that I could not imagine. From having the opportunity to connect our students to Rogers Waters and Pharrell Williams, to helping a student get into university. RPSM allows at-risk youth in Toronto to reach their wildest dreams. We engage kids with music, and help create second families for them.”
Since Marsella became executive director in 2010, many changes have taken place. “We moved from a small row house on Queen St. into the Daniels Spectrum, a hub of arts and culture in the heart of Regent Park. We’re playing a leading role in the field of community music education across this great city, and we’re so proud to be able to share some of these ideas in parts of the province and abroad. The school has grown over the last four years from approximately 250 students when I began my journey to now over 1,300 kids across the city.”
Marsella is proud of all of the students, but a few programs really stand out. “I’d say the community orchestra in Parkdale is one of my favourites, as it incorporates improvisation, game play, and composition, which to me are some of the tenets of a healthy musical experience. I’m also very proud of the IPAD Ensemble, which we built this year with Thompson Egbo-Egbo (a graduate of our program) and Greg Stokes. This program is a unique way to connect with kids, and we’re seeing wonderful results with it to date.”
Celebrating their 15th anniversary this year, the school held its annual fundraiser Crescendo on April 28, where their students performed in collaboration with the Devin Cuddy Band.
“When folks like Devin and Jim Cuddy get behind the school,” Marsella opines, “and want to make the school sing to its fullest potential, it continues to inspire me.”
He continues, “We’re celebrating so much this year, from the 15 year birthday of the school, to the generation of students we’ve helped raise. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate artists giving back. When a father and son—as in Jim and Devin Cuddy—come together, that speaks volumes to the power of music, family, and positive scaffolding in a community.”
Proceeds from Crescendo will help the school cover 1/6th of its annual operating costs to run programs across this city. “Without it,” Marsella points out, “we would be very challenged to run a sustainable model.”
Marsella hopes there will be enough money for new programs as well. “We’re constantly evolving the program. We’re going into the final year of a five-year strategic plan, which in 2015 sees us reaching approximately 2,000 kids across Toronto.”
For more information, visit www.rpmusic.org.