Saint James Music Academy (SJMA) believes in the power of music to change lives. Music uplifts and inspires, and yet much more: it builds self-esteem in the learner, it teaches values, it binds people together in a shared objective, and it promotes positive social change. SJMA provides children with a rich and challenging opportunity. Through the pursuit of musical excellence, our children are inspired to continue on a path full of promise. Our innovative program specifically engages at-risk and underserved children who live in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and Eastside communities. The Downtown Eastside is largely a low-income neighbourhood, with the attendant social problems: unemployment, poor living conditions, crime, and substance abuse. Poverty also contributes to individual isolation, limited opportunity, and lack of self-esteem. Children and youth who live in such conditions are vulnerable to larger social forces. Driven to places of separation and sometimes despair, they often develop negative peer orientation and destructive lifestyle choices. It is essential therefore that the emotional and intellectual needs of the child be met with new social dynamics. We may not be able to elevate the child’s family income, but by elevating their expectations for a better future, and their community engagement, we may empower that child to transform his or her own future, and the future of their family.
At SJMA children are given a rare opportunity: to change their destiny, one step, one music lesson, at a time. In our free after-school program children learn: to gain self-confidence, and discover the wealth of their own potential. They also learn important social skills, such as teamwork and collaboration, gratitude and sharing, respect of the other, and mutual praise, skills that are proven to support and improve academic and other intellectual abilities. In the end, our hope is that they become role models for their peers, and even to their own families, breaking the cycles of familial disengagement, failure and poverty.