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OrKidstra to Expand Into New Ottawa Communities

OrKidstra, a social development program for children in under-served areas of Ottawa, has announced the launch of its comprehensive Strategic Plan, Crescendo: Strategy 2032. This plan, which the organization calls "ambitious, yet achievable," aims to help over 1,600 kids from under-served areas of Ottawa to reach for success through music and build a stronger community.

According to the Ottawa Neighbourhood Study and United Way/Centraide Ottawa, over 26,000 kids in Ottawa live in poverty. In many of Ottawa’s highest priority neighbourhoods, the child-poverty level hovers around 50 per cent, compared to the Ottawa average of 16 per cent. Also, youth in high-risk neighbourhoods are more likely to drop out of school (upwards of 40 per cent), which continues the cycle of poverty. Many of these kids don’t have access to social and recreational programs that reduce potential involvement in anti-social activities.

OrKidstra opened its doors in 2007 to 27 children from under-served areas of Ottawa. Now in 2018, thanks to ongoing community support, OrKidstra programs include more than 700 students, aged 5–18, from over 42 cultural and linguistic backgrounds. OrKidstra currently operates two after-school hubs in the priority areas of Centretown West and Vanier South/Overbrook – McArthur. 100 per cent of OrKidstra graduates complete high school and go on to post-secondary education in fields such as neuroscience, marketing, biology, music, education, computer science, and international law.

“Our goal is and has always been social development: using music as the instrument of change to achieve many outcomes that help today’s child, the adults they will become and the community in which they live,” says OrKidstra Chair Claire Marshall. “OrKidstra has succeeded due to its leadership and philosophy, but also because it speaks to our times. Our students learn how to build a community that transcends social, linguistic and cultural differences, and celebrates the mosaic that is Canada.”

There continues to be a strong and growing demand for OrKidstra programming in the community. Over the past five years, OrKidstra has seen a 127 per cent increase in the number of applicants to its free after-school programs (as of 2017/18). OrKidstra’s vision for the future, outlined in Crescendo: Strategy 2032, lays out three milestones to reach over 1,600 kids in five under-served Ottawa areas by 2032.

OrKidstra’s free social development through music programs have become widely recognized locally, nationally and internationally as a beacon of social inclusion, youthful energy and musical talent. This had led to high-profile performances such as Gustavo Dudamel’s “Encounters/Encuentros” in Mexico City, the 2017 JUNO Awards with Ruth B and on Parliament Hill for Canada Day 150 with Alessia Cara.

For more information, go to www.orkidstra.ca.

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Michael Raine is the Senior Editor at Canadian Musician. He is also a co-host of the popular Canadian Musician Radio weekly podcast.