Supporting Accessible Music Education in Vancouver

In 2019 the Vancouver Welsh Men’s Choir committed to a series of fundraising concerts over several years in support of the Saint James Music Academy. You may remember them first joining us at our Christmas concert at Christ Church Cathedral in 2019 when they delighted audiences with their fine talent.

SJMA, located in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, is a non-profit music school that is committed to social change through the power and love of music. They provide free classical music education to the children and youth in the Downtown Eastside community and use their orchestras and choirs as models for healthy community living.

The Vancouver Welsh Men’s Choir mission is ‘to share the joy of singing with each other and our audiences in a spirit of fellowship, charity and artistic growth’. We recognise the work of the SJMA in providing accessible music education to the next generation and are happy to be able to support them in their work.

We reached out to SJMA to find out what they’ve been up to for the past couple months and they provided the following update.



SJMA Fall 2020 Program Update for our Friends

The staff, teachers and volunteers were all so pleased to at last welcome students back on site beginning in September after almost six months since last seeing them.  With Covid 19-Health and Safety protocols in place, including plexiglass barriers, spaces reconfigured to accommodate physical distancing, etc. the kids were at first a little nervous on arrival with the different environment, but they were soon greeted with the familiar comforts of our nutrition program, the smiling eyes of their teachers, and the fun of learning to make music in the company of other children. Before long they felt at home again in the special musical community of SJMA.

Some highlights of our Fall 2020 program include:

Concurrent on-site and online programs:  Students attend SJMA for group learning in small ensembles one day per week, and also access one 30 minute online technical lesson per week in their instrument.  The online system functions as a safeguard in case we have to close again, but it also complements and strengthens our on-site program, as our students receive the benefit of one-on-one attention of a teacher to help with their specific needs.

Priority is placed on maintaining connection and providing access to music education in the manner that is most comfortable to children and their families.  Most students attend both online and on-site, and a handful attend either only on-site or only online.

We have provided food security to families identified as needing additional support during periods of extended quarantine.

When students arrived we gave gifts of SJMA face masks to our students, teachers, volunteers and staff, with fun designs based on our logo, which have proved to be very popular!   

We planned an Online Christmas Concert this year via Zoom, scheduled for Friday December 18th. The recording can be found on our Vimeo channel!

Covid precautions:

For purposes of physical distancing, classes are spread out throughout our buildings and furniture has been arranged accordingly. Class scheduling has been organized to also facilitate physical distancing.  Far fewer students on site each day.

Adults in the community model healthy habits

Only classrooms with windows that open are utilized

All teachers, staff and volunteers wear masks or droplet shields

Wellness checks are mandatory upon entry, sign-in for contact tracing, and we have increased sanitization procedures in all spaces, including for our nutrition program.