Charitable Choices: Dr. Catherine Wilson, founder of Euterpe: Music Is The Key

Euterpe: Music Is The Key is a free educational performance program of Classical, Jazz, and related musical styles for children in Canada. We spoke with Dr. Catherine Wilson, founder, to find out more about them.

Euterpe: Music Is The Key

Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences

For over 15 years the world-class musicians of Euterpe: Music Is The Key have conducted LIVE and VIRTUAL inspirational educational performance programs of Classical, Jazz, and related musical styles for children in Canada, particularly to underserved communities, free of charge.

What problem does it aim to solve?

Scientific studies have documented that most children today are not exposed to the Western musical genres of Classical, Jazz, and related musical styles, either recorded or live. The long-term educational, artistic and health benefits of this music are well-known. Despite this, vitally important vibrant music programs that were once an integral part of the school curriculum are no longer available to the vast majority of children in our country. Learning music and participating in music-making activities is known to provide inestimable benefits to the developing brain, aiding immensely with focus, discipline, academic learning, synchrony of movement, all areas of positive social development and interaction, including fostering self-esteem, confidence, empathy, sense of purpose, social bonding, cooperation, and more, as enhancing well as overall health and well-being throughout one’s life. Euterpe: Music Is The Key’s programs are known to have a  tremendously positive impact on children of diverse cultural backgrounds. Due to heightened mental and emotional stresses caused by the pandemic, Euterpe’s programs are more important now more than ever.

Euterpe: Music Is The Key’s life-enhancing, evidence-based music education/performance programs plant musical seeds, inspiring children of diverse cultural backgrounds to want to hear more of this music, to play a musical instrument and to become involved in music-making activities, such as singing in a choir or playing in a band or orchestra. When children are involved with this music early on, they become much better equipped for their entire life.

Here is a video with Ismael Paris, Youth Ambassador – describing his experience with Euterpe

When did you start/join it?

Euterpe: Music Is The Key received its registered not-for-profit status in 2006.

What made you want to get involved?

The opportunity to be involved in a vibrant music program in school, learning an instrument and making music with others, including playing in bands and orchestras, was key to ‘saving my life’.

For a variety of unfortunate circumstances, my formative years from babyhood throughout childhood and adolescence were fraught with family strife, the degree of which was profound, thereby creating personal challenges and obstacles which were deemed insurmountable.  The musical opportunities I had in school literally changed the course of my life and were key in rescuing me from a very dark and debilitating home environment.  With the ongoing steep cutbacks in school music programs, to the point where many underserved schools have not had any music programs for many years, I felt compelled to find a way to bring the highest level music education performance programs to as many children throughout Canada as possible.  I felt that if these invaluable experiences were able to so profoundly affect and shape my life in so many positive ways, the same could be true for other children if they were given the chance.

What was the situation like when you started?

When I founded Euterpe: Music Is The Key the situation was grim as many schools did not have music programs, and most of those that did, unfortunately, were drastically watered-down programs due to lack of resources and funding. When we started bringing our programs to children in schools, it was clearly evident that children of diverse cultural backgrounds were starving for the music we introduced to them. Almost none of them had had exposure to Classical, Jazz, and related musical styles or had heard music performed at this level.  Our music education performance programs awaken in children something that was dormant, and once the seed is planted children want more and more. We are asked when we will be coming back, could we find the instruments and lessons and if we would help them to be able to do what they experienced us doing.

This has been the consistent reaction and response from children wherever Euterpe: Music Is The Key has delivered its programs.

How has it changed since?

Science continues to find more evidence as to the importance of exposing Classical, Jazz, and related musical styles and these musical opportunities to children at a very early age. The need for Euterpe: Music Is The Key’s programs are just as critically important and needed as when we began over 15 years ago.  Now with the influence of the pandemic, there is an added urgency to address the heightened mental and emotional stresses children are suffering. We at Euterpe: Music Is The Key believe that children fare much better and are better equipped in life when given the chance to have the opportunity to learn this music and to make music with others starting at an early age.  Our hands-on experience has shown that this has always been the case.

What more needs to be done?

There needs to be more widespread community awareness of the importance of providing these opportunities to children from an early age.

At present most children who have these opportunities are from more privileged backgrounds, and this leaves out most Canadian children. Reinstituting vibrant top-notch music programs in all Canadian schools should be a priority for politicians. Quality music education benefits all areas of academia, positive social development and all areas of health and well-being.  The ancient philosophers intuitively knew the importance of this, and modern-day science has corroborated the intuitive wisdom of the ancients, yet generations of children have been deprived of these opportunities.  At Euterpe: Music Is The Key we feel that all children deserve the right to be nurtured by music that is known to be beneficial.

How can our readers help?

Your readers can help by spreading awareness of Euterpe: Music Is The Key as much as possible.  They can additionally help by making Euterpe Corporation one of their charities of choice.  All donations of $20.00 or more receive a tax receipt. Fundraising is critically important for all charities and donating to Euterpe will serve to positively transform children’s lives.  Visit www.musicisthekey.org to find out more.

Do you have any events coming up?

The pandemic inspired us to create a hybrid presentation for school children.  This was funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation as part of a generous 3-year grant to Euterpe: Music Is The Key.

Our hybrid presentation, comprised of video and live, will be brought initially to 37 underserved schools in the GTA.  We are also creating a series of 6 music education performance videos which are funded by a grant from The Canada Council for The Arts. These will be delivered free of charge to schools throughout Canada starting in September 2022.

Euterpe flagship group Ensemble Vivant releases “iFugue” – Vivaldi with modern drums played by Adrian Bent (drummer for Drake and many others)

Where can we follow you?

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PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?

Toronto Arts Council – supporting local music and arts initiatives