“There’s much evidence that musical education helps to develop cognition, social skills and mental well-being,” says Ruttan. “Rhythm & Pitch is about helping children to develop their musical abilities in an inclusive, supportive environment so they can benefit from them. It’s wonderful that the OTF has recognized the value of this program. With the foundation funding, we now have the resources to provide more opportunities for more children.”
Rhythm & Pitch was inspired by the legendary El Sistema program in Venezuela that provides free music education to hundreds of thousands of children, many of whom wouldn’t have access to lessons otherwise because of their social or academic circumstances.
The Ontario Trillium Foundation’s mandate is to invest public funds to help build healthy and vibrant communities.
Investments are made “where they will have significant community impact,” OTF program manager Ikem Opara says in a video message to grant recipients.
Grace is a community resource as well as a church, says J.T. McVeigh, church board chair.
“Our building is used regularly by a number of local self-help, community and support groups serving children and adults. We’re also a concert venue. More than 1,000 people a week use our facilities. We’re proud of that. We’re proud to be the home of Rhythm & Pitch and to see the support and recognition it's getting.”
Rhythm & Pitch is offered at Grace in partnership with the Ontario Musicians’ Association (OMA), which sees the program as a natural extension of its “No Student Left Out” program, a charitable framework for helping children to get music lessons.
Rhythm & Pitch began as a low-cost, volunteer-run summer music camp for children. The camp, held at Grace in 2013, evolved into the weekly after school program in January 2014.
It has received support from the church, OMA, Barrie Kiwanis Club and now the OTF. Grace is home to the program and the lead organization in the collaboration.
The Ontario Trillium Foundation invests about $110 million a year in a wide range of non-profit community projects. More than 300 grants across the province were announced on March 31, including the one to Grace for the Rhythm & Pitch program.