´╗┐The idea, of bringing the German program ‘An Instrument for Every Child’ to Hamilton, was conceived by the Hamilton Music Collective (HMC) in January 2009 and inspired by the success of ‘Jazz in the Hubs', our music outreach project presented annually in partnership with Mohawk College and the Hamilton Community Foundation in Hamilton’s inner-city elementary schools.

Encouraged by the students’ overwhelming enthusiasm, curiosity and joy that we experienced during our visits in Hamilton's inner-city elementary schools, we realized that there was a need for a more comprehensive music outreach program; a program that - in addition to the introduction of musical instruments - would also provide these children with the opportunity to learn to play an instrument.

The numerous positive benefits of music education at a young age have been widely documented and research has proven over and over that playing a musical instrument has a significant effect on a child’s development, resulting in personal and academic success.

Inspired by the phenomenal success of ‘El Sistema’, a music program, which has dramatically changed the life path of hundreds of thousands of children in Venezuela, 90 per cent of them from poor socio- economic backgrounds, organizations all over the world began to introduce similar programs into their communities.

By harnessing the power of music to improve social cohesion El Sistema has become the template for music education in the 21st century.

It was our goal to find a program that functioned in the spirit of El Sistema, but could also be adapted into Hamilton’s school system and community. After extensively researching numerous programs, we came across the German initiative called JEKI - ‘Jedem Kind ein Instrument’ (An Instrument for Every Child). JEKI started in 2003 in Germany in 10 Elementary School reaching 300 children and has since then expanded to over 500 schools reaching approximately 50.000 children. The program was featured during the 2010 Cultural Capital of Europe festivities.

Since our first meeting with JEKI Founder Manfred Grunenberg in March 2009, we have come a long way in developing ‘An Instrument for Every Child’ in Hamilton: A $125,000 seed grant from local philanthropist and businessman Paul Lloyd helped bring the pilot instrumental music program to Grade 1 students at King George Elementary School on Gage Street North in September 2010 and the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra have become our AIFEC project partner.

The longer-term vision for the program is that ALL children in Hamilton will have the opportunity to be part of the program. AIFEC supports the mandate of Making Hamilton the Best Place to Raise a Child.

                   --- Astrid Hepner, Program Director