Musicians hold concert to raise money for alternative learning program

NANAIMO - Two fundraising shows for the junior learning alternatives music program are at The Vault Sunday (May 5) 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Owning a musical instrument isn’t a luxury many kids in Nanaimo can enjoy but having access to instruments can enrich their lives and create avenues for expression.

It’s a sentiment embraced by James Squissato, a teacher at the junior learning alternatives program. He brought a few guitars to the school and let the students play them. Soon they were gathering during breaks, lunchtime and after school to learn music. It became so popular that the school decided to create a music class on Friday’s from 9:30 a.m. to noon.

“It’s fantastic to watch a kid who couldn’t play guitar learn it. Music is an outlet – an outlet for anger or happiness or sadness,” said Squissato. “It’s beautiful to watch a kid bloom and just find their place.”

Squissato said he was able to create the class with the support of principal Tim Davie. The program only has a small budget for instruments. Squissato said unfortunately many of the students come from underprivileged backgrounds and many face barriers so buying instruments is out of reach for them.

Arbutus Music provided a bass and small amp for one of the students.

“Apparently he was over the moon,” said Les Tibbo, who works at Arbutus Music and a member of the band Trinitude.

“Hopefully it will help the kids in the long run and thereby be a help to the community,” he said.

Tibbo said he believes kids benefit from access to music.

“When we first started out we basically had to beg, borrow and steal in order to have instruments for the students,” said Squissato.

To help raise money to purchase instruments for the program there are two concerts being held Sunday (May 5) at The Vault. The concert features musicians from the Junior Learning Alternatives School’s music program: Despite the Randomness and Marina Hempstock.

“Everyone was really blown away when young Marina started to sing,” said Squissato.

Other performers include Kendall Patrick and the Headless Bettys, Jupiter Jill and Trinitude.

The concerts are all-ages shows and are at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Tickets are $20 and are available at The Vault, Arbutus Music, by e-mailing or at the door.