Inspirational musical minds | Queen’s Gazette

The latest donation from Bader Philanthropies, Inc. will allow Sistema Kingston and the Faculty of Education to continue to provide opportunities for young musicians and aspiring teachers.

One of the largest gifts ever to Queen’s Faculty of Education will inspire children and help them reach their full potential through the power of music.

A donation of $533,000 (USD) from Bader Philanthropies, Inc. will secure funding for the next three years of Sistema Kingston – an intensive after-school music program for elementary school students focused on positive social development through pursuit of musical excellence. Serving children from low-income and marginalized communities, Sistema Kingston is housed at Queen’s Faculty of Education, which provides administrative support, office and storage space, and volunteer student teachers.

“Sistema Kingston uses the musical ensemble – strings, choir and rhythm – as a vehicle to develop important life skills like attentive listening, self-confidence and perseverance. Through group-centered learning and regular performance opportunities, we foster creativity and personal responsibility, and, of course, our goal is to spark joy,” says Karma Tomm, Director of Sistema Kingston. “It’s amazing to know that with this donation, we have funding for several years, and we can focus on supporting children and strengthening ties between the university and the community.”

Tomm says the donation from Bader Philanthropies is the most generous donation the program has ever received. The donation will enable Sistema Kingston to reach more children by expanding its program at Algonquin & Lakeshore Catholic District School Board – the region’s separate school board – and to provide more internships and hands-on learning opportunities to students at Queen’s Education.

Sistema Kingston, which started in 2015, operates from October to May. Beginning in Grade 2, students participate 10 hours per week and the program concludes with a year-end concert at the Isabel Bader Center for the Performing Arts. In an effort to break down barriers to accessibility, Sistema Kingston provides families with free, high-quality musical education and works with the Joe Chithalen Memorial Musical Lending Library to provide free stringed instruments.

The program goes beyond simply learning the violin, viola or cello. Sistema Kingston focuses on the whole child by supporting emotional well-being and creating safe spaces for self-expression. It also offers a nutritious feeding program to ensure children have the energy they need to thrive.


“At the Faculty of Education, we aim to create spaces where everyone can learn and grow. Sistema Kingston helps build inclusive communities and brings music education and its many benefits to children in Kingston,” said Dean of the Faculty of Education, Rebecca Luce-Kapler. “We are honored by the donation from Bader Philanthropies and grateful for their continued support of music in our community.”

Sistema Kingston had to scale back programming due to COVID-19 restrictions, but stressed that technology can be a tool to help teach. Reflecting on lessons learned during the pandemic, Tomm says the grant gives Sistema Kingston the opportunity to explore how to balance the benefits of technology and the online environment with the benefits of in-person engagement in an equitable manner for students from all economic backgrounds.

Tomm is thrilled that the new funding from Bader Philanthropies will ensure the program grows and thrives by expanding to a new school board and providing more opportunities for budding young musicians and student teachers.

“Our goal is to reach more children,” says Tomm. “I am truly touched by (Bader Philanthropies) confidence in what we do and their confidence in how Queen’s and Kingston can work together to make our community a better place.