It’s likely that if you live or work in Sooke, you’ve come into contact with some of the children involved in the Harmony Project.
In July, they were on site at the Sooke Philharmonic Fling at Ed MacGregor Park and a couple of months later when Cops for Cancer rolled through Sooke, the Harmony Project drumline was there to welcome the riders.
You might have cheered them on at the Sooke Santa Claus Parade or heard them as an opening act for the Sooke Philharmonic.
They also played at at the Rotary auction, Ayre Manor, the Sooke Fine Arts Fair, at Amber Academy, Film Awareness Night, the Victoria Day Parade, concerts at Journey middle school at Christmas and at the end of the year, and the Mayor’s Levee on New Year’s Day.
What most folks don’t realize is that it’s a dedicated group of volunteers in Sooke who have given these children the gift of music.
“We offer the full range of musical experience to children at no cost, including lessons, the loan of an instrument, music folders and even individual instruction for the most dedicated of the children in the program,” said Lorna Bjorklund, executive director of Harmony Project Sooke.
She explained that the project was first considered about 4½ years ago in Sooke at the urging of the former head of the Sooke Philharmonic, Norman Nelson.
“He had seen a Harmony Project in action in Los Angeles and brought the concept back to us for consideration. We travelled down to LA and learned about it and immediately started to get it organized here,” said Bjorklund.
She said that it took about a year and a half to obtain the required charitable status and to do the initial organizing and fundraising, but that the project has now been operating for about three years and keeps getting stronger.
There are two main components of the program, with strings instruction being offered to students in grades two to five and drumline offered to students in grades six and higher.
“We’ve had tremendous support from the community. Sooke (the municipality) has given us three separate grants for our strings program and we got another grant (from another source) to buy the set of marching drums,” said Bjorklund.
“Between the grants and donations and the participation in our fundraising, the people of Sooke have made it possible for us to bring music into these children’s lives.”
Bjorklund added that the 40 children in Harmony Project Sooke get more out of the instruction than simply learning to play an instrument.
“It’s been shown that students’ lives are improved through music. It helps them with focus, attention to detail, eye-hand coordination and it provides them with a positive group to be a part of,” she explained.
“They make friends through the music and it can become a part of their lives.”
More information on Harmony Project Sooke and a chance to donate or volunteer for the group can be found at www.harmonyprojectsooke.ca.