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Inspiring the next generation through music

A group of McGill students is tapping into the power of music to transform the lives of disadvantaged children—one lesson at a time.

Montreal’s Heart of the City Piano Program (MHCPP), a Student Society of McGill University (SSMU) club and newest member of the McGill Seeds of Change Program, provides free piano lessons to disadvantaged children attending inner-city elementary schools in the Montreal area. Currently serving more than 100 children, the program works around the schedules and financial restrictions of its students. Every week, each child receives a 30-minute lesson during their lunch break or after school, and all equipment and music books are donated.

The payoff, says Sarah Hanafi, co-director of MHCPP and McGill neuroscience student, has been tremendous. “We’ve seen a huge impact in the lives of some these kids since we started the program back in 2007. Not only does it foster discipline and dedication from an early age, it also nourishes creativity and builds self-esteem.”

What’s more, studies have shown that learning how to play a musical instrument at a young age helps develop the left side of the brain—the side that deals with skills like analytical thinking, problem solving and self-discipline.

But don’t think the kids are the only ones benefitting from the program, says Finola Hackett, MHCPP co-director and environment student. More than 70 dedicated McGill students, each one inspired by the way music has affected their own lives, currently volunteer with the program. Their involvement allows them to make a real difference in the community while doing something they love.

“Volunteers get the chance to be involved beyond the campus gates, and to befriend these younger students, often in a very supportive role,” says Hackett. “They also gain insight and perspective into some of the social issues these kids face. Only 30 minutes a week helps them become better citizens while being really positive role models for these kids.”

MHCPP is always looking for more volunteers to join their ranks, and plans to expand their program next September. Their greatest hope, says Hackett, is to show that music can be more than just a practical skill and a creative outlet. “Music is a tool that can help students achieve their full capabilities, both in and out of the classroom.”

Interested in volunteering? Please visit MHCPP’s website for more information.