about YONA: Youth Orchestra of Northern Alberta

It’s a common scene. A school bell cuts through the afternoon’s silence, and an army of animated children with multicoloured jackets and too-large backpacks appear, scurrying towards school buses and parents with a host of stories on their lips.

What’s perhaps less familiar, however, are the events surrounding fifty-four students for whom the afternoon has only begun. 

Youth Orchestra of Northern Alberta - Sistema (YONA-Sistema) is modeled on the ground-breaking El Sistema project in Venezuela which uses music for social change, and teaches the values of unity, harmony, and mutual compassion.

Five days a week, for almost three hours each day, 75 students receive group instrument lessons, led by qualified teachers, at no cost to their families. In this caring environment, students are given nutritious snacks, homework help, and engage in free play and physical activity, and are then bussed safely home.

Prior to joining the full YONA-Sistema program, students participate in the less-intensive "YONA Explorers" program, building their musical and social skills in an introduction to the YONA philosophy.

By engaging students in a peer-mentored orchestra format, the YONA program has flourished in achieving what was initially envisioned in Venezuela, and has altered the lives of countless individuals and communities in multiple countries and cities. Indeed, this is a very exciting thing to be a part of.

We are committed to keeping you posted on these developments often, and look forward to sharing many stories of growth and change with you. Please visit the ESO's Educational Outreach page to learn more about YONA and ways you can get involved and/or to donate.