As the third year of Kipohtakâw-YONA begins, further refinements continue to be made, and with only a couple of weeks’ worth of instruction so far, the improvements already seem to be paying dividends.
Begun as a project to bring a version of the Sistema-inspired program to Alexander First Nation – an hour or so drive north of Edmonton – Kipohtakâw-YONA is a twice-weekly program that brings two YONA Teaching Artists to the Kipohtakâw Education Centre during school hours for violin instruction.
It is, in many ways, a condensed version of the everyday after-school YONA-Sistema program, and its goals are similar, although the underlying philosophy is respectful of the cultural traditions and unique aims of the First Nation community. “We see the growth within our students and it’s positive,” Cory Arcand, Principal of the Kipohtakâw Education Centre, said in an interview a year ago with Signature magazine.
This year sees the spaces set aside for YONA instruction within the school become consistent, allowing for quicker setup time. As well, school time spent on Tuesdays and Fridays is now 80 minutes – longer than it had been before, allowing for more time to be spent on the music.
It’s not only been a boon for the Teaching Artists, says Mr. Nathan, but for the students as well. While the challenge of keeping wandering minds engaged for the full 80 minutes is certainly there, so is the opportunity to really work on specific exercises and lessons.
Last Friday, as Mr. Nathan worked on sight reading with the beginner musicians, Mr. Nathaniel was a substitute teacher for the Kipohtakâw students who have been with the program since the outset. And it truly was remarkable to note the incremental, but still readily apparent, progress that was made in a little over an hour.
“What’s pretty amazing is that, while YONA-Sistema is a five day a week program, our students are catching on and really developing well with a two-day variation here,” Arcand noted in 2018.
Students taking part in Kipohtakâw-YONA have had the chance to join their Edmonton YONA-Sistema counterparts at Road to Joy, the year-end fundraising celebration and concert at the Winspear Centre, where both groups are joined by the Edmonton Symphony.
post & photos by D.T. Baker