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Thanks to large donations from two local residents, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s Sistema Winnipeg program will be able to add more students in the next few years.

Long-time WSO supporters Tannis Richardson and Michael Nozick both donated $500,000 to the program yesterday. The $1,000,000 donation may also be matched by the federal government through the Canadian Cultural Investment Fund.

SISTEMA PIC 4WSO Executive Director Trudy Schroeder“It’s an absolutely banner day for us,” said a beaming Trudy Schroeder, the WSO’s Executive Director. “All of our funding for the program comes from private donations and people feel it in their hearts and they know the children in our city are important.”

“The best way to change their lives is to give them something substantive, something that teaches them the skills they need and something that gives them joy for the rest of their lives.”

Schroeder says with the match from the federal government, Sistema Winnipeg will be able to add 32 students. They currently have 160.  

“We’re aiming for a program of 280 students and this gives us hope for the presence of this program and the changes we will be able to make in the lives of children in the years and decades to come,” Schroeder said.

Michael Nozick is the president of Fairweather Properties in Winnipeg and has supported the WSO for a number of years.

“The program moved us both,” Nozick said. “This is one of the wonderful programs in the city and it helps kids in need in the inner city who might not otherwise have a chance. It brings me to tears to see what music does for them.”

SISTEMA PIC 3Michael Nozick

Tannis Richardson grew up with a musical background and says it helped her develop in other areas during her childhood. The WSO says in a release Richardson has been a long-time supporter of the symphony, and even attended their first concert at the Winnipeg Auditorium 70 years ago.

“We know that music education can benefit kids in other areas in life,” Richardson said. “These children will have instruments they can look after and be proud of.”

“We’re passing down something that meant a lot to us and we want these kids to pass that along to the next generation as well.”

Schroeder says while these donations are important, more is always needed to keep the program running the way it is. Nozick and Richardson hope their substantial donations will set the example for other prospective donors in the city.

“I have absolute confidence others will step up,” Nozick said. “We need to do a lot of work and raise a lot of money in order to meet the needs and growth of the program.”SISTEMA PIC 2Tannis Richardson

“You need a full foundation of support,” Richardson added. “We’re trying to get Winnipeg and Manitoba to have the words ‘El Sistema’ become part of their lives.”

Sistema Winnipeg started as an after-school music program with just 30 students in 2011. The program partners with the Seven Oaks School Division and the Winnipeg School Division.  It costs approximately $3,000 per year for each student with all the costs covered by private donations.

Schroeder says the WSO will be approaching the provincial government in the comings months to inquire about receiving additional funding for the program.

To donate to Sistema Winnipeg you can visit wso.ca/sistema or you can attend any of the events they have planned.

Their next fundraising event is Sunday Nov. 19 at 2:00 pm. Students from the program and other musicians will be participating in the event at St. John’s College on the University of Manitoba campus. Tickets are $40 for adults and $15 for students and children.

Tickets can be purchased at wso.ca or at the door.