New Brunswick Youth Orchestra
In 2009, Hemmings House was producing a live music collaboration between blues icon Matt Anderson and the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra. Through getting to know NBYO president and CEO Ken MacLeod through that project, Greg Hemmings learned about a transformational social program birthed in Venezuela that could have positive impacts back home in Canada.
The program is called El Sistema, and every day after school over half a million children receive the gift of music education for free. Not only is this programming producing world class musicians from the barrios of Caracas, it is producing world class citizens out of these children, many of whom are restricted by significant levels of poverty and social challenges.
Despite studying El Sistema for two years, Ken was hitting a wall with getting enough people to believe in the vision of how a program built in another country and designed for children of a completely different culture on a different continent could work in Canada.
Hemmings House was able to work with NBYO to secure enough funding for him and his film crew to join Ken and other board members on a research expedition to Caracas. What they saw impacted them deeply. The joy in the children's eyes, the high level of musical competence, the resilience of a people living in a challenged environment, we all elements that Hemmings House was able to capture on camera. They were able capture the music miracle of El Sistema in a way that people back home could relate to.
Within a month of returning to Canada in June of 2009, the short film made its rounds, but this time to viewers, supporters and decision makers who could know SEE with their own eyes the possibility. Through the summer the film was used to raise enough money to start the first Sistema program in September, making Sistema New Brunswick the 2nd El Sistema program outside of Venezuela. CBC soon commissioned a documentary to follow the success of the first year of the program. Hemmings House produced Sistema Revolution, a film that has now been seen in countries around the world. Korea had the film translated to share with it's own ministry of education. The film has won film festival awards, and is credited to helping Ken and his team build a significant movement to get this program off the ground. Now, almost a decade later, Sistema New Brunswick has multiple sites across the province of New Brunswick, and has mentored the start-up over other Sistema programs across North America and the world. Today there is almost 1000 children in the program learning classical music every day after school for free giving them a chance to hope, dream and be all they can be.