Rhythm and Pitch was inspired by El Sistema, a grassroots music education system that was started in Venezuela to bring music instruction to any child, regardless of circumstances. The music instruction children receive nourishes them socially and emotionally and gives them skills they can use throughout their life.
Rhythm and Pitch, which began in Barrie in 2014, is a modest attempt to provide children with quality group music instruction based on the “el sistema” philosophy of barrier-free access.
Founder Sandra Ruttan combined this idea with group music instruction using simple instruments like xylophones and recorders, along with singing, games and movement, which gives children a good general base of musicianship skills.
This is loosely based on the instructional method of 20th Century composer and children’s music educator Carl Orff. R & P has two Orff Orchestra classes for younger children, as well as Wayward Winds, Strumming Strings and Crazy Keyboards for children 10 to 13. All the students, aged 6 to 13, share a 30-minute singing session each week. The children perform Christmas and year-end concerts for their parents and families.
With Sandra’s departure after four years of leadership, Rhythm & Pitch formed a partnership with Music Therapy Services of Simcoe County to provide musical services to augment R & P’s existing programs. Both parties believe the partnership is a good fit.
R & P runs classes on Wednesdays from September to June. It is hosted and supported by Grace United Church as a youth outreach program, but there is no religious component. The classes are free, with just a nominal registration fee, and an after-school snack is provided.
Registration is usually held in June for the following September. Fall registrations are accepted as space permits.
Rhythm and Pitch grew with a two-year Ontario Trillium Foundation grant from one teacher and 13 students in 2014 to four teachers and 46 students in 2017. The Barrie Kiwanis Club provided instruments.
Russ Strathdee of the Ontario Musicians Association made a significant contribution by coordinating four fundraising concerts during a two-year period. Grace United Church and community donors have also supported R & P. We are currently seeking new donors and funders to provide program stability in the future.